Occupational Safety and Health in a Community of Shellfish Divers: A Community-Based Participatory Approach

  • Marie A. GarridoEmail author
  • Manuel Parra
  • Juana Díaz
  • Julia Medel
  • Dennis Nowak
  • Katja Radon
Original Paper


In artisanal fishing communities in Chile, the access to occupational safety and health (OSH) is limited by factors such as the informality of employment. Our objective was to analyze the working and health conditions of workers in a coastal town in Southern Chile, under a community-based participatory approach. We carried out two independent social dialogue workshops within the community. The first one (N of participants = 25) was aimed to identify the strengths, weaknesses and challenges for preventing decompression sickness among divers. The second workshop (N of participants = 10) was set to identify the work processes and to map the occupational risks during seafood harvesting and processing in the community. Community members’ training for handling and preventing decompression sickness among divers, and the collaboration between a local health representative, stakeholders and authorities, were identified as contributing factors in reducing fatalities and sequels among divers in the past. Technology and safety on board the vessels, training of healthcare personnel in OSH, and access to health programs, were identified as remaining challenges. Through risk mapping, the participants identified the relationship between working and health conditions in the community, reinforcing the necessity of improving access to health and social security. The community participation in identifying and analyzing working and health conditions could be the first step for a strategy to address OSH through primary health care in rural communities. Community empowerment and involvement in action plans, training on basic OSH for health care workers, and public policies are required.


Community-based participatory research Diving Decompression sickness Informal sector Occupational health 



We thank CIHLMU Center for International Health supported by DAAD and the BMZ via their exceed program which partly funded the PhD studies of MAG. We also thank the fishermen community leaders and representatives for adhering to the project. Likewise, to Hugo Cordero, representative from the Sanitary Authority´s Safe Diving Committee, for his support in summoning decision-makers from the region. Finally, we thank Dr. Jorge Calderón and Yaqueline Mancilla for sharing their experience as part of Ancud’s Hospital underwater medicine unit, and to Sergio Quintana, Academic from the Austral University, for his collaboration in the project’s activities.


The activities were funded by two Ekosanté Grants. Ekosanté is a Latin American, Caribbean and Canadian Collaboration on ecohealth.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest. This article is part of the research conducted by MAG, as part of the requirements for the PhD degree in the Medical Research—International Health Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIHLMU Center for International HealthHospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Comunidad de Práctica sobre el Enfoque Ecosistémico en Salud Humana, COPEH-LAC, Southern Cone nodeSantiago de ChileChile
  3. 3.Terminal Pesquero de CarelmapuMaullínChile
  4. 4.Centro de Estudios de la MujerSantiago de ChileChile
  5. 5.Institute for Occupational, Social and Environmental MedicineHospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany
  6. 6.Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology & NetTeaching UnitHospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany

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