Diving work is risky, and can lead to severe injury or death.
Diving work is involved in a range of professions including construction work, maintenance work, scientific diving, photography, aquaculture and dive instruction / tourism.
Injuries and fatalities from diving occur because of faulty equipment, poor crew training or diver error.
The underwater environment presents a vast range of risks including attack by marine life, drowning, entanglement or impact by marine vessels and the underwater environment.
Safety issues that are minor on dry land can become extremely risky in the underwater environment.
Diving work can be broken down into two major categories. These are General Diving Work and High-Risk Diving Work.
There are many harms associated with general diving that need to be considered and assessed before carrying out diving work.
Exposure to COVID-19 can cause serious health and safety risks for occupational divers. This is due to incidents of respiratory harm caused by COVID-19, including possible long-term damage.
Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of workers and others, including monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and following medical advice to help manage the risks for occupational divers.
COVID-19 can cause serious harm to a diver due to demands placed on the respiratory system by diving. Occupational divers must pass annual medical assessments to be deemed medically fit. General clinical observations indicate that COVID-19:
- transmits easily from person to person
- a person may be asymptomatic but still test positive
- may not present symptoms for 10-14 days
- often shows symptoms similar to influenza
- can include serious respiratory disease such as chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma.
The best way to protect yourself and others around you from the effects of COVID-19 is to ensure your vaccinations are up to date.
Anyone with respiratory symptoms should not dive and should arrange for COVID-19 testing. If testing is negative, they should see their GP for further advice.
If anyone tests positive for COVID-19 they should not dive even if they are asymptomatic. They should ensure they are fit to undertake diving work, which may require seeking medical advice prior to returning to work.
SafeWork NSW supports the position of WorkSafe NZ and recommends their latest guidance as a good way forward. View the advice at the WorkSafe NZ website.
Further advice for diving medical management can be found at the South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (SPUMS) website.
Any questions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being physically unfit or unprepared to dive
Decompression illness, hypothermia, nitrogen narcosis or oxygen toxicity can be caused by intoxication from alcohol, prescribed or non-prescribed drugs, other intoxicants or factors such as lack of sleep, cold or heat stress, dehydration, exhaustion or altitude exposure. The safe blood alcohol concentration is 0.00%.
The PCBU (the business) must consider the surface conditions at the dive site, including the state of the water (rough seas, unusual tides or currents), weather, visibility, tide, currents, air and water temperature, other vessels or watercraft and any other local conditions to ensure worker’s safety.
The PCBU must consider the visibility, any contaminants, obstructions, dangerous marine life, thermoclines (rapid temperature changes with depth), pressure differentials and currents in the water.
There are legislative requirements that need to be applied when conducting all types of diving work.
Get a doctor’s tick of approval
Your workers must hold a current certificate of medical fitness (valid for 12 months) to be able to do diving work, which you can get from a doctor who has been trained in underwater medicine. The medical assessment must be in accordance with AS/NZS 2299.1 2015 Occupational diving operations – Standard operational practice.
Ensure diver reports illness or injury to the dive supervisor
If the diver is feeling unwell or has any current or recent injuries or illness (e.g. respiratory conditions such as COVID-19) they should immediately report these to the dive supervisor to assess whether the diver is fit to dive and complete the work.
Ensure diver is trained properly
It is your job to make sure your workers are properly trained for diving work. As well as a medical certificate, workers must hold a certificate for general diving work; that includes the competencies specified in AS/NZS 2815:2013 (Training and certification of occupational divers) series relevant to the type of general diving work being conducted.
Additionally, your workers must be skilled (through training, qualification and experience) in:
- understanding diving physics
- using, inspecting and maintaining diving equipment
- using decompression tables/dive computers
- planning dives
- communicating with other divers, and people on the surface while diving
- carrying out the proposed type of general diving work
- diving physiology, emergency procedures and first aid.
Update your training
As of 17 July 2020, workers carrying out general diving work who currently hold
- AS 4005.2-2000 recreational dive supervisor qualification
- ISO 24801-3: 2014 Recreational diving services – Requirements for the training of recreational SCUBA divers – Part 3: Level 3 – Dive leader
- ISO 24802-1: 2014 Recreational diving services – Requirements for the training of SCUBA instructors – Part 1: Level 1
- ISO 24802-2: 2014 Recreational diving services – Requirements for the training of SCUBA instructors – Part 2: Level 2
must complete additional units of competency:
General Diving Work - Minor Works & Surveys (workers who complete hands on work such as anode replacement, minor works, hull cleaning, etc.)
- ADADIV405A - Work safely as a member of a dive team undertaking diving operations under controlled conditions.
- ADAHYP401A – Work safely in hyperbaric operations
- BSBWHS211 – Contribute to health and safety of self and others (BSBWHS201 for some RTO providers)
General Diving Work - Instructors & Tourism (workers who ONLY provide paid services to recreational dive customers and includes dive tour operators, dive leaders and instructors)
- BSBWHS211 – Contribute to health and safety of self and others (BSBWHS201 for some RTO providers)
Courses can be found at Training.gov.au or contact your local training organisation.
If you don’t complete the course before 31 Dec 2022, you will no longer be able to legally do general diving work until you have completed the course, or a high-risk diving course.
Read the exemption to the Regulation
Provide appropriate PPE
In contaminated environments, divers need to be provided with appropriate protective equipment to protect them against chemical, biological, nuclear or other hazardous waste. The appropriate PPE needs to be provided to the rest of the dive team also e.g. members remaining on the vessel. Decontamination procedures for all persons and equipment should be included in the dive plan.
