Address: Systems Safety Management USA, Inc., 8394 Sandpoint Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819
Country: United States
Phone: 1 (407) 354-1186
Fax: 1 (407) 354-5295
Past position(s): Vice-President, Safety and Security, Boardwalk and Baseball, Inc.
Education: Associate of Science, 1976, Hillsborough Community College
Areas of interest: Amusement ride safety; crowd managment; water park safety; family entertainment centres; sport, leisure and entertainment safety
The Entangling Net: Alaska’s Commercial Fishing Women Tell Their Lives, by Leslie Leyland Fields (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), is the story, based on the author’s own experience and interviews, of some of the women who worked as commercial fishers in the waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska surrounding Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Islands. The following excerpts capture some of the flavour of these women’s experience, why they chose this line of work and what it entailed.
The last black cod season started May 15. It was two gals and two guys. The skipper wanted a crew that could bait gear fast; that was what he was looking for. ... To start out, all we were trying to do is turn hooks. Its a numbers game. Ideally you run 18,000-20,000 hooks a day. And so we’d have four people baiting at all times and one person hauling gear. The people baiting would rotate coiling the gear. We went back to the traditional way of fishing. Most Kodiak boats will let the gear fall into a tub, kind of on its own, then you bring that tub back and bait it. On the old halibut schooners they hand coil everything so they’re able to offspin every hook. They try to make a really nice coil so when you take it back you can bait it twice as fast. The first couple of days we looked at the time it was taking to bait the messy skates (the long lines on which the hooks are attached). I refuse to bait another skate like that, so then we all started hand coiling our own. When you do that you’re able to move from your baiting station. We really worked long hours, often twenty-four hours, then we go into the next day and work through that night until about 2:00 A.M. and the next day another twenty hours. Then we’d lie down for about three hours. Then we’d get back up and go another twenty-four hours and a couple of hours down. The first week we averaged ten hours of sleep all together—we figured it out. So we joked, twenty-four on, one off.
I had never fished that hard before. When it opened, we fished Saturday, all through Saturday, all through Sunday and half of Monday. So well over fifty-six hours with no sleep, working as hard, as fast as high paced as you can push yourself. Then we laid down for like three hours. You get up. You are so stiff! Then we brought in a trip, just over 40,000 pounds in four days, so we virtually had been up those entire four days. That was a good load. It was really motivational. I make a thousand dollars a day. ... It’s the shorter seasons, the shorter longline seasons, are what are driving the boats back to these schedules. ... with a three-week season, you’re almost forced to unless you can rotate a person down (let them sleep) (pp. 31-33).
But the reason I feel lucky is because we were out there, a woman running a boat with an all-women crew, and we were doing it. And we were doing it as well as anybody else in the fleet, so I never felt intimidated in thinking, “Oh, a woman can’t do this, can’t figure it out, or is not capable of it” because the first job I ever had was with women and we did fine. So I had that confidence factor from the beginning of my deckhand career... (p. 35).
When you’re on a boat, you don’t have a life, you don’t have any physical space, you don’t have any time to yourself. It’s all the boat, the fishing, for four months straight...(p. 36).
I have a little bit of protection on some of the winds but pretty much I’ll get all of it. ... There’s also a lot of tide here. You dump these anchors off; you’ve got fifteen or twenty anchors, some of them three hundred pounders, to try to hold one net in place. And every time you go out there the net’s twisted in some different shape and you have to drag these anchors around. And the weather is not very nice most of the time. You’re always fighting the wind. It’s a challenge, a physical challenge instead of a mental challenge... (p. 37).
Beating the docks (going from boat to boat seeking a job) was the worst thing. After I did it for a while I realized that probably there’s only 15 percent of the boats that you even have a possibility of being hired on because the rest of them will not hire women. Mostly because their wives won’t let them or there’s another woman on the boat already or they are just flat out sexist—they don’t want women. But between those three factors, the number of boats you could get hired on was so slim that it was discouraging. But you had to find out which boats those were. That means walking the docks...(p. 81).
I was thinking about the question you asked earlier. Why women are increasingly drawn to this. I don’t know. You wonder if there are increasing numbers of women coal mining or trucking. I don’t know if it has something to do with Alaska and the whole lure of being able to partake of something that formerly was withheld from you, or maybe its a breed of women who have been raised or somehow have been grown up to understand that certain barriers that supposedly were there are not legitimate. Even withstanding all the dangers, it’s an important experience and it’s very viable, very—I hate to use the word “fulfilling,” but it is very fulfilling. I loved, I loved getting a string of pots over perfectly and not having to ask anyone to help me with one of the doors once and getting all the massive wads of bait that you sort of swoop under the pot in the middle. ...There are elements to it you can’t find in any other type of experience. It’s almost like farming. It’s so elemental. It calls on such an elemental process. Since biblical times we’ve been talking about these kind of people. There’s this ethos surrounding it that’s very ancient. And to be able to go to that and draw on it. It gets into this whole mystical realm (p.44).
It’s very lonely being the only woman on a boat. I make a point of never getting involved with guys on a romantic level or anything. Friends. I’m always open to friends, but you always have to be careful that they don’t think it’s more. See, there are so many different levels of guys. I don’t want to be friends with the drunkards and cocaine addicts. But definitely the more respectable people I became friends with. And I have maintained male friendships and female friendships. There’s a lot of loneliness though. I found out that laugh therapy helps. I go out on the back deck and just laugh to myself and feel better (p. 61).
Leslie Leyland Fields
Each (woman) asked only for equal treatment and equal opportunity. This doesn’t come automatically in a job where you need the strength to land a swinging 130-pound crab pot, the endurance to withstand thirty-six straight hours of work without sleep, the moxie to run a 150-horsepowered seine skiff at full speed near reefs, and special hands-on skills like diesel engine repair and maintenance, net mending, operating hydraulics. These are the powers that win the day and the fish; these are the powers fishing women must prove to disbelieving men. And not least of all, there is active resistance from an unexpected quarter—other women, the wives of men who fish (p. 53).
This is part of what I know of being a skipper. ... You alone hold the lives of two, three or four people in your hands. Your boat payments and insurance costs run you in the tens of thousands every year—you must catch fish. You manage a potentially volatile mix of personalities and work habits. You must have extensive knowledge of navigation, weather patterns, fishing regulations; you must be able to operate and repair to some degree the array of high-tech electronics that are the brains of the boat. ... The list goes on.
Why does anyone willingly hoist and carry such a load? There is another side, of course. To state it positively, there is independence in skippering, a degree of autonomy seldom found in other professions. You alone control the life within your ark. You can decide where you are going to fish, when the boat goes, how fast it goes, how long and hard the crew will work, how long everyone sleeps, the weather conditions you will work in, the degrees of risk you will take, the kind of food you eat... (p. 75).
In 1992, forty-four vessels in Alaska sunk, eighty-seven people were rescued from sinking vessels, thirty-five died. In Spring 1988 forty-four died after ice fog moved in and consumed boats and crew. To put those numbers in perspective, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that the annual death rate for all U.S. Occupations is 7 per 100,000 workers. For commercial fishing in Alaska, the rate jumps to 200 per 100,000, making it the most deadly job in the country. For crab fishermen, whose season runs through the winter, the rate climbs to 660 per 100,000, or almost 100 times the national average (p. 98).
I’m only five feet tall and I weigh one hundred pounds and so men have a protective instinct toward me. I’ve had to surmount that my whole life to actually get in and do anything. The only way I’ve been able to get past is by being quicker and knowing what I’m doing. It’s about leverage. ... You have to slow down. You have to use your head in a different way and your body in a different way. I think its important that people know how small I am because if I can do it, it means any woman can do it... (p. 86).
I really believe in the North Pacific Vessel Owner’s Association, they offer some really good courses, one of which is Medical Emergencies at Sea. I think anytime you take any kind of marine tech class you’re doing yourself a favor (p. 106).
Developed such a sense of independence and strength. Things I thought I could never do I learned I would do out here. It’s just opened a whole new world for myself as a young woman. becoming a woman, I don’t know. There are so many possibilities now because I know I can do “a man’s job,” you know? There’s a lot of power that comes with that (p. 129).
Copyright 1997 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.
The common product shared between circuses and amusement and theme parks is creating and providing entertainment for the public’s enjoyment. Circuses can take place in a large temporary tent equipped with bleachers or in permanent buildings. Attending a circus is a passive activity in which the customer views the various animal, clown and acrobatic acts from a seated position. Amusement and theme parks, on the other hand, are locations where customers actively walk around the park and can participate in a wide variety of activities. Amusement parks can have many different types of rides, exhibits, games of skill, sales booths and stores, grandstand shows and other types of entertainment. Theme parks have exhibits, buildings and even small villages that illustrate the particular theme. Costume characters, who are actors dressed in costumes illustrating the theme—for example, historical costumes in historic villages or cartoon costumes for parks with a cartoon theme—will participate in shows or walk around among the visiting crowds. Local country fairs are another type of event where activities can include rides, animal and other side shows, such as fire-eating, and agricultural and farm animal exhibitions and competitions. The size of the operation can be as small as one person running a pony cart ride in a parking lot, or as large as a major theme park employing thousands. The larger the operation, the more background services that can be present, including parking lots, sanitation facilities, security and other emergency services and even hotels.
Occupations vary widely as do the levels of skills required for individual tasks. People employed in these activities include ticket sellers, acrobatic performers, animal handlers, food service workers, engineers, costume characters and ride operators, among a long list of other workers. The occupational safety and health risks include many of those found in general industry and others that are unique to circuses and amusement and theme park operations. The following information provides a review of entertainment-related hazards and precautions found within this segment of the industry.
Acrobatics and Stunts
Circuses, in particular, have many acrobatic and stunt acts, including high-wire tightrope walking and other aerial acts, gymnastic acts, fire-juggling acts and displays of horsemanship. Amusement and theme parks can also have similar activities. Hazards include falls, misjudged clearances, improperly inspected equipment and physical fatigue due to multiple daily shows. Typical accidents involve muscular, tendon and skeletal injuries.
Precautions include the following: Performers should receive comprehensive physical conditioning, proper rest and a good diet, and show schedules should be rotated. All equipment, props, rigging, safety devices and blocking should be carefully reviewed before each performance. Show personnel should not perform when they are ill, injured or taking medication which may affect required abilities to safely meet the needs of the show.
Animals are most commonly found in circuses and county fairs, although they can also be found in activities such as pony rides in amusement parks. Animals are found in circuses in wild-animal training acts, for example, with lions and tigers, horse riding acts and other trained animal acts. Elephants are used as show performers, rides, exhibits and work animals. In country fairs, farm animals such as pigs, cattle and horses are exhibited in competitions. In some places, exotic animals are displayed in cages and in such acts as snake handling. Hazards include the unpredictable characteristics of animals combined with the potential for animal handlers to become overly confident and let their guard down. Serious injury and death are possible in this occupation. Elephant handling is considered one of the most dangerous professions. Some estimates indicate there are approximately 600 keepers in the United States and Canada. During the course of an average year there will be one elephant handler killed. Venomous snakes, if used in snake-handling acts, can also be very dangerous, with possible fatalities from snake bites.
Precautions include intense and ongoing animal-handling training. It must be instilled in employees to remain on their guard at all times. The use of protected contact systems is recommended where keepers work alongside animals capable of causing serious injury or death. Protected contact systems always separate the animal handler and the animal by means of bars or closed-off areas. When animals perform on stage to live audiences, noise and other stimuli conditioning must be a part of the required safety training. With venomous reptiles, proper anti-venom antidotes and protective equipment such as gloves, leg guards, snake pincers and carbon dioxide bottles should be available. Care and feeding of animals when they are not being exhibited also requires careful attention on the part of the animal caretakers to prevent injury.
Costume characters acting the role of cartoon figures or historical period characters often wear heavy and bulky costumes. They can act on stages or mingle with the crowds. Hazards are back and neck injuries associated with wearing such costumes with uneven weight distribution (figure 1). Other exposures are fatigue, heat-related problems, crowd pushing and hitting. See also “Actors”.
Figure 1. Worker wearing a heavy costume.
Precautions include the following: Costumes should be correctly fitted to the individual. The weight load, especially above the shoulders, should be kept at a minimum. Costume characters should drink plenty of water during periods of warm weather. Interaction with the public should be of short duration because of the stress of such work. Character duties should be rotated, and non-costumed escorts should be with characters at all times to manage crowds.
Figure 2. Loading pyrotechnics for fireworks show.
Precautions include the following: Only appropriately trained and licensed pyrotechnicians should detonate explosives. Storage, transportation and detonation procedures must be followed (figure 3). Applicable codes, laws and ordinances in the jurisdiction where operating must be adhered to. Pre-approved personal safety equipment and fire extinguishing equipment must be at the detonation site where there is immediate access.
Figure 3. Bunker storage for fireworks.
Food can be bought at circuses and amusement and theme parks from individuals with trays of food, at vendor carts, booths, or even restaurants. Hazards common to food service operations at these events involve serving large captive audiences during high periods of demand in a very short period of time. Falls, burns, cuts and repetitive motion trauma are not uncommon in this occupational classification. Carrying food around on trays can involve back injuries. The risks are increased during periods of high volume. A common example of injury occurring in high-volume food service areas is repetitive motion trauma that can result in tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. One example of a job description where such injuries occur is an ice-cream scooper.
Precautions include the following: Increased staffing during high-volume periods is essential to the safety of the operation. Specific duties such as mopping, sweeping and cleaning should be addressed. Precautions for repetitive motion trauma: regarding the example given above, using softer ice cream can make scooping less strenuous, employees can be regularly rotated, scoops can be warmed to promote easier penetration of the ice cream and the use of ergonomically designed handles should be considered.
Scenery, Props and Exhibits
Stage shows, exhibits, booths, artificial scenery and buildings must be built. Hazards include many of the same hazards as found in construction, including electrocution, severe lacerations, and eye and other injuries associated with the use of power tools and equipment. The outdoor building and use of props, scenery and exhibits increases the potential hazards such as collapse if construction is inadequate. Handling of these components can result in falls and back and neck injuries (see also “Scenery shops” in this chapter).
Precautions include the following: The manufacturer’s warnings, safety equipment recommendations and safe operating instructions for power tools and machinery must be followed. The weight of props and their sections should be minimized to reduce the possibility of lifting-associated injuries. Props, scenery and exhibits designed for outdoor use must be reviewed for wind load ratings and other outdoor exposures. Props designed for use with live loads should be appropriately rated and the built-in safety factor verified. Fire rating of the material should be considered based on the intended use, and any fire regulations that may be applicable must be followed.
Ride Operators and Maintenance Personnel
There are a wide variety of amusement park rides, including Ferris wheels, roller coasters, water flume rides, looping boats and aerial tramways. Ride operators and maintenance personnel work in areas and under conditions where there are increased risks of serious injury. The exposures include electrocution, being struck by equipment and caught in or between equipment and machinery. Besides the rides, ride and maintenance personnel must also operate and maintain the associated electrical power plants and transformers.
Precautions include an effective programme that can reduce the potential for serious injury in a lock out, tag out and block out procedure. This programme should include: personally assigned padlocks with single keys; written procedures for working on electrical circuitry, machinery, hydraulics, compressed air, water and other sources of possible energy release; and tests to ensure that the energy supply has been shut off. When more than one person is working on the same piece of equipment, each person should have and use his or her own lock.
Circuses and many amusement rides can travel from one location to another. This can be by truck for small operations, or by train for large circuses. Hazards include falls, severed body parts and possible death during erection, dismantling or transportation of equipment (figure 4). A particular problem is expedited work procedures, resulting in skipping time-consuming safety procedures, in an effort to meet play date deadlines.
Figure 4. Erecting an amusement park ride with a crane.
Precautions include the following: Employees must be well trained, exercise caution and follow manufacturer’s safety instructions for assembly, dismantling, loading, unloading and transportation of the equipment. When animals are used, such as an elephant to pull or push heavy equipment, additional safety precautions are required. Equipment such as cables, ropes, hoists, cranes and fork-lifts should be inspected before each use. Over-the-road drivers must follow highway transportation safety guidelines. Employees will require additional training in safety and emergency procedures for train operations where animals, personnel and equipment travel together.