Professional diving is diving where the divers are paid for their work. There are several branches of professional diving, the best known of which is probably commercial diving and its specialised applications, offshore diving, inshore civil engineering diving, marine salvage diving, HAZMAT diving, and ships husbandry diving. There are also applications in scientific research, Marine archaeology, fishing and aquaculture, public service and law enforcement and military service. Any person wishing to become a professional diver normally requires specific training that satisfies any regulatory agencies which have regional or national authority, such as US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United Kingdom Health and Safety Executive or South African Department of Labour. Due to the dangerous nature of some professional diving operations, specialized equipment such as an on-site hyperbaric chamber and diver-to-surface communication system is often required by law.
The primary procedural distinction between professional and recreational diving is that the recreational diver is responsible primarily for his/her own actions and safety but may voluntarily accept limited responsibility for dive buddies, whereas the professional diver is part of a team of people with extensive responsibilities and obligations to each other and usually to an employer or client, and these responsibilities and obligations are formally defined in contracts, legislation, regulations, operations manuals, standing orders and compulsory or voluntary codes of practice. In many cases a statutory national occupational health and safety legislation constrains their activities. The purpose of recreational diving is basically for personal entertainment, while the professional diver has a job to do, and diving is necessary to get that job done.
A diving team is a group of people who conduct a diving operation. A characteristic of professional diving is the specification for minimum personnel for the diving support team. This typically specifies the minimum number of support team members and their appointed responsibilities in the team based on the circumstances and mode of diving, and the minimum qualifications for specified members of the diving support team. The minimum team requirements may be specified by regulation or code of practice. Specific appointments within a dive team for which competences are specified and registration may be required are listed below.
Core diving team:
- Diving supervisor – Professional diving team leader responsible for safety
- Working diver – The person who is intended to do the underwater work during a professional dive
- Stand-by diver – A member of a dive team who is ready to assist or rescue the working diver
- Diver's tender – A person who assists a diver when out of the water, and manages the diver's umbilical from the surface
- Diving medical practitioner – A medical practitioner registered to assess medical fitness to dive, manage diving accidents, plan safety for professional diving operations, provide advanced life support, acute trauma care and general wound care. – On telephonic standby.
- Compressor operator – Person competent to operate a diving air compressor
Additional member for bell diving:
- Bellman – The member of a dive team who acts as stand-by diver and tender from the diving bell
- Launch and recovery system winch operator
Additional member for dives with a chamber on site:
- Chamber operator – A person who operates a diving chamber
Additional member for surface-supplied mixed gas diving:
- Gas man – Person who controls the gas supply to a surface-supplied mixed-gas diver
Additional members for offshore diving:
- Diving medical technician – a member of a dive team who is trained in advanced first aid and fit to provide treatment in a hyperbaric chamber in an emergency
- Systems technician – A person competent to maintain, repair and test the function of diving and support systems and components
- Diving superintendent – A management position responsible for diving operations
Additional personnel for saturation diving:
- Life support technician – A member of a saturation diving team who operates the surface habitat - One per shift.
- Life support supervisor – A senior life support technician appointed by the diving contractor to supervise operation of the saturation life support systems
Additional members for remotely operated underwater vehicle support:
- ROV pilot – A person competent to operate a remotely controlled underwater vehicle
- ROV Supervisor – A senior ROV pilot appointed to supervise the ROV team
Regulation of activities
Professional diving activities are generally regulated by health and safety legislation, but in some cases may be exempted from the national or state diving regulations for specific diving applications, such as scientific diving or public safety diving, when they operate under a recognised code of practice for that application.
Codes of practice
A code of practice for professional diving is a document that complements occupational health and safety laws and regulations to provide detailed practical guidance on how to comply with legal obligations, and should be followed unless another solution with the same or better health and safety standard is in place, or may be a document for the same purpose published by a self-regulating body to be followed by member organisations.
Codes of practice published by governments do not replace the occupational health and safety laws and regulations, and are generally issued in terms of those laws and regulations. They are intended to help understand how to comply with the requirements of regulations. A workplace inspector can refer to a code of practice when issuing an improvement or prohibition notice, and they may be admissible in court proceedings. A court may use a code of practice to establish what is reasonably practicable action to manage a specific risk. Equivalent or better ways of achieving the required work health and safety may be possible, so compliance with codes of practice is not usually mandatory, providing that any alternative systems used provide a standard of health and safety equal to or better than those recommended by the code of practice.
The operations manual is the diving contractor's in-house documentation specifying the procedures authorised for diving operations conducted by the company. It will refer to relevant legislation and codes of practice and will specify the organisation of the company and the chain of responsibility. Standard operating procedures for the activities normally conducted by the company may be described in sufficient detail that all affected parties can understand how the organisation operates.
Branches of professional diving
Commercial diving may be considered an application of professional diving where the diver engages in underwater work for industrial, construction, engineering, maintenance or other commercial purposes which are similar to work done out of the water, and where the diving is usually secondary to the work.
In some legislation, commercial diving is defined as any diving done by an employee as part of their job, and for legal purposes this may include scientific, public safety, media, and military diving. That is similar to the definition for professional diving, but in those cases the difference is in the status of the diver within the organisation of the diving contractor. This distinction may not exist in other jurisdictions. In South Africa, any person who dives under the control and instructions of another person within the scope of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1993, is within the scope of the Diving Regulations, 2009.
Offshore diving is a well known branch of commercial diving, with divers working in support of the exploration and production sector of the oil and gas industry in places such as the Gulf of Mexico in the United States, the North Sea in the United Kingdom, and Norway and along the coast of Brazil. The work in this area of the industry includes maintenance of oil platforms and the building of underwater structures used in the production process.
Equipment used for offshore diving tends to be surface supplied equipment but this does vary depending on the nature of the work and location. For instance Gulf of Mexico-based divers may use wetsuits whilst North Sea divers need drysuits or even hot water suits due to the temperature of the water.
Inland or onshore diving is very similar to offshore diving in terms of the nature of work and the equipment used, the work often being in support of land based civil engineering projects, with the majority of the work either underwater survey or engineering work. The types of dive sites this covers is varied, however, and divers can be found working in harbours and lakes, on hydroelectric dams, in rivers and around bridges and pontoons, with the bulk of this work being undertaken in freshwater. They are often required to inspect and repair outfalls which require at times up to 600 ft. plus penetrations, which require a multitude of safety requirements. Onshore divers typically can be at home every night and earn more per hour than their colleagues who work offshore. However, depth pay and minimum 12-hour shifts offshore must be taken into consideration.
HAZMAT diving is one of the most dangerous branches of the commercial diving industry, employing highly skilled and experienced staff.
- The divers need to be vaccinated against diseases such as hepatitis and tetanus.
- Suitable equipment and competent personnel are required for decontamination of the diver and diving equipment after a dive.
- Emergency procedures must be planned and equipment and personnel in place to safely recover the diver if something goes wrong.
The tasks a diver may be required to do in a contaminated environment include:
- Essential maintenance of underwater valves and sluice gates.
- Repairing damaged pipelines.
- Pollution control work to contain, control and clean up after a pollution incident.
- Sampling activities, such as those performed by United States Environmental Protection Agency. units specializing in polluted water diving, and the Environmental Response Team dive units.
- Diving in landfill sites to maintain the pumping equipment, vital in preventing landfill sites from filling up with rainwater and contaminating the water table.
- Welding inside functioning sewers or working in septic tanks.
- Miscellaneous repairs and finding lost objects.
- Finding bodies.
Sewer diving is one of the most dangerous of all the HAZMAT jobs due to the disease vectors carried by raw sewage and because hypodermic needles and broken glass may contaminate the raw sewage, creating risks of contracting diseases through cuts and punctures.
