The bureau assesses the risk of a fatal occupational injury by all workers or a group of workers in a particular occupation, such as fishing. The formula is hours-based, measuring fatal injury risk per standardized length of exposure. It’s used to compute a fatal injury rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
In 2010, the fatal work injury rate for fishermen was calculated at 116; it was the highest rate of all U.S. professions. The next highest fatal work injury rate belonged to loggers, whose rate was 91.9. The fatal injury rate for all workers was 3.5.
Fishing was the most dangerous occupation in 2009, too, when the fatal injury rate was 200. Logging again came in second, with a rate of 61.8, and the all-worker fatal injury rate was 3.3.
As sobering as the bureau’s statistics are, there’s encouraging news to glean from them, too. For one, we can see that the fatality rate for fishermen declined in 2010, from 200 in 2009 to 116. And, according to the bureau, fishing-related deaths shrank from 56 in 2009 to 29 in 2010.
Make no mistake: even one fishing related death is too many for our tastes, and we would love to see a day when no more names have to be added to plaques at fishermen’s memorials. But we also acknowledge there will be deaths in such an inherently dangerous profession.
Still, we’re heartened by the fact that fishermen are becoming more safety conscious and recognizing the value of keeping emergency gear in good working order, and doing regular drills so that they know how to use them when disaster strikes. And we encourage all of you to take advantage of the Coast Guard’s free dockside vessel safety examinations and attend fishing vessel safety seminars in your region. The last thing we want is for any fisherman to end up as a statistic.