New Report by RS Reveals Gaps in OH&S Data Deficiencies in Aquaculture

New Report by RS Standards reveals gaps in OH&S data deficiencies in Aquaculture

A new report ‘Occupational health and safety in the aquaculture sector – a global review’ by RS Standards and commissioned by global safety charity Lloyd’s Register Foundation has revealed that accident and incident reporting is insufficient and lacks a standardised approach.

The report looks at evidence for OH&S incidents in the global aquaculture industry as well as evidence for the effectiveness of OH&S interventions to reduce such incidents.

The report confirms that the granularity of reporting systems in many countries does not allow data extrapolation and ‘at best, reporting of incidents in the aquaculture industry are aggregated within agriculture /fisheries /forestry- type reported data’.

Types of accidents /incidents are not reported sufficiently and there is no standardised approach for their reporting. This makes comparison and evaluating effectiveness challenging.  Even when there is a mandate for OH&S reporting, access to this data was problematic.

The Report also highlights the lack of management and regulation governing small-scale aquaculture operations, which means there are big uncertainties on the exposure of workers on smaller-scale farms to OH&S hazards.

Tim Slingsby, Director of Skills and Education at Lloyd’s Register Foundation said: “As well as 20.5 million documented aquaculture workers globally, there are also a large number of undocumented workers in the informal work sector, particularly in Asia and Africa, who will be more vulnerable to poor work conditions and worker violations – and hence at increased risk of exposure to OH&S hazards. We need more data that’s reported accurately and consistently in order for effective interventions to be designed.”

The report categories OH&S hazards in aquaculture into six categories: safety, physical, chemical, biological, ergonomic, and psychosocial. The most common injuries are falls, blows from an object, net entanglement, pricks/cuts/punctures, high voltage exposures and needlestick injuries, while the most common occupational diseases and disorders are musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory symptoms and asthma, skin infections, dermatitis and urticaria. The wide range of prevalence suggests there is a good opportunity for interventions to reduce rates.

The report identifies that ‘Comprehensive data of aquaculture OH&S appears largely confined to commercial enterprises in wealthier countries, such as Norway, USA, Canada and Australia. A previous report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2017 which reviewed the evidence on OH&S incidents in peer-reviewed and grey literature found that very few studies (3%) were reported from LMICs. As the report states, this leads to reporting bias so we’re not seeing an accurate global picture from the data available, especially when the majority of aquaculture workers are based in Asia.”

Looking at the effectiveness of interventions, the report identified seven higher-level indicators that influence the risk landscape of health and safety in aquaculture settings:

Country governance

Country regulations and their implementation

Production system type and pace of aquaculture development

Commercial large scale versus small-scale

Operating environment

Social-cultural factors; and

Extent of safety systems and third-party

Provisional desk reviews were conducted at country levels to evaluate the opportunity of developing a benchmarking tool to aid the performance review and identify areas for improvement in OH&S systems for aquaculture. 

Lead author Dave Garforth added ‘what is needed is a comprehensive framework or Aquaculture Safety Index to evaluate and report on the t status of OH&S in aquaculture that can be applied consistently at country, regional and /or aquaculture systems level. Its development, ‘would require an international approach with multi-stakeholder and disciplinary participation’.

RS Standards would like to gratefully acknowledge the grant support and insight from Lloyds Register throughout this important work. Lloyd’s Register Foundation is a growing global charity with a mission to make the world a safer place.  As society places increasing demands on ocean space and the challenges of working in ever more extreme environments intensifies, how do we better protect people and property from harm? 

The Foundation’s strategy starts with evidence – we will strive to understand the complex factors that most affect safety. Our interventions will be driven by evidence of what works – in fact, we plan to build the world’s best centre for safety evidence and insight which others can use.

Further information from Dave Garforth,


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