Divers working in a dangerously contaminated environment wear a full drysuit with integral boots. Cut-resistant dry-gloves and helmet will seal directly to the drysuit, leaving no skin exposed to the environment. The diver will generally use a free flow diving helmet which continually supplies more air than the diver needs to breathe so that there is a constant outflow through the exhaust valve, as the internal pressure must be slightly higher than ambient to maintain the flow. A free flow helmet has a significantly lower risk of leakage back through the exhaust valve compared to a standard demand helmet where the exhaust valve must maintain a watertight seal against a slightly higher external pressure during inhalation. The risk of leakage through the exhaust valve of a demand system can be reduced in three ways. A series system of valves can be used - the exhaust gases must pass through two sets of exhaust valves before reaching the contaminated environment, and therefore contaminated water would have to leak back through both sets of valves to get to the diver. Positive pressure systems maintain a slightly higher pressure inside the mask or helmet than the ambient pressure on the outside, ensuring that any leaks flow from inside to outside, and reclaim type systems duct the exhaled breathing gas back to the control panel on the surface, but do not necessarily reclaim the exhaust gas. Combinations of these methods are possible depending on the assessed risk.
The drysuit will be made from a material resistant to the hazardous materials at the site: normally the diver wears a vulcanized rubber drysuit, which is relatively easy to decontaminate as it has a slick outer surface, but occasionally a neoprene or tri-laminate suit is needed. Often, a diver will wear extra protection over the drysuit to reduce the risk of a puncture: leather, PVC and nylon coveralls are used for this purpose.
In such diving, light levels are often very low and the water is usually very turbid, so divers may rely on touch to guide them, and they are connected via the umbilical to the surface. The umbilical serves as a supply of breathing gas, for communications, and as a lifeline to find and retrieve the diver in an emergency. It is also used as a guide to find the way back to the surface.
Nuclear diving is similar to HAZMAT diving; the difference is the exposure to radiation instead of a water borne contaminant. To this end, different precautions are required for nuclear diving, mainly, equipment which will not absorb radioactive contamination and pose a disposal problem after several dives. Moreover, exhaustive briefing of the group or diver for the specific environment he is going to work, depth, water temperature and potential radioactive sources. Heat stress can also be a danger for the diver, in which case a cold water suit may be used: the cold water suit is a special canvas coverall which floods the outside of the diver's drysuit with chilled water, countering the dangerously high ambient water temperature. A dosimeter is used to ensure that the diver does not receive a dangerous dose of radiation during the dive, assisting in calculating the maximum length of the dive. In addition the dosimeter can also be used to find radiation hot spots, which can indicate areas in need of repair.
Scientific diving is the use of diving techniques by scientists to study underwater what would normally be studied by scientists on land. Scientific divers are normally qualified scientists first and divers second, who use diving equipment and techniques as their way to get to the location of their fieldwork. The direct observation and manipulation of marine habitats afforded to scuba-equipped scientists have transformed the marine sciences generally, and marine biology and marine chemistry in particular. Underwater archeology and geology are other examples of sciences pursued underwater. Some scientific diving is carried out by universities in support of undergraduate or postgraduate research programs.
Government bodies such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the UK Environment Agency carry out scientific diving to recover samples of water, marine organisms and sea, lake or riverbed material to examine for signs of pollution.
Equipment used varies widely in this field, but surface supplied equipment though quite uncommon in the UK is growing in popularity in the U.S. The short number of dives made by scientific divers in normally quite shallow water, and the UK governmental regulations that make surface supplied equipment cumbersome, when combined with a need for easy transportation make surface supplied gear uneconomic and undesirable for UK scientists to use.
Not all scientific divers are professionals; some are amateurs who asisst with research out of personal interest.
Scientific diving organizations include:
- The American Academy of Underwater Sciences
- The European Scientific Diving Panel.
- The German Academy of Underwater Sciences.
Three standard references for Scientific Diving Operations are:
- Code of Practice for Scientific Diving: Principles for the Safe Practice of Scientific Diving in Different Environments.