Manage the risks
All activities have an element of risk. You must manage the risks associated with diving work.
Assess the risks
There must be a written risk assessment conducted by a competent person.
Supervise the dive
You must appoint at least 1 competent person to supervise the diving work and other functions at all times.
Have a dive plan
The person supervising the dive needs to prepare a dive plan before the work takes place and give workers instructions about it. The dive plan must be followed and must contain the following:
- the method of conducting the diving work
- the tasks and duties of each person who is diving
- the diving equipment being used
- the breathing gases required
- the dive procedures
- the dive times, bottom times and decompression profiles
- any hazards relating to the dive and the steps taken to control the risks
- emergency procedures.
Maintain a dive safety log
A dive safety log must be kept for each dive a worker conducts, and each must include:
- the name of the worker who is diving
- the name/s of anyone else who is diving (whether or not they are employed by you)
- the name of the supervisor
- the date and location of the dive
- the time each diver enters and leaves the water
- the maximum depth of the dive
- any incident, difficulty, discomfort or injury that occurs during the dive
- the dive time if using a dive computer
- the repetitive dive group and the bottom time/dive time if using a dive table
- if you get a repetitive factor, include this and the surface interval
- if you use EANx or mixed gas, you must also supply:
- the oxygen and/or nitrogen content
- the maximum operating depth
- the minimum operating depth of the bottom mix (for mixed gas only)
- the return of each diver, as soon as practicable after the dive
- the diver’s and the supervisor’s signature (or unique identifier if the log is electronic) to record everyone’s safe return
- the names of people on the vessel, both before and after the dive (if you are diving from a boat).
After a dive takes place, there are certain records you must keep for legal reasons. These records must be kept for the minimum following duration:
- Certificate of medical fitness – 1 year after the work is conducted
- Evidence of competencies – 1 year after the work is conducted
- Written risk assessment – 28 days after the work is completed
- Dive plan -for the duration of the work, or for two years if a notifiable incident occurs
- Dive safety log – 1 year after the last entry
All these records must be made available to us and any worker upon request.
Have appropriate first aid provisions
All workers must be able to access a first aid kit and facilities.
First aid kits must cater to the type of incidents that may occur and the number of participants. Consider the equipment required to treat near drowning, lacerations, cardiac events, unconsciousness, sea sickness stings and sunburn.
Workers who aren’t diving should be available at the surface of the dive site and have training to use the available first aid equipment. Oxygen equipment should be suitable for both breathing and non-breathing persons.
Complete an assessment to decide if an automated electronic defibrillator (AED) and trained operator should be available.
First aiders must be provided with appropriate training for the level of risk identified at the workplace. Training should include how to use an AED and HLTAID015 - provide advanced resuscitation and oxygen therapy.
Other types of diving work
Incidental diving work
Work that is incidental to the conduct of a business e.g. an actor working on an underwater film and involves limited diving work. It can only be carried out if accompanied by a person holding a certificate for general diving work or high-risk diving work.
Limited scientific diving work
Work done for professional scientific research, natural resource management or scientific research for education purposes and involves limited diving.
Both incidental diving or limited scientific diving workers, need to have completed a certain number of hours of relevant diving experience.
Limits you to diving for less than 28 days in a 6-month period and for no more than 30 metres deep and you cannot:
- need a decompression stop
- use mechanical or buoyancy lifting equipment
- dive under things where you need to move sideways before ascending
- use tools or plant powered from the surface
High Risk Diving Work
High Risk Diving Work is defined in the WHS Regulations 2017 as work carried out in or under water while breathing compressed gas that involves one or more of the following:
- construction work meaning: construction, alteration, conversion, fitting-out, commissioning, renovation, repair, maintenance, refurbishment, demolition, decommissioning or dismantling of a structure. This includes:
- installation or testing
- removing any demolition product or waste
- the prefabrication or testing of elements
- assembling or disassembling prefabricated elements that form a structure
- installing, testing or maintaining of essential services of a structure
- any work connected with an excavation
- any preparatory work or site preparation for construction work
- work on, under or near water, including work on buoys and obstructions to navigation
- inspection work carried out to determine if the above is necessary i.e. inspecting a component to determine if maintenance is required
- testing, maintenance or repair work of a minor nature carried out in connection with a structure e.g. conducting non-destructive testing on a bridge pylon
- recovery or salvage of items of plant or structures for commercial purposes e.g. salvage of a vessel.
As a PCBU, you must ensure all high risk diving work is done in accordance with AS/NZS 2299.1: 2015 Occupational diving operations – Standard operational practice, including:
- the fitness of the diver
- the competence of the diver
- the conduct of the work
As a worker, you must not do high risk diving work unless you have, the qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience required by AS/NZS 2299.1: 2015 Occupational diving operations – Standard operational practice for the type of work to be conducted.
Safety procedures for standby divers are outlined in this video
Tools and resources
Technical help and guidance
- NSW Government: Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017: Part 4.8 Diving work and clause 5 Definitions
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011: Section 44 Requirements for prescribed qualifications or experience
- SAI Global: AS/NZS 2815.2:2013: Training and certification of occupational divers
- SAI Global: AS/NZS 2299.1:2015: Occupational diving operations - Standard operational practice
- ADAS: Code of Practice: ADAS Training and Assessment
- Safe Work Australia: Diving
- WHS QLD: Occupational diving work - Code of Practice 2005
- SafeWork NSW: Employer and business obligations
- SafeWork NSW: Safety Alert: Gas cylinders manufactured from aluminium alloy 6351-T6
- General Diving Work – Qualifications – Exemption 002/20 (pg 3620)
- More information on the changes to the Regulation