In this paper we reflect on the possible reasons for the acceptability of risk in sea fishing and the implications they may have for safety actions and interventions. The data presented in the paper were collected during three trips at sea on fishing vessels in connection with a study of slips, trips and falls. The fieldwork offered an in situ insight into the way fishermen perceive their work and the risks they face, as well as their views of an outsider. Through empirical examples derived from our research and other studies, we show that fishermen’s risk perception can be explained by the need to adopt coping strategies, ie compromises and resilience in an environment marked by uncertainty and unpredictability. The difference between lay and expert knowledge is particularly salient in the case of safety researchers and fishermen. In order to make sense of the fishermen’s risk perception, we examine not only their working conditions, but also the conditions of our own knowledge of risk. The most important lesson to learn from our research and similar studies is that any improvement in fishermen’s safety must be planned and implemented in partnership with them.
Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, 2010, Vol 8, Issue 2, p. 77-94