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)