The Magazine for Underwater Professionals
The use of scuba in commercial diving
The ADC is very fortunate to have so many members who are passionate about commercial diving and in particular supporting the inland/inshore sector in the UK and Ireland. This article is written by one of our members, Esteban Marrufo, on a subject that is discussed very often within our industry
How refreshing, I thought, to sit in a room surrounded by people who genuinely care for the commercial diving industry; it has fed and watered my family and me for 25 years. These were my thoughts as I sat in the ADC Southern regional meeting at QinetiQ’s offices in Gosport. The attendees from ADC member companies showed immense concern for the subjects raised.
However, I felt a stark change when the HSE went through the list of accidents/notices that have occurred or been issued over the past year. This is hard to swallow due to the advances made in my time in the industry. I have seen regulations come into play that have significantly changed how the industry works; some have been accepted and some have been argued over. However, what is clear is that these are there to protect you, the diver, from the worst outcomes.
One pattern that continues to overwhelm me is that there are still so many accidents involving scuba. Considering how advanced the commercial diving industry has become over the past few decades, why then do we, as an industry, still feel there is a place for scuba in the commercial diving world and inside the inland/inshore sector?
Personally, I think things have changed and I firmly believe, for the good of our industry, that we should remove it from commercial operation. There are too many close calls, too many near misses and way too many companies going unregulated. These are having a strong impact on the statistics.
The new revision of the ACoPS (L104 Second Edition) clearly states under Regulation 6, Section 79 that the use of scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) may be acceptable for simple tasks such as visual inspection in clear water where there is no risk of entrapment and that the management of an emergency has been considered.
It then refers to paragraph 42:
Diving using surface-supplied breathing apparatus is the preferred method of carrying out diving operations under this ACoP because it is considered to be the safest method of diving for the vast majority of diving operations covered.
This tells me that this regulation really needs to hold more clarity so that the employers cannot even debate the subject. It must make it very clear where scuba should or should not be used. For instance, the fact that there is machinery, winches, etc. should negate the use for scuba on its own, in my personal opinion.
Do we need to put our future divers through the same long standing discussions that often occur at meetings where the news is the same news that we have been hearing for decades, or is now the time to stand firm as an industry and strongly educate diving contractors and employers who engage diving contractors, so that they are aware from the outset what standards they need to work to.
Diving on its own is ready for the future – the technology is rapidly evolving and the general emphasis is always on safety. Now is the time to change, and with a strong health and safety culture is there really any room to place such a risk on the use of scuba over SSDE.
The arguments are always around the additional cost of SSDE over scuba. However, as I pointed out earlier, the industry is advancing and the cost of basic equipment is falling as it makes way for the more advanced systems. All companies have the same guidelines to work from and should operate to the safest standards whilst adopting regulation.
Let’s make it impossible for scuba to be at the forefront of all accidents in our inshore/inland industry. Let us try and secure our industry’s future by making it impossible to use scuba unless you are in clear water with no risk of entrapment and whilst not operating anything that requires plant or machinery.
We are all responsible for our own safety. So the next time you are asked to dive with scuba, think before you agree. Understand that it only takes a minor incident to occur to make the difference. This is our industry – let’s be more aware and urge the companies employing divers to only accept the best standard as apposed to the cheapest.
Dive safe all; it’s in your hands.