Add another layer to your #Business literacy. We at Serebral360° would love to know if the Forbes – Entrepreneurs article was helpful, leave a comment, like and share. Let’s dive in and discuss the information and put it to use to grow your business. #BusinessStrategy #ContentMarketing #WebDevelopment #BrandStrategy
Info@serebral360.com 762.333.1807 www.serebral360.com
Grap a copy of our NEW Business Stratgety Books #FFSS VOL1 and #FFSS VOL2
The Atlantic off the coast of New England is not a forgiving force. Water temperatures in the three miles from shore where most lobstering is done only reach the low 60s in the summer. They’re close to freezing in the winter.
That cold water is the ideal habitat for the lobster that create a nearly-half-billion-dollar industry in Maine alone. It’s also an easy place to get killed.
“Drowning would be the worst way to die – lonely and terrible,” one lobsterman told researchers from the Northeast Center for Occupational Health & Safety (NEC) in 2016. “I have a terrible fear of drowning. You’d go down, struggle, come back up, struggle, take water, go down, struggle, come back up, struggle, go down . . .”
In boats whose starboard sides are fitted with block pulleys hanging over the edge of a gunwale low to the water, a lobsterman pulling traps from the ocean floor is perpetually looking at his next paycheck – and his potential grave.
If he goes overboard, the shock of hitting the water will make him gasp for air and hyperventilate. If the involuntary gasp happens when his head is underwater, he will drown quickly. If he manages to avoid immediately sucking in sea water, within minutes the constriction of blood vessels in his arms and legs will make it difficult or impossible for him to swim or keep himself afloat.
Although some fishermen leave lines trailing behind their boats to help them get back into the vessels if they fall in, it’s not much of a guarantee. If they are working alone, they could be stranded. In fog or rough seas, even having a partner aboard might not be enough.
These hazards are one of the reasons commercial fishing eclipsed logging in the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on workplace fatalities as the country’s most dangerous profession. For other types of fishing, something happening to the boat is the most common reason fishing workers die. For lobstermen – afloat in low-sided smaller watercraft sometimes loaded with lobster “pots” – falling overboard is the leading killer.
Yet despite the hazard and the extra time that a lifejacket will buy them, lobstermen rarely wear flotation gear. “Two years ago when we went to the Maine Fisherman’s Forum, people were very nice and welcoming, but they said, ‘We hate them and we never wear them and they’re too uncomfortable and we can’t work in them,’” said Rebecca Weil, research coordinator for NEC.
Weil and her colleagues are driving vans full of flotation gear along the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine this month through November in hopes of matching fishers with equipment that will work for them in a uniquely hazardous environment. To the degree they succeed, it will be because they invested themselves in learning from the lobstermen, and respected their expertise and opinions.
“Most people have a vested interest in staying alive and being healthy enough to work,” said Dr. Julie Sorensen, director of NEC. “If they’re not doing something, there are probably very valid reasons that’s they’re not. There’s a little bit of hubris in thinking that the problem is that people just do stupid things.”
“It’s been very interesting to have the fishermen guide this project and learn from them what they actually need and how to make things better for them” said Weil. “That’s the core of it. It’s really being able to listen to the fishermen and find out what they can work in.”
In most industries, from farming to paper-making, technological advances and improved designs have engineered away many of the structural hazards that used to kill workers. Tractors and forklifts have reinforced driver compartments. Riding lawnmowers have “kill switches” that turn off the blades if the operator leaves the seat. Construction workers several stories high wear harnesses comparable to those used by climbers scaling the highest rock walls. Much of the engineering has been done.
What remains are mostly human factors. Avoiding the threats that cannot be eliminated by design unavoidably depends on the judgment of those doing the work. Consequently, when something goes wrong, there is a temptation, amplified by 20/20 hindsight, to “blame the worker.”
The same temptation could also apply to outsiders’ opinions of lobstermen, an exceptionally hard-working and independent group who, when they die at sea, do so in part because they don’t wear personal flotation devices (PFDs). “We had a fellow here,” one fisherman told the researchers, “must have been 15 to 20 years ago, fall overboard and we lost him. Never found his body. Found his boots, but never found his body. That didn’t get people to wear a PFD.”
