What’s stopping you from protecting yourself and your mates? Identifying barriers to the adoption of safe work practises in the small-scale wild catch commercial fishing industry

Project Number:



KAL Analysis Pty Ltd

Principal Investigator:

Kate J. Brooks

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



Adoption, Communities, Industry, People


High rates of work related injury and illness exist within Australia's commercial fishing industry, compared to other primary industries. A large proportion of current WHS approaches appear to be either underutilised or ineffective in reducing work related injury and illness frequency rates. The wild catch sector has identified a need to explore how to affect cultural shifts that increase the adoption of behaviours that create safe work environments and improve outcomes for the industry. Opportunities exist to learn from fisheries that are in the process of, or have adopted improved and positive WHS attitudes and behaviours, and to identify how they may be successfully shared with other fisheries. Fishing industry representatives identify the desirability of simultaneously generating positive WHS outcomes while undertaking research. It is clearly recognised that the industry is averse to strengthening regulatory and compliance requirements, but seek the identification of behaviours and psychological factors that underpin established, or potential improvements in safety culture and behaviours, with a view to improving WHS outcomes. Given sensitivities to WHS regulatory recriminations, it is also a clear requirement and undertaking of this research to respect the anonymity of research participants in the data, and to protect them from any direct negative regulatory actions as a result of their participation in the research. A need has also been identified to develop a set of principles, that may be promulgated nationally and utilised by industry to improve WHS outcomes, with the benefit of potentially minimising regulatory impositions. It is also acknowledged that opportunities exit to improve WHS outcomes in the aquaculture and retail sectors. While the wild catch is the focus of this project, it will seek to identify any knowledge that may also by applicable to and utilised by these other sectors.


1. To generate knowledge to foster a stronger safety culture in the wild catch commercial fishing industry, and identify relevant recommendations also applicable to the aquaculture and retail sectors.

2. Identify the barriers (environmental, behavioural, psychological, regulatory, and market based) to adoption and implementation of safe work practises.

3. Identify the specific factors contributing to improvements in industry safety culture.

What's stopping you from keeping you and your mates safe?

Author(s):Kate Brooks
Date Published:April 2018

Thanks to the FRDC, Dr Kate Brooks and a small team of researchers and industry people are working to identify exactly what factors are stopping the commercial fishing industry from adopting safe work practices and looking out for themselves and others while on the job.

The results of the research are intended to provide greater insight for fishers, their industry

associations and safety authorities like AMSA, to help both fishers and industry associations to

raise safety standards through changes in attitudes, behaviour and culture in the sector.

Dr Brooks said ‘In the past, attempts to improve WHS have focussed on training — more,

better, sooner and immediately after an incident’.

‘But rather than focus on training, we want to work with fishers to understand what “flicks the

switch” to be concerned enough to look out for themselves, their mates and other workers

around them.’

She said that this would start with conversations about what made them care about getting

home in one piece every day.

‘Essentially, we will be looking for the stories that explain how and why fishers value their safety,

and use this understanding as the basis for developing alternative approaches to fostering a

positive WHS culture in the sector.’

Get involved

To take part in the survey, share a story (confidentiality is guaranteed) or to receive updates on the progress of the project, email Kate Brooks at kate@kalanalysis.com.au


Author(s):Kate Brooks
Date Published:May 2018

Dr Kate Brooks, Alex Thomas and/or Woody (OceanWatch) will be visiting your area - Newcastle, Sydney, the Clarence River – McLean, Iluka, and Yamba, and Cos Harbour - between May 29th and June 8th.

They are seeking your valuable knowledge as a NSW -fisherman to explore alternatives (other than regulation) to help support Australian Fishermen stay safe at work.

The survey is looking at what things are impacting your safety on the job, including culture, industry management, training and equipment knowledge.

This project is NOT about creating more red tape

Please keep an eye out for Kate, Alex and/or Woody at the wharf, beach or at your Co-op and take 20 minutes of your time to complete the survey.

Confidentiality is guaranteed.

If you're not available on the day, and you haven’t done it already, the survey will also be available at your co-op.

Or you can complete the survey on your mobile phone.

Just click on the link on the PFA website under “The Latest”.


Fishermen who fully complete the survey will go into a fortnightly draw to win a PFD (life jacket), courtesy of FRDC.

This important work is funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

Fisher brief, survey result update

Author(s):Kate Brooks
Date Published:September 2018
Remember the safety survey you completed for either one or both of these two women – Dr Kate Brooks and Alex Thomas - or online, some months ago? You have been heard!

The results

Of the 219 responses collected from fishers across Australia, we now have a better understanding that:
  • In general, fishers are positive about the safety culture of the industry.
  • Fishers don’t feel as though they are able to provide input into the creation of effective safety systems. In most cases you don’t believe that SMSs, procedures, inductions etc. are as effective at keeping you safe as they could, because they’re often not (entirely) relevant to the job you do; or so basic that it seems like a lot of paperwork for what is common sense.
  • You are concerned about fatigue, going overboard, and that others know when you are in trouble; or when others are in trouble, you know how to help. Many of you don’t feel that the current safety requirements focus on these important needs.
What does this mean for you?
  •  We need to check these and other survey results with you - the ones who completed the survey. So, we’ll be looking to talk with fishers in the case study areas of NSW and WA, about the findings and ways to make safety management, and your involvement in it, more relevant to you and how you work.
  • AMSA is also using these findings in its development and implementation of safety management system workshops for fishers planned to commence early 2019
Stay involved
  •  Put your hand up for the discussion groups happening in WA Shark Bay Prawn fishery (early October) or managed through the PFA for NSW fishers (early November).
  • Or email your comments to Kate@kalanalysis.com.au
  • If you’d like a more detailed version of the survey results (about four pages) also let Kate know, and she’ll forward you a link to a 3 page summary.


ABC interview

Author(s):Kate Brooks
Date Published:June 2018
ABC rural hour's Brooke Neindorf interviewing Dr Kate Brooks

Technical brief on initial survey results

Author(s):Kate Brooks
Date Published:September 2018


As a result of the ongoing high levels of accidents and incidents in the fishing industry, an FRDC funded survey was released in April 2018. It was both an online and face to face survey to explore the safety culture of the fishing industry across Australia. The following summarises the initial findings from the survey analysis, which will be discussed with fishers in the case study locations, face to face, in meetings in October and November 2018.