Background-The commercial fishing work sector continues to experience one of
the highest occupational fatality rates in the U.S. There are regional differences in
distribution of these events relative to fishery type, geography, and other variables such as
Methods-Over the last decade, the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health,
Injury Prevention, and Education has been exploring these factors and developing
interventions through engagement of a vulnerable population of commercial fishermen in
the Gulf of Mexico and forming strategic partnerships with numerous stakeholders, most
notably the U.S. Coast Guard. This has involved a variety of quantitative/qualitative
methods including focus groups, surveys, a community trial with quasi-experimental
pretest/posttest intervention design, and development of a social media campaign to
enhance adoption of personal flotation devices (PFDs).
Results-Shrimp is a major fishery in the Gulf and earlier studies showed more than
80% of these fishermen are Asian, mostly Vietnamese. Culture plays a significant role in
attitudes/beliefs among Vietnamese shrimp fishermen of the Gulf, and may influence
behaviors that are risk factors for fatal and non-fatal injuries. In particular, commercial
fishing industry leaders are able to influence behaviors and practices among fishermen.
Over the last decade, safety tip cards, interactive CD instructional tools for vessel sound
signaling and Mayday calls, and signage for a variety of safety concerns have been
developed and disseminated. Statistically significant changes in attitudes/beliefs have been
noted. Presently, identifying and assessing barriers to use of lifesaving PFDs (including
heat stress), preferences of commercial fishermen for various PFD designs, and
development of a social media campaign to promote use on deck are underway.
Conclusions-Culturally appropriate training and awareness measures combined
with recognizing normative influences can favorably alter attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral
intent related to workplace safety in this population.
Relevance to Public Health--Environmental health science represents one of the
five core disciplines or competencies in public health and includes occupational health.
This doctoral dissertation focusing on the commercial fishing work subsector addresses all
three areas of essential services in public health, namely, assessment, policy development,
and assurance. It has also formed an integral part of workforce development in the
occupational medicine arena.
- Mcdonald, Thomas Professor