The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
Change can be good
How odd. Despite the momentous events that took place across the Atlantic, and the doom and gloom predictions made by many of the pollsters, the sun still came up on us all on 10 November, and I have no doubt that it will continue to come up in the months and years ahead. Some think that when potentially groundbreaking changes occur, things are going to get difficult, but in reality change can actually be a very positive thing.
Changes are also occurring in our industry sector. The news that Chris Sherman is retiring as the HSE’s chief inspector of diving is big news as he has been in the position through a major period of change and positive evolution. There is no doubt that he can retire in the knowledge that significant improvements were made during his watch.
The inland/inshore diving sector is definitely in a better place than it was 13-plus years ago when Mr Sherman took on the role of chief inspector. In a sector that spans such a diverse range of diving activities, there will always be a need to keep educating new contractors and client groups, and the HSE has been tireless in supporting industry to do just that when the opportunity arose. On the whole, the sector is in a much better place as a direct result of the working relationship and mutual respect that has existed between the HSE and the inland/inshore sector representatives.
But it would be incomplete not to recognise that a lot of diving contractors can also take credit for making the changes occur. The image of commercial diving inland/inshore some years ago was probably moving more towards the commercial than professional; just getting the job was the goal and then accepting the risk, with the result that some clients would go to great lengths to avoid using dive teams because of a falsely perceived risk.
Diving does not have to be dangerous or risky. When jobs are planned properly, appropriately risk assessed, with effective controls applied to mitigate the identified risks and, most importantly, they are carried out by competent and well-trained diving personnel, a positive outcome generally results.
There is probably no better demonstration of this than the diving project recently completed on behalf of Welsh Water at Caban Coch. The work required an inlet to be sealed at 30 metres water depth in a reservoir. The sealed inlet would allow critical internal pipework repairs to be completed that would avert the potential for a major failure in the dam to occur. The work scope carried with it a major differential pressure hazard (DPH) – if a safe diving solution could not be evolved, a full dewatering of the reservoir and many months of inconvenience would result for a significant number of customers.
The contractor planned the job, thoroughly assessed the risk and gained a full and proper understanding of the DPH before a method was developed that eliminated exposing working divers to the area of hazard. The client was satisfied that the work was well planned, the risk was adequately controlled and the work could commence.
Two weeks later the primary inlet seal was in place, a secondary sealing measure was applied and the work on the internal repair commenced, all without exposing the divers to the DPH or incurring any DCI events. There is no better demonstration that with the right experience, proper planning and experienced personnel, even the most challenging task can be completed safely underwater.
The final change that is to occur shortly for the ADC is the appointment of the new secretary. Michael Whelan takes over on 1 December 2016, and it will be part of his role to write a piece for this column. For me, 13 years has passed pretty quickly. Sometimes there is time to get everything done, at other times the frustrations of life hinder progress. But all in all, I have enjoyed being the secretary. I hope we have achieved something during my tenure and believe that the Association will be good hands in the years ahead.