Seafood processing is among the most dangerous maritime occupations you can have – even if it never involves setting foot on a vessel. Those who work in onshore and offshore factories have high rates of job-related injury and illness.
After fish are caught (harvested) by commercial fishermen, seafood processing workers go about preparing the fish for packaging and sale to grocery stores, restaurants and other customers. This includes everything from eviscerating the fish (removing the internal organs) to freezing, packaging and canning them.
Why is it so dangerous?
The work is often largely seasonal. During peak seasons, work shifts can run longer than 16 hours. People willing to do this grueling, often unpleasant work don’t need experience or education to take an entry-level spot. That’s just one potential risk factor for injuries.
There may be workers at any one facility from many different countries, which can create a serious language barrier. That’s another safety risk.
Seafood processors are also injured due to numerous other factors, including:
- Contact with machinery, equipment and other objects
- Slippery floors and other surfaces
- Excessive noise
- Ergonomic hazards
While “ergonomic hazard” may make some people think of a poorly designed office chair or a computer screen at the wrong height. For seafood processors, these include:
- Repetitive motions over many hours
- Lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects
- Having to use added force when knives become dull
These can all cause serious musculoskeletal injuries.
The risks to workers’ health
Seafood processing workers also run the risk of illnesses and other health issues caused by the low temperatures in which they work, exposure to biological organisms and fatigue caused by weeks of working long days without a break.
Federal regulators have identified many of the risks of this occupation and ways that it can be made less dangerous. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that much is being done. Companies can always find people who need the work and the money, even if it means working in unsafe conditions.
If you or a loved one has been injured or worse in a seafood processing facility, make sure you know your rights to seek compensation and justice. Having legal guidance from those experienced in this area can make all the difference.