Mortality from occupational accidents to United Kingdom fishermen 1961-80

Br J Ind Med. 1985 Dec;42(12):806-14. doi: 10.1136/oem.42.12.806.


After the catastrophic losses of three Hull deep sea trawlers in 1968, the Committee of Inquiry into Trawler Safety (CITS) was established. Fourteen months later, CITS reported on factors affecting the safety of deep sea trawlers and their crews. Pre-CITS (1961-70) and post-CITS (1971-80) crude mortality rates for accidents at work are compared for "deep sea" fishermen (those working on vessels greater than or equal to 24.4 m (80 feet) registered length) and "inshore" fishermen (those working on vessels less than 24.4 m). The ratio of deep sea to inshore fishermen had changed from 1:1.5 (1961) to 1:7.0 (1980), reflecting the radical restructuring of the fishing fleet that began in the early 1970s. Between 1961 and 1980, there were 909 recorded deaths at sea of United Kingdom fishermen. Of these, 711 (78%) were due to accidents (either from vessel losses or personal accidents) and 198 (22%) were due to unspecified disease, homicide, and suicide. Comparison of pre-CITS and post-CITS mean death rates showed an increase (+39%) for deep sea fishermen, a decrease (-4%) for inshore fisherman, and an increase (+2%) for both combined. For deep sea fishermen, there were synchronous increases in mortality from vessel losses (+32%) and from personal accidents (+49%, p less than 0.05) whereas the overall rate for inshore fishermen reflected a decrease (-33%, p less than 0.01) in deaths from personal accidents but an increase (+52%) in deaths from vessel losses. Although pre-CITS mortality rates exhibited no statistically significant difference between deep sea fisherman was significantly greater (p< 0.02). Compared with coal miners, fishermen were, on average, four times more likely to die from accidents at work. If CITS had reasonable cause for concern in 1969, the grounds for similar concern did not diminish because the evidence suggests that deep sea fishermen were at no lesser risk of death from accidents after CITS reported than before. Overall, both groups of fishermen experienced an accident mortality rate between 1961 and 1980 that showed no indication of improvement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational*
  • Fisheries*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mortality*
  • Naval Medicine*
  • Risk
  • United Kingdom