OSHA directive changed to reduce hazards in commercial diving operations in North Carolina and elsewhere

Recent revisions to a directive by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will offer assistance on protocols intended to limit hazards and decrease worker illnesses, injuries and deaths engaged in commercial diving operations, according to an OSHA press release.

Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers in Asheville realize the dangers that commercial divers face on the job and the number of possibilities that can go wrong while under the water.
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“Commercial divers who spend extended periods of time underwater are exposed to hazards such as drowning, circulatory and respiratory problems, and hypothermia,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The guidance provided in this directive will help ensure consistent enforcement and compliance with OSHA’s commercial diving operations standards.”

OSHA first issued commercial diving standard (29 CFR 1910 Subpart T) in 1977 that applied to diving and support operations in the maritime and construction industries. If scientific diving met certain conditions it was excused from commercial diving standard.

This exemption occurred in 1985. In 2004, OSHA changed the standard to let recreational diving guides and instructors comply with a different set of requirements relating to the decompression chamber that existed in the previous standard. The newest revision to the 2006 OSHA directive modifies the Subpart T section – Commercial Diving

  • Operations. Revisions include:
  • Gives information to OSHA consultants, compliance officers, industry and government groups in support of involvement to assist in minimizing worker exposure to commercial diving dangers.
  • Commonly asked questions are listed relating to commercial diving operations.
  • Explain more clearly the obligations and duties of employees who help divers with their diving suits and equipment, communications gear and other tasks.
  • Modify the instruction to make sure that the most recent edition of other OSHA instructions, industry standards and manuals, are used.
  • Modify the instruction regarding the no-decompression air dives (Appendix D) to match a recent revision of the U.S. Navy Diving Manual.
  • Electronic links were added to make the directive’s Web site more user-friendly.

The directive includes inspection protocols for before, during and after dives, along with equipment maintenance and record keeping standards. To view the directive in full go to OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page on Commercial Diving.

Employers have an obligation to keep commercial diving equipment in proper working order. Equipment that is poorly maintained can lead to serious injuries or death to the diver. Commercial diving gear can malfunction due to: its age, being made from poor quality material or poor maintenance including:

  • A buoyancy compensators leak has a defective power inflator or has the wrong size inflator mechanism hose.
  • Using dive computers that aren’t meant for commercial divers.
  • Regulator knobs frozen or difficult to turn.
  • Stripped port retainer screws or worn hose connections
  • Deteriorated helmets, usually caused when helmets are not made to standard, that don’t provide the adequate amount of breathing gas.
  • Cracked fittings on compressors.
  • Dry suits with zipper failures, damaged seals on wrist and neck, leaky neck dams.
  • Damaged face mask or worn face mask straps.
  • Failure of hot-water system which can burn the diver with too hot of water using hot water suits.
  • Poorly performing regulators.


If you are dealing with a work accident in North Carolina or a workers’ compensation or disability claim, contact the Lee Law Offices, P.A. today for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-887-1965.

More blog entries:

Website Assists North Carolina Employers With Reporting Work Injuries to OSHA North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, July 12, 2011

Failure to Train Employees can Lead to a High Risk of Injury in North Carolina Work Accidents North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, July 1, 2011

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