Manual handling

Safe crews fish more

Balloons’ Story

Why worry about manual handling?

Moving fish crates and lifting heavy equipment onboard are common causes of injury to crew members on fishing boats. About 150 injuries a year involve the lower back. As a fisherman you are constantly at risk of serous personal injury if you don’t follow safety precautions. Almost all lower back injuries can be avoided.

What HSWA says about manual handling

Crew (both those on wages and those who are self-employed) must take reasonable steps to ensure that nothing they do at work harms themselves or any other person. You are responsible for taking sensible safety precautions – like lifting properly.

Operators and skippers must make sure the boat is safe (so far as is reasonably practicable). That includes paying attention to how the crew are working and training them to work safely. Operators must involve workers in managing risks on the boat. This is a good opportunity for you to raise any concerns you have about lifting and carrying things without getting hurt.

The main reasons for lower back problems

  • poor lifting technique
  • a weak back
  • a large abdomen
  • smoking

Tips for a good back

  1. Keep a good posture, especially when lifting.
  2. See a doctor as soon as you feel discomfort in your back
  3. Do ACC’s recommended exercises regulary. See the attached chart

Report any accident

A master or skipper must report any accident, incident or serious harm injury under section 31 of the Maritime Transport Act 1994. This applies to all New Zealand vessels. You must report an accident “as soon as practicable”. This means as soon as you are able to do so after you have secured the safety of people, your boat and the environment, and when you have communication available.

Sometimes people are concerned that reporting an accident or incident to MNZ will result in prosecution. In exceptional circumstances, MNZ may use the information provided to support an investigation, however this is very rarely the case.


Work Smart Tips

These tips will help you keep in the best shape for your work on board.


This information is general guidance only. If you have questions about your responsibilities under HSWA, we suggest talking to your local maritime officer; but for specific advice about your legal duties or setting up your business, we recommend talking to a lawyer.

For specific guidance about manual handling, it might be worth considering talking to a Health Safety expert (such as a member of HASANZ).

Manual handling

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