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The hazards of small scale commercial fishing are now just being realised, thanks to an initial report in North Carolina, where fishing is one of the highest earning agricultural industries.
The commonest hazard—accounting for almost half of the work related injuries—was sustaining penetrating wounds to hand, wrist, and fingers, caused mainly by contact with marine animals. A third of these became infected. A quarter of work related injuries were sprains or strains—to the back (48%) or shoulder (26%)—arising 70% of the time from moving heavy loads unaided, hauling in lines or nets, and loading or unloading catch and equipment. Almost 60% of injury events resulted in lost time or interference with work or need for medical care. The recalled incidence proportion was 38.6/100 workers during the previous 12 months.
Chain mail gloves as used in the meat industry, which preserve manual dexterity, are an obvious safety measure but need to be inexpensive and easily able to cope with daily fishing tasks; mechanical lifting aids may be more difficult to incorporate into everyday working.
Two hundred and fifteen volunteer small commercial fishers already enrolled for a different parent study recalled events leading to occupational injury during the previous 12 months (1999–2000) for a cross sectional questionnaire survey conducted at baseline.
Previous work is mostly confined to deep sea or large scale fishing, unlike the working conditions of these small scale fishers who catch finned fish, crabs, shrimps, and other shellfish in coastal waters and inland sounds.
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