Musculoskeletal Disorder Rates in Northeast Lobstermen


Lobstering is just one of many distinct fisheries in the Northeast. The lobstering industry enjoys a very active workforce mainly in Maine and Massachusetts, while the American Lobster species itself ranges from Canada to New Jersey. One of the main purposes of this study is related to two typical methodological difficulties specific to fishing occupational health research: an uncertain denominator for the population, and a lack of adequately sensitive data sources to confidently capture a valid portion of at-sea, health-related events. The progress in this study complements prior research by NIOSH in calculating comparable fatality rates across fisheries in federally regulated fisheries. The majority of the lobstering workforce is found in state regulated waters.


This project is in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The project collects information from lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts to estimate denominators (i.e. exposure to lobstering) and numerators (i.e. the frequency of injury, disability and mortality associated with lobstering) for an estimate of the rate of such disorders in the total Northeastern lobstering workforce and important geographical and seasonal subgroups.


Results from the first two years of data collection are found in the tables below.

Table Table

Above tables are acute injuries, and incidence density.

  • N = number of injuries and illnesses
  • EH = total hours worked by all employees in the sample during the calendar year = 972422
  • 200,000 = base hours for 100 equivalent full-time workers for one year

Demographic information about the cohort:


"Fishermen days" can be computed by factoring together reported days at sea, number of crew, and the length of the season (Lincoln, Lucas 2008). By then factoring the length of the trip (hrs) in addition, "hours", in the table below, represented the average hours worked per license in a given quarter. FTEs were calculated by summing the hours or days per subject per quarter, and dividing by the number of subjects (ave hrs/license) then multiplying by the equivalency factor of 65 days/quarter. Years 1 and 2 were combined for these calculations, and for the counts of injuries in the tables below.


Future Efforts


Future work will include completing four years of data collection and analysis of the data to become a resource for guiding possible investigations into deck or equipment designs to reduce risk for injuries.

Faculty and Facility

PI: Bryan Buchholz (UMass Lowell); Research Coordinator: Scott Fulmer (UMass Lowell)

In partnership with University of Massachusetts Lowell: