The lives of commercial fishermen and their crew depend on their safety, particularly when vessels are miles away from harbor. Additional research, innovation, and training could lower their risk of injury. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, announces the availability of $6 million dollars in extramural grant funding for commercial fishing safety research and training in the coming year.

Commercial fishing is a high-risk occupation. Conducting research and critical safety trainings are opportunities to improve the health and safety of these workers. The grants, available in fiscal year 2023 and supported and administered by NIOSH, will provide funding to qualified individuals in academia, members of non-profit organizations, municipalities, and businesses involved in the fishing and maritime industries. 

“Working in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard this grant program has supported researchers and trainers in the last 4 years who strive to make a difference in the lives of commercial fisherman and their families,” said Jennifer M. Lincoln, Ph.D., associate director of NIOSH’s Office of Agriculture (Forestry and Fishing) Safety and Health. “These projects have had a direct impact on safety in various regions and fisheries around the country — if you haven’t thought about applying for this funding yet, now is the time!” 

Commercial fishing remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, characterized by hazardous working conditions, strenuous labor, long work hours and harsh weather conditions. The hazards fishermen face varies widely by type of fishing vessel and fishery in which they participate, including the associated gear used to catch seafood. Safety research and training that addresses what works best in a specific fleet and/or region is critical to help prevent injury, or death among U.S. fishermen.

Currently, grantee training work includes a focus on training fishermen in safety measures, developing first aid and training materials, and community-based “train the trainer” efforts, with varying degrees of reach. Research agreements include work in assessing the suite of electronics available for fishing vessels that could save lives when emergencies occur at sea, improving equipment to reduce musculoskeletal injuries and falls overboard, and looking into how sleep deprivation affects health and cognitive abilities, to name a few.

“These grants directly improve the lives and safety of those working in the maritime industry where applicants reflect the diversity of the fishing industry and clearly outline a path to enhance safety within commercial fishing nationally,” said Joseph Myers, chief of the Coast Guard’s Fishing Vessel Safety Division. “We are pleased to continue our partnership with NIOSH as these efforts directly support the Coast Guard’s mission to promote a safe environment in the commercial fishing industry.”

The Commercial Fishing Occupational Safety Research Cooperative Agreement (RFA-OH-22-005) and the Training Project Grants (RFA-OH-22-006) will provide up to 75% of an organization’s costs with maximum of $975k per grant over a three-year period.

Interested applicants can find the latest information about funding opportunities on the NIOSH Commercial Fishing Occupational Safety Research and Training Program website, and frequently asked questions (FAQs).

The application deadline for both funding opportunities - research and training - is January 31, 2023. A second opportunity to apply in 2023 has an application deadline of August 29. 

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