NT WorkSafe recently issued a safety alert over managing infections caused by marine organisms such as bacteria while working in the marine fishing and aquaculture industries.
The alert was issued following an incident in which a trap fisherman died from complications arising from staphylococcal sepsis (blood poisoning) two days after returning from a three week fishing trip.
The worker experienced pain and swelling for a week, and kept to his bed for a couple of days before the vessel returned to port.
He had small infections (pustules) on a left hand finger and left foot toe. On return to port, he presented to Royal Darwin Hospital in a confused state, with fevers, chills, back pain as well as generalised aches and pains.
The alert said there were a number of contributing factors to the fatality, including:
- Likely received small nicks/cuts to his hand and feet whilst working with the traps.
- Breaks in the skin provided an entry point for bacteria to enter the body.
- Lack of knowledge/awareness of potential for serious infection from open wounds.
- Poor management/first aid of skin breaks to reduce risk of infections.
- Professional medical advice was not requested or sought.
The alert subsequently recommended a number of actions:
- Ensure workers wear personal protective equipment – (aprons, gloves, gumboots) to guard against nicks, cuts and scratches
- Provide sufficient information, instruction and training for new workers, including the dangers arising from not managing marine infections effectively
- Provide information, instruction and training for Skippers to ensure appropriate first aid treatment is provided, and professional medical advice is sought when appropriate.
- Ensure the vessel’s safety management system includes contact details for a medical practitioner. Some options are: 1800 641 792 (Marine Search and Rescue – if life threatening) and 1800 022 222 (Health Direct Australia – national free service)