EVALUATION AND IMPROVEMENT OF WORKING ENVIRONMENT AT FISHING PORTS
Kimiyasu Saeki, Nobuo Takaki and Sadamitsu Akeda
National Research Institute of Fisheries Engineering, Fisheries Research Agency Hasaki, Ibaraki, JAPAN
The work at fishing ports consists of various tasks. Workers are often forced to have a bad posture under severe climatic conditions when they undertaking tasks. Such a working environment needs to be improved. In this paper, various tasks at fishing ports are broken down into three categories, then a checklist for evaluating the working environment is suggested, and moreover, some information for actual evaluation is shown. To build safe, comfortable and functional workspaces at each fishing port, it is necessary to evaluate the quality of the work space comprehensively.
There are about 2,900 fishing ports throughout Japan. In the past 50 years, improvements have been made to many of these ports. In particular, many breakwaters and quay walls necessary for mooring the fishing boats have been built.
For example, Figure 1 shows the Choshi fishing port in Chiba Prefecture. These
improvements have been undertaken at places where waves from the open sea hit against the water flowing
out of the river. In the past many fishing boats have capsized here. More than 1,000 people have died
in these accidents, and a memorial stone has been built nearby the fishing port to mourn the victims.
However, since 1960, a train of walls separating waterway from the river has been built to ensure the
safety of the port and there has been a dramatic decrease in the danger of accidents. Figure 2 shows a
sand beach in Chiba Prefecture as another example. In the past, there was nowhere to moor the boats. Up
until the 1970s, the fishing boats were manually pulled up onto the beach. Many women had to undertake
this heavy physical labor (Karaki, 1993
). But as a result of building the
breakwaters and quay walls, the boats can now be easily moored, as shown in the photo.
Figure 1. Construction of Choshi fishing port in Chiba prefecture
Figure 2. Loading a fishing boat on a sand beach in the past and the present
THE FISHING PORT AS A WORK SPACE
Some new problems
As shown in the previous section, great improvements in navigation and mooring safety have been made at Japanese fishing ports in the past 50 years. However, the Japanese fishing industry is now facing some new problems. These include the decrease in the number of fishermen and the ageing of fishing village societies. There is a need to support the fishery production with this drop in labor. Furthermore, many women are working at fishing ports, and up to now, not enough consideration has been given to the labor burden of women working at fishing ports. In order to improve the appeal of the fishing industry, it is also necessary to create an environment in which it is easy for women to work.
These are the areas we will be addressing, to improve the quality of fishing
ports as workspaces. There is a need to build safe, comfortable and functional workspaces at each fishing
port (Takaki and Saeki, 2001
Characteristics of fishing port work
There is a difference in the work carried out at fishing ports, depending on the type of fisheries (fixed netting, purse seine, aquaculture, etc.). Usually, the work does not involve a clear process like factory work. However, the work can be broken down into the three categories as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. The three categories of the work at the fishing ports
First, there is unloading and loading work. This includes unloading the fish from the boats, and loading ice and fishing nets onto the boats.
Second, there is sorting. This involves sorting the fish that has been caught into type and size before selling. With trawling, for example, many different species of fish are caught, and sorting them tends to require heavy physical labor.
Third, there is preparation work. This involves repairing nets that have been damaged, attaching bait to the longlines and other work in preparation for the next fishing. Quite often this work is carried out while sitting on the ground of the fishing port. Furthermore, quite often it tends to require lengthy physical work.
Then, before and after all this work is done, the task of transporting the fish and the fishing implements remains. Trucks, forklifts and handbarrows are often used for this work.
Recently, some machines have begun to be introduced to fishing ports. However, even now, many manual tasks need to be done. With the unloading work, in the case of large boats, ordinarily the crane installed on the boat is used. However, small boats are not equipped with these cranes, so the work usually has to be done manually. With the sorting work, if the sorting task is simple, belt conveyors and other equipment can be used to reduce the burden on the working women. However, when many different types of fish are caught together, this equipment cannot help the workers. An example of preparation work, the workers at the fishing ports use their own eyes and hands to stitch the nets that have been damaged. Rocks and the tide often damage these nets, which can be several hundred meters long.
Much of the work at fishing ports is not repetitive, and involves many different irregular tasks as shown in Figure 4. Furthermore, the work and the time required are greatly influenced by the season, the weather and the size of the catch. Therefore, it is difficult for researchers to recognize and analyze the content of the work of fishermen. Nevertheless, in order to clarify problems with the working environment, the actual working conditions, such as the movement of the workers, the work posture and the muscular load of the workers must be studied and understood. It is then desirable to sort thus data into figures and tables. This could be used as the base data for clarifying areas that need to be improved.
Figure 4. Different irregular tasks at fishing ports
EVALUATION OF THE WORKING ENVIRONMENT
A prototype of a checklist
For factory labor, a working environment evaluation checklist is already established
(Joint Industrial Safety Council, Sweden/ILO, 1987
). In Japan, evaluation
and improvement of the working environment in the agricultural industry is being undertaken (BRAIN, 2000
). Examples of these improvements are shown in Figure 5. On the left, an example of a reduction in lifting workload is shown, where the amount of vegetables put into a single cardboard box has been
reduced and a conveyor belt has been introduced (MAFF, 1996
). On the right,
there is an example of a table used to sort the vegetables. The table is round, and turns easily. This
means it is possible for the farmers to sort most of the vegetables in the photo while seated (JRISA, 2001
Figure 5. Improvements of the working environment in the agricultural industry
There is a need for a system for evaluating the present condition and making improvements at fishing ports. Table 1 is a prototype of a checklist for evaluating the safety, comfort and convenience levels of fishing ports as workspaces. Evaluation is made for three types of work: loading and unloading, sorting and preparation. These are shown in the top cells. The left cells show the items, which make the working environment better or worse. These include working posture, muscular load, avoidance of danger, the size of the workspace, protection from wind, snow and direct sunlight, and work movement. Also, the existence of toilets is an important item. Toilets should be located near the workplace.
Table 1. Checklist for evaluating the working environment at fishing ports
|Loading and unloading
|1. Working posture
|2. Muscular load
|3. Avoidance of danger
|4. Size of work space
|5. Protection from wind, snow and direct sunlight
|6. Distance to toilets
|7. Work movement
The cells in Table 1 are named, such as L-1 and S-2. These cells become the items that are used for the actual evaluation. In reality, the causes of the hard work and discomfort involve many different interwoven elements. However, we believe evaluating each of the cells in the table, and ranking the present situation can make a relatively suitable evaluation.
For example, using the following four ranks can make the evaluation:
Rank D: serious problems; improvements should be made immediately
Rank C: moderate problems; improvements should be made quickly
Rank B: slight problems: improvements are desirable
Rank A: no problems
We believe this type of evaluation should be made on each fishing port.
The specific standards for the ranking should be decided after studying the actual work conditions and using ergonomic evaluation methods. As will be discussed below, some information has already been obtained for the ranking in several areas.