open access

Vol 71, No 1 (2020)
Review article
Submitted: 2019-12-10
Accepted: 2020-01-07
Published online: 2020-03-21
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Lessons from a historic example of diving safety rules violation: the case of Greek sponge divers

Costas Tsiamis1, Georgia Vrioni1, Athanassios Tsakris1
DOI: 10.5603/IMH.2020.0008
·
Pubmed: 32212145
·
International Maritime Health 2020;71(1):28-33.
Affiliations
  1. Deratment of Microbiology, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

open access

Vol 71, No 1 (2020)
MARITIME MEDICINE Review article
Submitted: 2019-12-10
Accepted: 2020-01-07
Published online: 2020-03-21

Abstract

This study presents a historical example of systematic safety rules violations by professional sponge divers in Greece during the early 20th century. In light of absolute unaccountability in favour of economic competition and in the absence of state oversight, the profession of sponge diving had developed into a deadly undertaking.

The study is based on a report compiled by Professor of Hygiene and Microbiology Konstantinos Savvas, which was addressed to the Ministry of Marine Affairs. Savvas’ report rested on data concerning hospitalised divers derived from the medical records of warship ‘Kriti’ (Crete), which escorted groups of Greek fishing vessels to four of their expedition in the Mediterranean over the period 1900–1903.

Although the events explored herein took place at a time much different from the modern era with its numerous advancements in hyperbaric medicine, enhanced divers’ professionalism and the establishment of labour rights and strict safety regulations, we should not overlook the human factor of professional exploitation that leads to the violation of safety rules. On the other hand, supervisory authorities entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing professional activities ought to be vigilant on a constant basis, especially in times of economic crisis that may lead to lax state functioning.

Abstract

This study presents a historical example of systematic safety rules violations by professional sponge divers in Greece during the early 20th century. In light of absolute unaccountability in favour of economic competition and in the absence of state oversight, the profession of sponge diving had developed into a deadly undertaking.

The study is based on a report compiled by Professor of Hygiene and Microbiology Konstantinos Savvas, which was addressed to the Ministry of Marine Affairs. Savvas’ report rested on data concerning hospitalised divers derived from the medical records of warship ‘Kriti’ (Crete), which escorted groups of Greek fishing vessels to four of their expedition in the Mediterranean over the period 1900–1903.

Although the events explored herein took place at a time much different from the modern era with its numerous advancements in hyperbaric medicine, enhanced divers’ professionalism and the establishment of labour rights and strict safety regulations, we should not overlook the human factor of professional exploitation that leads to the violation of safety rules. On the other hand, supervisory authorities entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing professional activities ought to be vigilant on a constant basis, especially in times of economic crisis that may lead to lax state functioning.

Get Citation

Keywords

decompression sickness, Greece, history, Konstantinos Savvas, sponge diving

About this article
Title

Lessons from a historic example of diving safety rules violation: the case of Greek sponge divers

Journal

International Maritime Health

Issue

Vol 71, No 1 (2020)

Article type

Review article

Pages

28-33

Published online

2020-03-21

DOI

10.5603/IMH.2020.0008

Pubmed

32212145

Bibliographic record

International Maritime Health 2020;71(1):28-33.

Keywords

decompression sickness
Greece
history
Konstantinos Savvas
sponge diving

Authors

Costas Tsiamis
Georgia Vrioni
Athanassios Tsakris

References (14)
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  3. Savvas K. Report on divers’ decompression sickness. Prophylactic measures. Ministry of Maritime Affairs. Athens 1904:3-93.
  4. Olympitou E. L’influence de la pêche aux éponges sur la société de Kalymnos aux 19e-20e s. Mnemon. 2010; 31: 247–266.
  5. Alfred Léroy de Méricourt Hygiène des pêcheurs d’èponges. Ann Hyg Publ Med Leg. 1869; 31: 274–286.
  6. Alphonse Gal Des dangers du travail dans l’air comprime et des moyens de les prévenir. Thèses de doctorat en medicine, Faculté de medicine de Montpellier 1872.
  7. Blatteau J, et al. É., Accidents de désaturation en milieu subaquatique: premières descriptions cliniques et hypotheses physiopathogéniques. Med Armees. 2015; 43(1): 49–60.
  8. Péchon JCLe. De 1878 à 2006 – Travaux hyperbares en tunnels. J Soc Blol. 2006; 200(3): 265–272.
  9. Butler WP. Caisson disease during the construction of the Eads and Brooklyn Bridges: A review. Undersea Hyperb Med. 2004; 31(4): 445–459.
  10. Bert P, Brocklehurst R. La pression barométrique : recherches de physiologie expérimentale /. Paris. 1878.
  11. Rudolph G. [In memory of Paul Bert (1833-1886) and the development of high altitude physiology in Switzerland]. Gesnerus. 1993; 50 ( Pt 1-2): 79–95.
  12. Katsaras Κ. Recherches cliniques et experimentales sur les accidents survenant par l’emploi du scaphandres. Arch de Neurol. 1890: 47–77.
  13. Livadas S. On the paralysis of the divers and the oxygen therapy. Athens 1905.
  14. Zografidis S. Contribution to the decompression sickness. Athens 1906.

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