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Open Access Review

Occupational health issues in marine and freshwater research

Glenn Courtenay1*, Derek R Smith1 and William Gladstone2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle, Central Coast Campus, Ourimbah, Australia

2 School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2012, 7:4  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-7-4

Published: 19 March 2012

Abstract

Marine and freshwater scientists are potentially exposed to a wide variety of occupational hazards. Depending on the focus of their research, risks may include animal attacks, physiological stresses, exposure to toxins and carcinogens, and dangerous environmental conditions. Many of these hazards have been investigated amongst the general population in their recreational use of the environment; however, very few studies have specifically related potential hazards to occupational exposure. For example, while the incidence of shark and crocodile attacks may invoke strong emotions and the occupational risk of working with these animals is certainly real, many more people are stung by jellyfish or bitten by snakes or dogs each year. Furthermore, a large proportion of SCUBA-related injuries and deaths are incurred by novice or uncertified divers, rather than professional divers using aquatic environments. Nonetheless, marine and freshwater research remains a potentially risky occupation, and the likelihood of death, injury and long-term health impacts still needs to be seriously considered.

Keywords:
Exposure; Hazard; Injury; Occupational health; Research; Risk