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The mortality and morbidity of deep sea fishermen sailing from Grimsby in one year
  1. S. R. W. Moore2
  1. aThe Health Department, Kingston upon Hull


    Moore, S. R. W. (1969).Brit. J. industr. Med.,26, 25-46. The mortality and morbidity of deep sea fishermen sailing from Grimsby in one year. The injuries, illnesses, and deaths of Grimsby deep sea fishermen in the year 1963 have been studied using the trawler log-book as the basic source of information. Additional information has been obtained from other sources.

    The numbers of man-days sailed by Grimsby deep sea fishermen, by age and rating in 1963, have been ascertained. From these, incapacity rates for the measurement of morbidity due to injury and illness, and the mortality rate, have been calculated.

    There were 14 deaths, six due to accidental causes and eight to natural causes, giving a mortality rate of 5·7 per 1,000 for Grimsby deep sea fishermen in 1963. In a year when there was no foundering or loss of Grimsby trawlers, the fatal accident rate of Grimsby trawlermen was more than twice that of fishermen of the United Kingdom, four times the rate for miners, and 40 times that for the manufacturing industries.

    The most common injuries were, in order of incidence, contusions of varying degrees of severity, infected lesions, sprains and strains, lacerations, and fractures. More than half (56·3%) of the trawlermen were incapacitated by their injuries. The highest rates of incapacity were caused by fractures, contusions, and infected lesions. The upper limb, especially the hands and fingers, was most often affected, resulting most commonly in infected lesions. Third hands, mates, deck hands, deck trimmers, and deck learners had the highest incapacity rates due to injury. Third hands are especially at risk to injury. Most injuries and two deaths caused by casualties to boats occurred in fires aboard trawlers.

    The most common illnesses suffered by trawlermen were gastrointestinal, respiratory, and skin diseases. Illness caused incapacity in 68·8% of the trawlermen affected. The greatest incapacity was due to gastrointestinal, cardiac, psychiatric, and respiratory illness, and firemen, third-hands, and cooks had the highest rates of incapacity. Of the illnesses said to be peculiar to fishermen, Dogger Bank itch and erysipeloid did not affect Grimsby trawlermen.

    Unfit deep sea fishermen go to sea, even when so certified by a medical officer, thus possibly endangering themselves and other members of the crew.

    The injuries which give rise to the highest morbidity and mortality in deep sea fishermen are primarily due to accidental causes. The following measures are suggested to reduce the toll on deep sea fishermen.

    (1) The establishment of an occupational health service for trawlermen, with compulsory pre-employment and periodic examinations, would help to prevent unfit men going to sea and ensure that those sailing were of good health and not a liability to their fellows. The Medical Examination (Fishermen) Convention, 1959, of the International Labour Organization should be ratified by the United Kingdom.

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    • 2 Now Medical Officer of Health and Principal School Medical Officer, City of York.

    • 1 The material in this paper formed part of an M.D. thesis submitted to Queen's University, Belfast.