“When you read some safety literature, it will say, ‘People are stupid to not do X, Y or Z.’ I think that’s the wrong way to characterize it,” said Weil. “When you look at fishermen not wearing lifejackets, they’re always doing other safety things. It not as though they’re not safety-aware. It’s that they really have some problems with the lifejackets that were available to them.”
NEC has worked over the last few years to understand what lobstermen need and their rationale for not wearing lifejackets. In 2016, Weil, Sorensen and three fellow researchers published a research paper based on interviews with 72 lobstermen. They found three reasons they don’t wear lifejackets.
Comfort and workability. Lobstering is long, arduous work done in close quarters. A thick lifejacket makes it tougher to move and to look down at the line, the trap or the boat’s wheel. “I don’t even have one. I don’t have one aboard the boat,” one fisherman said. “I tried one years and years ago. I see the observers come aboard and they put theirs right over their oilskins and they can’t even move.” The wrong PFD could also create a risk of entanglement or snagging that could itself pull someone overboard.
Stigma. Going without a PFD is so ingrained in the way things are done that some lobstermen in the study were surprised to even have it questioned. Wearing one could signal lack of confidence, ineptitude or being accident-prone. “I know a guy that’s gone over twice, two or three times now, tying down the pots,” one captain said. “He pulls on the rope and the rope let go on the other end and he’s gone over a couple of times. He’s kind of clumsy, so he should wear one anyways, just ‘cause.’
Superstition, fatalism or preferring to ignore the risk. The researchers called it “risk diffusion.” To head out on the ocean is to accept a certain risk of dying, and many lobstermen have a “contradictory” combination of coping tactics. A line wrapped around a fisherman’s leg can pull him under, PFD or not. If the engine is engaged, the boat will pull away, leaving him to die anyway. “Do you think about (dying) when you’re driving? No. Maybe not too much and maybe if you did, you say, ‘It’s probably not good for me to think about this, so I’m just not going to,’” one lobsterman said. “It’s a human thing. That’s the same whether you’re driving to work or you’re working on a boat.”
The team from NEC is tackling the issue of comfort and workability in hopes that stigma and “risk diffusion” will decrease as PFD use increases. Two years ago, the team recruited 181 lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts, randomly assigning them one of nine flotation aids to use while working. They were asked to work the gear hard and to send feedback after a week and after one month.
“Going into it, we hoped one or two of those designs would rise to the surface” – no pun intended – “and we’d be able to turn around to everyone in lobster fishing, ‘Here are the one or two designs that seem to work the best,’” said Weil. “What we found was, yes, some did do better than others, but statistically, when you looked at it all, it came down to personal choice. Each person had their own priorities for their boat for what they needed and what they felt they could wear.”
Studies in other industries have found the importance of what behavioral economists call “idiosyncratic fit” – adapting solutions to the individual needs and preferences of a worker – and the power of worker “voice” – getting to make decisions for oneself rather than having them dictated. Both seem especially relevant to the deck of a lobster boat.
In the NEC vans are belt packs, bibs, shirts and vests that made the cut. Most are Coast-Guard-certified. Some are not, but were requested by those who did the testing. Fishermen can buy them at a 50% discount.
Although Weil cautions that the early evidence is anecdotal, the reception so far has been good. The “Lifejackets for Lobstermen” Facebook page has a number of fishermen asking if one of the vans is coming to their port. And the lobstermen they have met and outfitted have been grateful. The team is beginning to assemble a collection of photos that look as though they came from the L.L. Bean catalog.
“This year when we went to the Maine forum we had close to 150 lobstermen trying on lifejackets and saying they really wanted these and they were really interested in the designs that we found,” she said.
It also appears they’ve got one documented life saved. It happened in February 2017. “I had a crew member on the boat last year with the flotation bibs on. He went to tie a stack of traps, and as he pulled on the rope, it snapped and he flipped overboard,” said lobster boat captain Mike Bartlett of Beverly, Massachusetts, in a video recently posted by NEC. “I turned around to see his legs going over his head. We were able to get the boat turned around and get to him within a minute. The bibs kept him above water. By the time we got to him, he had no use of his hands or legs, so he wouldn’t have been afloat if it wasn’t for those.”
“If we’re talking about safety change, really being able to listen to the people we’re working with is probably the most important piece,” said Weil. “They’re the people who will have the solution because they know their work the best.”
April 9, 2019 at 10:05AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs