Aquaculture Safety and Health

Aquaculture employs more than 180,000 workers nationwide, and this labor force is expected to grow more than three-fold by the year 2020 to approximately 600,000 workers (USDA, 1998). Recognizing the importance of aquaculture to an increasing number of workers and other stakeholders, the Southeast Center assembled a transdisciplinary team from three universities to address occupational hazards in this major agricultural sector. This 5-year, CDC/NIOSH-funded study was led by Melvin L. Myers, MPA, a distinguished and retired officer of the United States Public Health Service and an Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine and Environmental Health in the University of Kentucky College of Public Health.

During this study, which was one of the first in the nation to systematically identify and address occupational hazards in aquaculture, researchers from the University of Kentucky, Kentucky State University, and the University of Mississippi met the following key aims: (1) Reviewed OSHA inspection reports to identify risk factors in aquaculture using the Haddon matrix. (2) Together with farm operators and managers, completed walk-through surveys at fish farm sites to validate and augment the findings of the risk-factor analysis and to identify countermeasures used to reduce risks. (3) Conducted a multi-state telephone survey of fish farms to describe the agricultural population at risk and its exposures to occupational hazards, injuries, and illnesses. (4) Conducted sensitivity analyses asking “What if” and “How could” questions regarding potential hazards, using a Farm Planning Tool adapted to analyzing low probability injury events with catastrophic economic consequences for farm enterprises. This analysis helped to differentiate severe from trivial hazards and identified countermeasures to eliminate or reduce hazards. (6) Developed and published “Simple Solutions” and self-evaluation checklists that are helping fish farmers to eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards.

Results of this project include two educational booklets containing innovative, low cost solutions to common workplace hazards: Aquaculture Safety for Ponds and Aquaculture Safety for Raceways.

Additional information can be found in the following articles: 

Myers ML, Cole HP, Durborow RM. 2012. Hierarchical Hazard Controls for Inherently Safer Aquacultural Work. Professional Safety.

Myers ML, Cole HP, Westneat SC, Stephens WB, Ibendahl GA. 2012. Exposure Assessment of Tractor-Related Tasks on Catfish Farms in Mississippi. Hum Ecol Risk Assess.

Myers ML. 2010. Review of occupational hazards associated with aquaculture. J Agromedicine. 15(4):412-426.

Myers ML, Cole HP. 2009. Simple solutions for reduced fish farm hazards. J Agromedicine.14(2):150-156.

This project was supported by CDC/NIOSH Cooperative Agreement U50 OH007547.