Commercial vs scuba diving discussed in a no nonsense forum. A Commercial diver undergoes extensive training that prepares them to work safely in a hazardous environment and also helps them to understand the physics involved with pressure and volume of air and water at depth, these topics are rarely covered in recreational scuba certification programs and when used by a commercial diver cultivate a safer work environment for all. Commercial divers learn how to approach, rig and remove equipment, materials, and structures while limiting their exposure to hazards. The diver’s umbilical helps them to keep track of their position to avoid accidentally entering a hazardous environment such as running pumps, dams, and high flow areas. In addition, “top side” as we call it in the diving industry has control of the diver’s ability to travel from one location to the next and monitor the hazards from the surface. In zero visibility water, a scuba diver could become disoriented and potentially lose control in a high flow area involving pumps, or heavy river flow conditions and could prove to be a fatal mistake.
Commercial diving involves a diverse group of individuals and companies involved in a wide range of activities. These workers are exposed to a variety of occupational safety and health hazards anyone would if they spent extended periods of time underwater, such as drowning, respiratory and circulatory problems, hypothermia, low visibility, and physical injury from the operation of heavy equipment under water. The number of dives, length of time spent underwater, lack of visibility, and the strenuous nature of the task increase the risk of this type of activity. Additionally, commercial divers are often exposed to construction or demolition type hazards such as cutting, welding, material handling, cleaning, operation of heavy equipment, and general work with power tools such as underwater cutting and welding, materials handling, hull scrubbing, and use of hand and power tools.
There are a number of companies and individuals that regularly rely on standard scuba gear to provide underwater services for commercial (underwater construction) and inspection purposes. What most people do not realize is this practice is not only unsafe, it is prohibited under OSHA (29 CFR 1910 Subpart T) and for most U.S. government work (EM 3851-1). Every year multiple fatalities are recorded from off-duty fire fighters, rescue divers, scuba instructors and other untrained persons performing work that could have been performed safely using properly trained divers and the appropriate equipment such as tethered, surface supplied diving. Diving in most inland environments for construction and inspection services rarely offers the clear, warm water most recreational divers prefer. Large rivers and lakes have fast-moving barge and boat traffic, debris and heavy currents can be extremely challenging from a safety and physical standpoint for divers, and the visibility is often zero, or no more than a few feet. Underwater inspections and construction present several unique hazards in addition to those typically associated with an above ground construction site. In many instances, a commercial diver works in murky water that may be moving with many obstructions nearby that may entangle a diver or increase dive times beyond the limitations of scuba tanks.In addition, diving in confined spaces, near intakes and outfalls, and in industrial settings such as power plants, steel mills, and constructions sites are places where SCUBA should never be used.
There are fundamental and important differences between these two modes of diving. These include 1) a safety tether, 2) a communications system, 3) unlimited air that is easy to regulate by the diver and on the surface, and 4) last but not least, head protection and security that the hardhat provides. While SSA equipment is more costly and reduces free ranging movement, its functional, safety, and efficiency features make it overwhelmingly more useful for commercial diving situations
Commercial divers rely upon a surface supplied air system that delivers a constant supply of air. This allows the diver to work for longer periods of time underwater while providing adequate time for decompression stops that are essential to a divers safety. Along with a air hose, a diving umbilical will include a pneumo hose to gauge depth, an audio line for communications, a rope to take the strain off of the hose along with other accessory items such as an underwater video camera system, hot water hose or hydraulic tool hose. This equipment keeps the diver in constant communication with the surface allowing for immediate action in the event of an emergency. With scuba gear, by the time an emergency is discovered, it is usually too late.
Another disadvantage of relying upon scuba for underwater services is that the lower level of safety equipment may prevent an individual or diving company from obtaining appropriate diving insurance. Due to the increased risks associated with underwater construction, it is essential that a diving company have adequate insurance in addition to safe equipment and procedures. Ultimately, scuba should be limited to recreational pursuits and any commercial diving activities should conducted using commercial diving equipment. While simple shallow water operations can be performed on scuba, a commercial diving setup is still recommended based on the reasons mentioned previously. While, it is true that there are a number of individuals and companies that regularly rely on scuba gear to provide underwater services, it is not recommended.
One simple conclusion that can be reached is that the commercial diver is not alone, but works as a team with people on the surface for support. These persons include a communications operator as well as an umbilical tender. Commercial diving is therefore an effort that requires proper training of all team members, teamwork, and trust. The diver must depend on his coworkers on the surface puts her or his life in their hands. Building a good team requires investment and effort but the product is an efficient, safe, and enjoyable work environment.
Call Accessible Marine Insurance today and allow us to help tailor a commercial diving insurance program that is right for you.