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Commercial Diving Accident

Have you been injured during a commercial dive?

Many commercial divers are employed by big oil and gas companies to work in the Gulf of Mexico and other areas so they can inspect and maintain oil platforms and deep water rigs. These structures are underwater, which begs the need for professional divers in the maritime industry. Many of those who are employed as divers in the oil and gas industry are new to the field and must be properly trained by their employers so accidents do not occur.

There are certain federal standards for commercial diving in order to ensure the safety of offshore divers. Those engaged in underwater operations face a totally unique challenge from other maritime workers. Complicated equipment must be used in order to support the divers while they are performing their job duties. If this equipment is not properly maintained, they could be seriously injured. They may also be injured by the workers operating the vessels above water. In the event that an offshore diver is in danger while performing his job duties, the necessary procedures must be taken. Workers must be properly trained as to emergency procedures in these situations.

Those who wish to work as commercial divers must be properly qualified and meet technical standards, have field experience, and have demonstrated proficiency in the field. Additional requirements such as First Aid and CPR training must be possessed by the diver. Divers must be supervised at all times by a qualified employee. In the event that you are injured and a supervisor was not present or did not meet qualification standards then you could be entitled to compensation. Being injured as a commercial diver in any number of circumstances may qualify you for a personal injury claim with the help of a maritime attorney from our firm.

Workplace Hazards that Plague Commercial Divers

Approximately 10,000 American commercial and government divers face a relatively high risk of serious injury or death while on the job. Some say that the existing diving safety standards enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) do not adequately reflect the advances in diving system technology and equipment. Professional commercial divers face major dangers every day. They place their lives in the hands of boat captains, dive supervisors, and other offshore workers while diving. The slightest mistake made by any co-worker can cause catastrophic personal injuries or wrongful death. Deep-sea diving with a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus can cause a variety of medical problems that can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Commercial diving workplace dangers include:

  • Brain damage
  • Burns
  • Decompression illness or Caisson's disease
  • Defective diving equipment
  • Gas embolisms
  • Head injuries
  • Hypothermia
  • Improper operational planning
  • Inadequate training and supervision
  • Incorrect mixture of air and gas
  • Low visibility
  • Machinery-related diving accidents
  • Poor pre-job safety analysis
  • Unsafe diving conditions below water
  • Work with hand power tools

The commercial dive team's makeup is essential to the safety and success of an offshore diving job. The diving supervisor, remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) supervisors and pilots, divers, tenders, and life support technicians must all be properly certified and trained to perform their essential job duties.

Diving Safety Measures

Maintaining equipment is an important step in preparing for every dive, and every diver relies on many pieces of safety equipment to protect them when venturing below the ocean's surface.

Among the many pieces of equipment that divers use, some of the most essential are:

  • Buoyancy compensators (BCs), including secondary inflation
  • Diving Safe Practices Manual
  • Dry suits particularly those with variable inflation attachments and dumps
  • Face masks
  • Fins
  • Knives
  • SCUBA cylinders, including valves or manifolds
  • Regulators, submersible pressure gauges, and depth gauges
  • SCUBA tending lines (when applicable)
  • Surface supply diving helmets
  • Surface supply umbilical lines
  • Watches
  • Weight belts

Federal regulations require that two-way communication be established between every diver and Divemaster so that any issues can be effectively conveyed. Divers can use a wide range of methods to convey messages or emergencies, including electronic communication, hand signals, line tugs, and underwater air horns.

Medical Care for Injured Divers

In addition to this, medical care for divers is essential, both in completing regular exams to quickly diagnose any issues and in providing on-site care if an incident should occur. Every dive site should include a first-aid kit and an emergency oxygen delivery system. On-site medical kits should include the following:

  • Ace bandages
  • Ambu bag
  • Bandages
  • Betadine, iodine, or another disinfecting solution
  • Burn dressings
  • Gauze pads
  • Oxygen cylinders
  • Pocket Mask
  • Resuscitator with elder valve
  • Splints
  • Swabs
  • Tourniquet
  • Waterproof tape

Divers should also be required to undergo a physical exam before their first dive, at least once each year, and after any surgery or injury. This exam can quickly catch any adverse issues that may pose a hazard while diving or any symptoms that have developed as a result of diving.

Commercial Diving Regulations

Commercial divers are 40 times more likely to be killed on the job than all other workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, because commercial diving is listed as a "non-hazardous" work group, no formal regulations are in place to protect divers. With the continuous growth in oil and gas exploration, the number of commercial diving fatalities will continue to increase.

There are 5,500 to 7,500 commercial divers working at any given time. Despite this low number, the high percentage of deaths in the field of diving highlights the need for regulation and increased safety.

Basic safety requirements include the need for commercial diving persons-in-charge and diving supervisors to fully meet their responsibilities prescribed in the Code of Federal Regulation, 46 CFR 197 Subpart B. This government regulation represents the floor rather than ceiling with regard to safety requirements in this field. Further, the Coast Guard has yet to institute any safety regulations pertaining to commercial diving.

Where the federal government lacks, private employers should require more safety measures.

Prior to any commercial dive, any unusual hazards or environmental conditions likely to affect the safety of the diving operation should be fully explored. There should not only be instructions to report problems, but also a full reminder of what physical ailments divers could potentially face. Maintenance of the dive equipment is also crucial to safety. In addition to safety procedures and checklists, the assignments and responsibilities of each dive team member for each diving mode used must be clearly defined and adequately staffed.

Treatment protocols for any commercial diver injured on the job must also be in place prior to an emergency. As demonstrated in the all too frequent deaths, back up equipment is crucial in the event of an offshore accident. Considering the dangers associated with commercial diving, the difficulty with rescue operations, and the dangerous tools used by divers, such as welding equipment and explosives, the importance of safety cannot be overlooked.

Contact Arnold & Itkin Today for Free Consultation

There are many types of offshore accidents; however, if you were employed as a commercial diver, you may be able to get help from a maritime attorney from our firm. At Arnold & Itkin, we are passionate about the rights of offshore workers and can help you if you have been injured in an accident. Beyond this, we can provide you with information and tips about topics such as selecting your commercial dive team and planning a safe dive. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, you could be entitled to a claim under the Jones Act or some other type of maritime law. If you want help from aggressive attorneys who know the maritime field, call an attorney from Arnold & Itkin LLP today.

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