The long-term objective of this proposal is to increase personal floatation device (PFD) use, prevent falls overboard (FOB) fatalities, and to develop better recovery devices and practices in commercial fisheries [NORA Intermediate Goal 8.2]. In particular, we seek to increase the use of PFDs in the Northeast commercial fishing industry by 50% within the next ten years. Although ambitious, we believe it is possible to achieve this objective by testing the utility of a social marketing framework to improve commercial fishermen's PFD experience. Lobster fishermen will serve as the campaign target, as FOBs account for the largest proportion of lobster fishing deaths in the Northeast. However, the activities outlined in the research proposal will positively impact other commercial fisheries, as well.
Our Specific Aims i nclude:
Aim #1 -Identify PFD designs that are commercially available, not well known and which have demonstrated comfort and workability by conducting a trial of PFD designs in lobstering ports in MA and ME. Information will be used to explore PFD improvements such as opportunities for increasing comfort or adding components that make work easier. This information will be shared with PFD manufacturers to foster PFD improvements.
Aim #2 -Assess the viability of using accelerometers as an objective measure of PFD use in the lobster fishing community. If accelerometers can reliably track the use of PFDs, these will be used to validate self-reported PFD use in the final intervention evaluation.
Aim #3 - Launch a social marketing campaign in MA (which has been randomly selected to receive the marketing intervention). This campaign will seek to address major barriers to PFD use by addressing social norms, PFD comfort, PFD cost and accessibility.
Aim #4 - Evaluate the impact of the initiative using a randomized controlled trial with MA and ME lobster fishermen. This trial will compare baseline and follow-up Stage of Change scores in control (ME) and treatment groups (MA), to evaluate the impact of the social marketing intervention on PFD purchase and use. Efforts to identify promising dissemination channels will also be undertaken. Upon completion of these aims, researchers will have examined the viability of this approach for increasing worker adoption of safety technology. These activities are relevant to NIOSH's mission in that they seek to reduce the occurrence of work-related deaths in one of the most dangerous industries in the U.S. Additionally, the proposed research activities will allow researchers to evaluate and identify best practices for increasing worker adoption of safety technologies and practices. In particular, the proposed intervention will provide an opportunity to evaluate the utility of using a marketing approach for increasing worker interest in safety devices or behaviors. Lastly, the use and evaluation of accelerometers as a means for validating self-reported use of safety technology and the exploration of promising safety innovation diffusion channels, will inform future intervention efforts seeking to disseminate and evaluate the use of safety innovations.

Public Health Relevance

The rates of commercial fishing fatalities are estimated to be 31 times higher than the average industrial fatality rate. The proposed research seeks to address falls overboard, which are the second most frequent cause of death in the U.S. commercial fishing industry and the most prominent cause of death for lobster fishermen in the Northeast. Activities will focus on improving personal floatation device (PFD) designs, distribution channels and the social acceptability of these devices to increase PFD use in the Northeast lobster commercial fishing industry.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Safety and Occupational Health Study Section (SOH)
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital
United States
Zip Code