The ASC logo indicates responsibly produced seafood – but what exactly does that mean? Understandably, many people think mostly about the environmental side of things – seafood that was produced without unnecessary chemicals or antibiotics, by a farmer that monitored their impact on the surrounding environment.

What you might not think about when you see the ASC logo is that it also means the workers who produced the seafood did so with proper health and safety policies in place. It might not be the first or most exciting thing that comes to mind, but health and safety is an important aspect of the ASC standards, which place equal importance on both the social and environmental impacts of fish farming.

The reason we’re talking about this today is because it is World Day for Safety and Health at Work – not that we need an excuse to talk about protecting workers in the seafood industry! Workplace health and safety have been the focus of an international day every April 28 since it was begun by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a way to raise the profile of these issues.

Different jobs, of course, have different risks. That doesn’t mean if you work in an office you don’t have to think about health and safety (work-related stress and long-term musculoskeletal complaints are both risks for office workers), but it does mean that it can be difficult to compile a comprehensive list of workplace risks.

Fortunately, the ASC standards instead include a number of overarching indicators that a certified producer must meet, which demonstrate they are placing the right importance on the health and safety of their workers.

Taking the ASC’s Seabass, Seabream, and Meagre Standard as an example, all workers must receive ongoing training on health and safety practices and policies (including what to do in an emergency), and they must be provided with the correct Personal Protective Equipment – and know how to use it effectively.

Workers demonstrating knowledge of first aid during an ASC audit

ASC certified farms must also carry out risk assessments and take preventative action against the risks they identify. And all accidents or health and safety violations must be recorded and corrective action taken if necessary – this is in line with ASC’s focus on the importance of thorough and transparent record-keeping, and using these records to improve practices.

Health and Safety isn’t just about accidents or physical harm – as the UN makes clear, emerging risks include the psychological impact of work-related stress. The causes of this can be manifold, not all of which can be prevented or predicted. Taking again the ASC Seabass, Seabream and Meagre Standard as an example, a number of other indicators require fair treatment of workers – such as effective conflict resolution, fair disciplinary procedures, and clean and sanitary living conditions for staff if they are living on site. These won’t on their own eradicate workplace stress, but they are an important recognition that fair treatment of staff goes beyond the physical.

ASC will continue to develop its social requirements to promote better practices in aquaculture, and if you see the ASC logo it’s a chance for you to support that work and help support seafood workers.

Published on
Tuesday, 28 April 2020
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