- Joiner James T. (ed), NOAA Diving Manual: Diving for Science and Technology, Fourth Edition, 2001, U.S.Department of Commerce, National Technical Information Service, (ISBN 0941332705)
- Haddock, Steven H. D. & John N. Heine, 2005. Scientific Blue-water Diving California Sea Grant College Program 
Media diving is a term used to describe divers engaged in underwater photography and underwater cinematography outside of normal recreational interests. Media Diving is often carried out in support of television documentaries, such as the BBC series Planet Earth or Hollywood blockbusters, with feature films such as Titanic and The Perfect Storm featuring underwater photography or footage. Media divers are normally highly trained camera operators who use diving as a method to reach their workplace, although some underwater photographers may start as recreational divers and move on to make a living from their hobby.
Equipment in this field is varied with scuba and surface supplied equipment used, depending on requirements, but rebreathers are often used for wildlife related work as they are normally quiet, release few or no bubbles and allow the diver a lengthy bottom time with a reduced risk of frightening off the subject at hand.
Military diving covers all types of diving carried out by military personnel. There are a number of different specialisations for a military diver to choose; some depend on which branch of the military they have joined or where the military needs more divers. Typical offensive activities include underwater demolition, infiltration and sabotage, this being the type of work elite regiments such as the UK Special Boat Service or the USA Navy SEALs carry out. Defensive activities are centered around countering the threat of enemy special forces and enemy anti-shipping measures, and typically involve defusing mines, searching for explosive devices attached to the hulls of ships, and locating enemy frogmen in the water.
Military divers need equipment which hides their position and prevents explosives from being set-off, and to this end, they use rebreathers which produce less noise due to bubbles emitted from the equipment, and few or no bubbles on the surface, and which contain no magnetic components. This continues down to the design of their diving suit, which will normally have a non-magnetic zipper, and the face-mask may be fitted with special anti-reflective glass. Some navies have gone further and given their divers special contact lenses instead of large face-masks to cut down on the risk of a reflection.
Naval diving is the military term for commercial diving, and is drastically different from military diving. Naval divers work to support maintenance and repair operations on ships and military installations. Their equipment is derived from commercially available equipment, with the US Navy using versions of the Kirby Morgan helmets and full-face masks amongst other equipment. Typical tasks include:
- boat and ship inspection, cleaning and maintenance
- demolition of ship wreck and unexploded ordnance
- ship, submarine, downed aircraft, and other military hardware salvage or recovery
- underwater mine clearance
- investigating unidentified submerged divers
Experimental diving, is conducted by the US Navy's Experimental Diving Unit (NEDU) and involves meeting military needs through the research and development of diving practices and diving equipment, testing new types equipment and finding new and safer ways to perform dives and related activities. The US NEDU was responsible for much of the early experimental diving work to calculate decompression tables and has since worked on such developments as heated diving suits powered by radioactive isotopes and mixed gas diving equipment, while the British equivalent (The Admiralty Experimental Diving Unit) perfected the Mark 10 submarine escape suits utilized by both the Royal Navy and the US Navy.
Police divers are normally police officers who have been trained in the use of diving techniques to recover evidence and occasionally bodies from rivers, canals and the sea. They may also be employed in searching shipping for contraband substances fitted to the outside of hulls to avoid detection. The equipment they use depends on requirements, but the requirement for communications at some sites does often require the use of full-face masks with communication equipment, either with SCUBA or surface supplied equipment.
Public safety diving
Public safety diving is the underwater work conducted by law enforcement, fire rescue, and search & rescue/recovery dive teams. Public safety divers differ from recreational, scientific and commercial divers who can generally plan the date, time, and location of a dive, and dive only if the conditions are conducive to the task. Public safety divers respond to emergencies at whatever time and place they occur, and may be required to dive at times and in circumstances where conditions are regulations may exempt them from some of the health and safety requirements of other professional divers at times when it appears possible that a living person may be rescued. In the USA, many public safety divers are volunteers, but career law enforcement or fire rescue personnel also often take on these additional responsibilities as part of their occupation.
