New Paper: Occupational safety and health in marine aquaculture in Atlantic Canada: What can be learned from an analysis of provincial occupational injury compensation claims data?
Cory Ochs, Dr. Barbara Neis, and Dr. Edgar McGuinness of the Occupational Health and Safety research module, together with Kimberley Cullen (co-director of SafetyNet), have published a new paper in Aquaculture. The paper is titled: Occupational safety and health in marine aquaculture in Atlantic Canada: What can be learned from an analysis of provincial occupational injury compensation claims data?
Background: Commercial aquaculture employs roughly 19 million workers globally, yet research on aquaculture
occupational safety and health is extremely limited, including in developed countries like Canada. Analyses of
injury and fatality compensation claims data from Scandinavian countries, Australia, the United States, and
Brazil reveal aquaculture is a high-risk industry, associated with multiple hazards and high injury and fatality
rates. Marine aquaculture takes place on Canada’s east and west coasts. It is expanding in Atlantic Canada where
it consists mainly of salmon and shellfish production. This paper presents results from a descriptive analysis of
data on accepted compensation claims for injured Atlantic Canada marine aquaculture workers.
Methods: Workers’ compensation in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction. Anonymous claims data between
1996 and 2017, provided by four Atlantic provincial compensation boards, captured injury claims broadly
specific to the aquaculture industry, supporting a descriptive analysis of incidence rates and injury
Results: Across provinces, lost time injury rates among aquaculture workers fluctuated over time, but exceeded
recent overall average provincial rates from 2010 to 2016. Consistent across provinces, almost half of all marine
aquaculture injuries were caused by bodily reaction and (over)exertion (mean = 15.0%; SD = 6.4%), falls (14.4%;
SD = 2.3%), or being struck by or against an object (mean = 13.7%; SD = 2.2%). Roughly half of the injuries were
of three types: traumatic injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints (mean = 33.0%; SD = 3.7%), open wounds
(mean = 10.1%; SD = 2.5), and surface wounds and bruises (mean = 10.0%; SD = 5.2%). The back, including spine
and spinal cord was the body part most commonly affected by workplace injuries (mean = 17.2%; SD = 1.4%),
followed by leg(s) (mean = 10.8%; SD = 0.5%), and finger(s)/ fingernail(s) (mean = 10.4%, SD = 4.4%).
Conclusion: Findings indicate marine aquaculture workers are suffering from similar injuries (injury event, nature
and source of injury, body parts) across provinces and these are similar to aquaculture sector injury claims
patterns in Norway, Finland, Australia, and the United States. The high incidence rates are a strong signal that
marine aquaculture in Canada, as elsewhere, is a hazardous sector. Compensation claims rates exceed overall
provincial averages and have not declined. Ongoing surveillance, hazard assessments, and identification and
implementation of prevention strategies could help this expanding industry reduce rates of injuries and illnesses.