Offshore Diving Safety
Offshore diving can be a highly lucrative and very rewarding career, yet it can be very pressurised and dangerous too, unless the proper safety provisions have been put in place. In addition to complying with all the usual health and safety regulations, compliance with the Diving at Work Regulations 1997 must also be adhered to.
The Diving at Work Regulations 1997These regulations cover all dives but are not limited to the diver(s) themselves. Whether the diver is employed by a company or is self-employed, the regulations apply to everyone who is involved with the diving project in whatever role. That would not just mean the diver(s) but also the client upon whose behalf they are carrying out the dive as well as any supervisors or vessel operators who may also be part of the project.
Although the aim of these regulations is to control any hazards and to minimise any risks associated with the dive, they do not stipulate how any specific dive should be carried out in detail but place an emphasis on the employer (or company) to ensure that the health and safety of everyone who is involved in the project has been risk assessed and that all the necessary precautions and procedures have been put into place to ensure safety for all as much as is ‘reasonably practical’.
Responsibility of the CompanyThe company who commissions the work has a duty of care in ensuring that they appoint a diving contractor who is fully qualified and competent to carry out the specified duties and that the area in which the dive is to take place is safe to use. It is also the company’s responsibility to identify any known obstacles or hazards and to relay that information on to the diving contractor. This might include underwater obstructions and, maybe, contaminated water. They also need to provide back-up support to the supervisor and diving contractor should an emergency occur.
The Diving ContractorIt is the contractor’s responsibility to assess any risks, to prepare a diving plan and to relay the contents of that plan on to the supervisor and diver(s) who will be undertaking the project. He/she must also ensure that all divers who will be carrying out the work are fully qualified and competent as well as being equipped with the proper tools to carry out specific functions underwater and that the divers have the appropriate level of skills and qualifications to perform them.
The contractor must also ensure that all equipment provided is fully certified and well maintained. He/she is also responsible for making adequate and proper provision for first aid and onward medical treatment and must keep a written record of every dive that takes place as part of the project as well as ensuring that all other regulations are fully complied with.
The SupervisorThe supervisor needs to be appointed by the contractor and must be a qualified diver themselves. Although they will be in direct control of operations, they will also have an enormous input alongside the contractor in the recruitment of the professional divers who will be working on the project. In addition to keeping his/her own written records of the diving operation, the supervisor needs to ensure that on the day of the dive itself, the original risk assessment is still valid, all equipment has been double checked and that he/she has a direct communication link to all of the divers who make up the operation.
The DiversThe divers must have approved diving qualifications which are valid to the job they are doing. In other words, when it comes to offshore work, a recreational diving qualification is not going to be adequate. They must also be competent to work safely and keep records of each dive for up to 2 years. Additionally, they must also have a valid certificate which proves their medical fitness to dive as well as being trained in first-aid techniques.
More information about offshore diving and certification can be found on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) website, where you can also find out about the different appropriate diving qualifications.