We are always trying to improve on our personal wellbeing through exercise, healthy habits, and good nutrition. As we gain longevity and the world population continues expanding, we greatly increase demand on the resources at our disposal. As a result, certain industries – notably agriculture and aquaculture – are being forced to expand with the changing times.
What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the cultivation and production of aquatic organisms that include hatchery, nursery, and grow-out phases of production. The aquaculture industry is engaged in the raising and production of plants or animals in either a controlled farm environment or selected aquatic environments. Marine aquaculture deals strictly with oceanic species and can take place in the ocean or in a controlled land environment. Freshwater aquaculture produces species that are native to freshwater and primarily takes place in ponds and in land-based systems.
As far as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is concerned, aquaculture work is regulated as follows:
“Operations that are clearly part of the controlled growing and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and plants in fresh, brackish, and marine waters are covered by the OSHA standards for agriculture, 29 CFR 1928. Any operations that are not uniquely agricultural and not part of the controlled growing and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and plants–e.g., the processing of harvested fish–would be covered by OSHA’s general industry standards.
Thus, diving operations directly related to activities involving the controlled growing and harvesting of fish, shellfish, and plants are considered agricultural operations. Other types of diving activities–e.g., for the purpose of inspecting and maintaining underwater piping equipment–are covered by OSHA’s general industry standards.”
Note: for the above information “agriculture” refers not only to Agriculture but Forestry, Fishing and Hunting.
Aquaculture just may be the fastest growing food-producing sector, which as of 2017 accounted for 50% of the world’s fish used for food consumption. However, that same growth places demand not solely on the food source but also on the workers in that industry. Every industry brings its fair share of hazards; employers must follow health and safety regulations and ensure that all workers are trained and equipped to do their jobs safely.
Workers of agriculture and aquaculture share many tasks – feeding, applying chemicals, controlling predators, harvesting, construction – but aquaculture includes many unique challenges too. How do common hazards in aquaculture stack up to those faced in agriculture?
- Outdoor work environment (inclement weather, heat, cold, sun)
- Machinery and equipment (tractors)
- Workplace layout (ladders)
- Combustible materials (gas, diesel)
- Pesticide Use
- Ergonomics (repetitive motion)
- Fish handling (needle-stick injuries)
- Bacterial Pathogens
- Machinery and equipment (hydraulics, boat stability)
- Workplace layout (decks)
- Working alone
- Water Hazards
As farm fishing is still relatively new, there are many aspects that still require research and improvement. However, safety is not one that can be put on the backburner; no worker should have to pay with their life. Although aquaculture is a worldwide industry spanning both land and sea, it lacks uniform international regulations or procedures because national standards are easier to impose. But, when it comes to worker safety, the implementation of widespread safety standards should be common practice. An example of a thorough local safety standard? Check out the Aquaculture Safety Code of Practice established by the Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island – an area famous for its mussels.
As we know here at AFOP Health & Safety, education is foundational to workplace safety. Understanding hazards and how to identify, report, and prevent them is a must for any workplace, but the aquaculture labor force faces many of the same plus even more hazards as in agriculture. So, when it comes to aquaculture safety, worker training can be the key to preventing costly, time consuming, or even fatal accidents.
- NOAA . What is Aquaculture? Silver Spring, MD: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fisheries. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/what_is_aquaculture.html