Objectives: To describe the types and circumstances of traumatic work related fatalities in Australian commercial fishermen.
Methods: Work related traumatic fishing fatalities were studied as part of a larger study of all work related traumatic fatalities in Australia from 1982 to 1984. Data on 47 cases were obtained from inspection of coroners' files.
Results: The incidence of fatality of 143/100,000 person-years was 18 times higher than the incidence of fatality for the entire workforce, and considerably higher than that of the mining and agricultural workforces. 68% of decedents drowned and 13% died from physical trauma. Rough weather, non-seaworthy vessels, inadequate use of personal flotation devices, and inexperience were associated with many of the fatal incidents.
Discussion: Improved vessel and equipment maintenance, better training of workers, greater use of personal flotation devices, and development of improved clothing and personal flotation devices are recommended.