Life-saving in a gas atmosphere
The development of mine rescue before World War I
Rescue services were and still are extremely important in the mining industry. While it was normally not difficult to transport a person injured at an industrial company to a doctor or to get a doctor or medical help to a casualty, things were quite different in the mining industry. Mining operations took place in an environment which was largely cut off from the outside world and hard to reach. It sometimes took an hour or more just to get to some mining faces – as the steady stream of complaints about long travelling times shows. This was all the more true for the return journey with the injured person.
These already arduous conditions were further aggravated by the effects of firedamp explosions, the poisonous afterdamp. The risk of entering an area with chokedamp or afterdamp was a central and complex problem whose solution involved a whole range of disciplines from breathing physiology to fine mechanics. On the technical side, further crucial factors for successful mine rescue also had to be considered such as the training and organisation of rescue teams and how theory was put into practice in real-life rescue situations.
The article analyses the establishment of mine rescue services and their development up to the start of the 20th century with special reference to practice in the collieries of the Ruhr. It first discusses technical progress developments in rescue equipment which was driven both by individual ideas and general market developments in the mining supplies industry. The author also examines the establishment and development of mine rescue crews against the background of the conflicting interests of the industrial partners.