Ergonomic working environment, physical strain and fatigue on Danish fishing vessels

Background
Fishery has often been labelled as a dangerous occupation as a consequence of excess mortality as well as increased rates of hospitalization due to a number of diseases and injuries. Despite the introduction of technological aids, the job as a fisherman continues to be physically demanding, with frequent manual handling of heavy equipment in wet, slippery and moving surroundings. In addition, fishermen are exposed to whole-body vibrations, harsh environmental conditions (e.g. wind, cold, heat) which in combination with the other exposures may contribute to an unhealthy work environment leading to an increased risk of negative health outcomes such as musculoskeletal disorders but also injuries and fatigue. The various technological aids introduced to reduce the physical demands in Danish fisheries have, along with an increasing focus on the negative health consequences of a poor physical work environment, diminished the extend of physical demands in the fishery in Denmark. The effects on health, however, remain scarcely documented.

Objectives
The aim of this project is to investigate work related musculoskeletal disorders and injuries among Danish fishermen. More specifically, this project will investigate the following research questions (RQ):
• RQ 1: Is the ergonomic work environment and fatigue levels for fishermen associated with increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries?
• RQ 2: Are self-reported exposures e.g. ergonomic work environment and fatigue levels of Danish fishermen associated with increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries?
• RQ 3: What are the barriers and facilitators of implementing measures for preventing musculoskeletal disorders in modern Danish fishery?

Methods
The present study will apply several different approaches to answer the proposed research questions. A structural literature review of the existing literature will constitute the initial component of the study. To investigate self-reported data on MSDs and injuries, a questionnaire will be distributed among Danish fishermen. Besides the opportunity of further investigating subjective outcomes related to MSDs and issues detected in the register-based study, the cross sectional study will retrieve self-reported data on the exposure to risk factors for MSDs in fishery as well as possible preventive interventions and potential barriers and facilitators for implementing such interventions.

Economy
The project is supported by:
The European Fisheries Fund (Den Europæiske Fiskerifond)
Centre of Maritime Health and Society, SDU

Timeline
January 2014 – August 2015

You can read the final report here: Report in PDF format (only in Danish)
Østergaard H., Poulsen T.R., Remmen L.N. og Berg-Beckhoff G. 'Ergonomic working environment, physical strain and fatigue on Danish fishing vessels'.