Aquarium divers normally hold some form of professional qualification, either as a Diving Instructor or in the UK a HSE Part 4 qualification. The larger aquariums can have considerable size and depth, in the UK 35 by 25 metres and 5 metres deep with 3.8 million litres of water. The jobs are varied but are centred around the maintenance of the tank and livestock and public entertainment. They include:
- Feeding of the livestock
- Tank cleaning
- Taking members of the public into the tank
Instructors for each of the above modes of diving are highly qualified individuals operating under the auspices of a governmental agency. Standards for instruction are authorized by agencies to ensure safety.
Recreational dive instructors differ from other types of professional divers as they normally don't require a professional level qualification, but a relevant recreational qualification from a recognised training agency such as GUE, SDI, TDI, NAUI, PADI, SSI, ANDI or BSAC, which permits them to teach. Dive instructors teach a wide variety of skills from entry-level diver training for beginners, to diver rescue for intermediate level divers and technical diving for more experienced divers. They often operate from dedicated dive centres at coastal sites or through hotels in popular holiday resorts or simply from local swimming pools. Initial training is carried out mainly on conventional open circuit scuba equipment but with the increasing availability of recreational rebreathers, their use is also taught. Not all recreational diving instructors are professionals; many are amateurs with careers outside the diving industry.
Commercial diving instructors normally require professional diving qualifications. They typically teach trainee commercial divers how to operate types of diving equipment and typical underwater tools they will use in the course of their work as well as the skills required for diving safely with the relevant equipment. Commercial diving instructors use similar equipment to commercial divers in the course of their work.
Recreational dive leaders
Professional underwater dive leaders are quite commonly employed by dive shops and charter boats to lead certified recreational divers and groups of divers on underwater excursions. These divemasters are generally expected to ensure that the customers are briefed on the conditions to be expected, the known hazards other than those inherent in the activity, and what the customer can reasonably expect to see during a dive. They are underwater tour guides, and as such are expected to know the level of certification and fitness needed for the planned dive, but are not generally considered responsible for ensuring that the customers are competent to the level of certifiction they hold, or for the personal safety of the customers during the dive. If the dive leader allocates dive buddies, they may thereby make themselves legally responsible for ensuring that the buddy pairs they allocate are appropriate. Any instruction given by the dive leader may make them liable for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of carrying out that instruction, though the customer is usually obliged to sign a waiver exonerating the dive guide for ordinary negligence. Not all recreational dive leaders are professionals; many are amateurs with careers outside the diving industry, and lead groups of friends or club members without financial reward.
Depending on the water temperature, depth and duration of the planned dive, the diver will either use a wetsuit, dry suit or hot water suit. A wetsuit provides thermal insulation by layers of foam neoprene but the diver gets wet. Hot water diving suits are similar to a wetsuit but are flooded with warm water from a surface water heater that is then pumped to the diver via an umbilical. A dry suit is another method of insulation, operating by keeping the diver dry under the suit, and relies on either the suit material or the air trapped in thermal undergarments to insulate the diver, and also provides better isolation from environmental contamination. Certain applications require a specific type of dive suit; long dives into deep, cold water normally require a hot water suit or dry suit, whilst diving into potentially contaminated environments requires a dry suit, dry hood, and dry gloves at a minimum, thereby keeping the diver completely isolated from the diving environment.
A number of factors dictate the type of breathing apparatus used by the diver. Typical considerations include the length of the dive, water contamination, space constraints and vehicle access for support vehicles. Some disciplines will very rarely use surface supplied diving, such as scientific divers or military clearance divers, whilst commercial divers will rarely use scuba equipment.
