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Rare opportunity

Memorial hosts world’s largest conference on fishing industry safety and health

By Jeff Green

The only international conference focused on fishing, seafood processing and aquaculture occupational health and safety (OHS) is coming to Memorial.

The fifth International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference (IFISH 5) takes place June 10-13 on the St. John’s campus with experts from all over the world, including Norway, New Zealand and the United States scheduled to attend.

Dr. Barbara Neis is co-chairing the organizing and scientific committees for the conference, along with Dr. Jennifer Lincoln from the U.S.-based Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Dr. Barbara Neis
Dr. Barbara Neis
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dr. Neis, the John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professor at Memorial, a professor of Sociology in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and co-director of Memorial’s SafetyNet Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Research, says fishing, seafood processing and aquaculture continue to be among some of the most dangerous industries in the world.

“They comprise a substantial part of work in many rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador and affect millions globally,” she said.

“Improving OHS in the sectors is challenging and important. This is an opportunity for people here — researchers, government, industry and others — to learn from and develop collaborations with those from elsewhere who are doing cutting-edge research who are engaged in important and innovative safety-related initiatives.”

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln will open IFISH with her talk "What I've learned about safety from listening to fishermen".
Dr. Jennifer Lincoln will open IFISH with her talk, What I’ve Learned About Safety from Listening to Fishermen.
Photo: U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Researchers from Memorial’s faculties of Engineering and Applied Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, Medicine and Science, as well as doctoral students from a variety of disciplines, will be participating in the conference.

Daryl Attwood, a Memorial alumnus from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science who works with the U.K.-based Lloyd’s Register Foundation, is scheduled to present a lunch-time discussion on the topic, Initiative to Improve Safety in the Fishing Industry.

Long history                                                            

The last time the conference took place was several years ago in Iceland.

IFISH is typically held in places where the fishing industry plays a crucial role in the local and regional economy. Dr. Neis says it only made “sense for Memorial to host the event.”

She says Memorial has a long history of involvement in research on offshore safety and survival, including in the fishing industry, and is respected internationally for its research expertise in the field.

NIOSH Mechanical Engineer David Sweet takes measurements off a 503 McElroy winch aboard the fishing vessel Elisabeth T, operating out of Intercoastal City, Louisiana. Mr. Sweet will be at IFISH 5 discussing fixed guard designs for fishing deck winches.
NIOSH Mechanical Engineer David Sweet takes measurements off a 503 McElroy winch aboard the fishing vessel Elisabeth T, operating out of Intercoastal City, La. Mr. Sweet will be at IFISH 5 discussing fixed guard designs for fishing deck winches.
Photo: U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

“We have done research in the past on work on moving platforms, on the ergonomics of crab processing on board crab vessels, on allergen and other exposures on board fishing vessels and on perceptions of risk in fishing,” she said in an interview with the Gazette.

Dr. Neis and other researchers have conducted extensive research on seafood processing occupational health, including on occupational allergy and asthma to snow crab and ergonomics in seafood processing, and they have developed a participatory ergonomics toolkit designed to address some of the challenges in seafood processing.

“Over the past few years, SafetyNet has been working with the Newfoundland and Labrador Fish Harvesting Safety Association to do research on some critical and under-studied issues, including weather and fishing safety, documenting and reducing the risk of noise-induced hearing loss in small-scale fisheries and on fishing vessel stability,” she noted.

“Some of these initiatives will be extended using funding from the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) and we will be carrying out the first Canadian multi-pronged study of aquaculture OHS in partnership with some leading Norwegian researchers.”

Dr. Neis is also an OFI researcher.

Program at a glance

The IFISH 5 conference is opening with a pre-conference workshop organized in collaboration with the Food and Aquaculture Organization (FAO), the International Labour Organization and the International Maritime Organization.

The conference program includes several keynote speakers, a field trip to the Marine Institute’s Offshore Safety and Survival Centre in Holyrood and a post-conference workshop.

Commercial fishermen in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, take surveys designed to evaluate their perceptions of risk as well as their opinion on personal floatation devices. NIOSH Researcher Samantha Case (left) will be presenting on factors for crewmember survival in Alaska vessel sinkings as well as NIOSH's work in tracking injuries in the U.S. commercial fishing sector.
Fishermen in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, take surveys designed to evaluate their perceptions of risk. Researcher Samantha Case (left) will present on factors for crewmember survival as well as tracking injuries in the U.S.
Photo: U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Dr. Neis says the conference is bringing a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the doorstep of Newfoundland and Labrador industry, organized labour, government and researchers.

“It is also an opportunity for Memorial researchers to profile the work we are doing and developing for an international audience. Opportunities like this are rare — particularly this close to home.”


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