Focus on preventing injury needed for fishing vessel deck machinery

Deck machinery on board of commercial fishing vessels is a leading source of severe injuries to commercial fishermen and more effort is needed to develop targeted ways to prevent such injuries, according to a study published online in the Journal of Agromedicine.

The study, written by Tristan M. Victoroff, Samantha L. Case, Lakshmi D. Robertson and Laura N. Syron — all with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Western States Division in Spokane, Washington — concluded that practical solutions are needed on how to avoid entanglement and getting struck when operating fishing winches, which are heavy duty electric reels.

Anchor winches accounted for over half of all winch injuries from Jan. 1, 2000, through Nov. 1, 2020. 

The report said engineering solutions, including emergency stop devices or other simple mechanical interventions depending on winch type, could help to avert potentially disabling injuries from winches. Administrative controls such as task-specific training for winches should be emphasized especially for younger or less experienced commercial fishing crews who may be at increased risk for injury, the researchers said.

The study identified 125 traumatic injuries from commercial fishing winches, mainly occurring among male harvesters, most aged 30 years old or younger.

Over 80 % of those injuries happened during salmon fisheries. Another 40% of injuries occurred on vessels using purse seine gear, 30% on vessels using drift gillnet gear and 12% among set gillnet operators.


Most of the injuries involved fishermen having body parts caught in or compressed by a winch or cables attached to a winch. The injuries mainly impacted upper extremities, including fingers, hands and wrists.

Injuries included contusions, sprains and strains, finger and hand crushing injuries, upper limb amputation, skill fractures, spinal fractures and chest trauma.

The study identified 23% of injuries as fractures, 18% as amputations, 16% as lacerations and 16% as contusions. The total number of injuries includes 51% caused by anchor winches, 32% resulting from deck winches, and 9% each by trailer winches and other types of winches.