Diving work is risky, and can lead to severe injury or death.
Diving work is involved in a range of professions – construction workers, maintenance workers, scientists, photographers, aquaculturalists and diving instructors.
Injuries and fatalities from diving occur because of faulty equipment, poor crew training or diver error.
Safety procedures for standby divers are outlined in this video.
There are specific laws about working safely when diving. Here we summarise those laws and give you some practical tips.
Get a doctor’s tick of approval
Your workers must hold a current certificate of medical fitness to be able to be a dive worker, which you can get from a doctor who has been trained in underwater medicine.
Be properly trained
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. For incidental diving work or limited scientific diving work, they must also have completed a certain number of hours of relevant diving experience. Additionally, your workers must be skilled (through training, qualification and experience) in:
- understanding diving physics
- using, inspecting and maintaining diving equipment
- carrying out the proposed type of general diving work
- using decompression tables/dive computers
- communicating with other divers, and people on the surface while diving
- planning dives
- diving physiology, emergency procedures and first aid.
Incidental diving work must only be carried out if accompanied by a person holding a certificate for general diving work or high-risk diving work.
Manage the risks
You must manage the risks associated with diving work.
Assess the risks
In the first instance, ensure a written risk assessment is conducted by a competent person. You should talk to your workers about all potential hazards related to their work.
Have a dive plan
There must be a competent person supervising the diving work and diving functions at all times. That person 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 type of diving work
- the task/s of each person who is diving
- the diving equipment needed
- the breathing gases required
- the dive procedures
- the dive times, bottom times and decompression profiles
- any hazards relating to the dive and steps to be taken to control the risks
- emergency procedures.
After a dive takes place, there are certain records you must keep for legal reasons. They include:
- medical fitness certificates – must be kept for one year after general diving work has been completed
- written risk assessments – must be kept for 28 days after work has been completed
- the dive plan – must be kept for the duration of the work , or for two years if a notifiable incident occurs .
- written evidence of relevant competencies demonstrated by workers – must be kept for one year after diving work or diving function has been completed.
Sometimes these documents will be needed at short notice, so keep them in a place which is easy to access, and is available to all workers engaged to carry out the work.
Dive safety logs
Dive safety logs must be kept before and after each dive, and each log must include:
- the name/s 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 problems or discomfort that occur 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 names of people on the vessel, both before and after the dive (if you are diving from a boat).
You must keep your dive safety log book for at least one year after the last entry.
After a dive
The person taking the log must make sure each person has returned from the dive as soon as possible. Both the divers and the supervisor must sign (or enter their unique identifier if the log is electronic) to record everyone’s safe return in the dive safety log.
High risk diving work
If you or your workers are doing high risk diving work, you must have the right qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience.
For the specific laws about the risks of diving work, see clauses 167 – 184 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.
Read our safety alert on working with gas cylinders manufactured from aluminium alloy 6351-T6.
There are also general work health and safety laws that will apply to you in any situation, including when doing diving work.
For more information, see the AS/NZS 2299.1:2007 Occupational diving operations – Standard operational practice.