Scuba equipment is not commonly used in civilian commercial diving, but is often employed by scientific, media and military divers, sometimes as specialized equipment such as rebreathers, which are closed circuit SCUBA equipment that recycles breathing gas instead of releasing it into the water. It is the "re-breathing" of gas that makes rebreathers ideal for long duration dives, efficient decompression when the gas mix is adjustable, and for the observation of animals in the wild due to the lack of noisy bubbles. These characteristics also make rebreathers ideal for military use, such as when military divers are engaged in covert action or when performing mine clearance where bubbles could potentially set off an explosion.
Open circuit scuba equipment is occasionally used by commercial divers working on sites where surface supplied equipment is unsuitable, such as around raised structures like a water tower, or in remote locations where it is necessary to carry equipment to the dive site. Normally, for comfort and for practicality, a full face mask such as those manufactured by Kirby Morgan will be used to allow torches and video cameras to be mounted onto the mask. The benefit of full-face masks is that they can normally be used with surface supplied equipment as well, removing the need for the diver or the company to have two sets of expensive equipment.
This is, perhaps, the most common type of equipment used in professional diving, and the one most recognised by the public. Surface-supplied equipment can be used with full face masks or diving helmets. Helmets are normally fitted with diver to surface communication equipment, and often with light sources and video equipment. The decision between wearing a full-face mask or a full diving helmet comes down to job requirements and personal preference, however the impact protection and warmth offered by a full diving helmet makes it popular for underwater construction sites and cold water work.
Breathing gas for the diver is piped down from the surface, through a long, flexible hose, called an umbilical. In addition to breathing gas, the umbilical may have additional hoses and cables for such things as communications equipment, a pneumofathometer for measuring depth, or hot water should the diver be using a hot water suit. The umbilical must be strong enough to support the diver's weight, with a significant safety margin, because it may be used by surface personnel to pull the diver out of the water. The diver's breathing gas is pumped down from either high pressure tanks or through a gas compressor.
If the diver is to be working at extreme depths for a long period, the diver may live in a special underwater habitat or a pressurised surface habitat called a saturation system. This type of surface supplied diving is known as saturation diving. The same technique for supplying breathing gas as regular surface supplied diving is used, with the diving bell receiving breathing gas and other essential services from a diving support vessel on the surface. If diving at extreme depths, helium-based breathing gas mixtures are used to prevent nitrogen narcosis and oxygen toxicity which would otherwise occur due to the high ambient pressure. The diver is decompressed only once, at the end of the job, which saves time and reduces risk of decompression injury.
Training and registration
Diver training is the set of processes through which a person learns the necessary and desirable skills to safely dive underwater within the scope of the training standard relevant to the specific training programme. Most diver training follows procedures and schedules laid down in the associated training standard, in a formal training programme, and includes relevant foundational knowledge of the underlying theory, including some basic physics, physiology and environmental information, practical skills training in the selection and safe use of the associated equipment in the specified underwater environment, and assessment of the required skills and knowledge deemed necessary by the certification agency to allow the newly certified diver to dive within the specified range of conditions at an acceptable level of risk. Recognition of prior learning is allowed in some training standards.
Diver training is closely associated with diver certification or registration, the process of application for and issue of formal recognition of competence by a certification agency or registration authority.
Work skills specific to the underwater environment may be included in diver trailing programmes, but are also often provided independently, either as job training for a specific operation, or as generic training by specialists in the fields.
The Diver Certification Board of Canada certifies occupational divers, accredits schools which train occupational divers.
The Diver Certification Board of Canada (DCBC) is a federally incorporated not-for-profit body which was originally set up to replace the offshore diver certification regime of the National Energy Board and the offshore petroleum boards. DCBC is the only national body which certifies offshore and inshore commercial divers in Canada.
The DCBC offers certification to commercial divers and supervisors who can demonstrate that they have sufficient training and experience to enable them to meet the competency requirements of the appropriate section of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Competency Standard for Diving Operations (CSA Standard Z275.4).
Certificates issued by the DCBC are recognized by Australia (ADAS), France, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom (HSE) and the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA).
The Diver Certification Board of Canada accredits commercial diver training organizations which train to the competency levels described in CSA Standard Z275.4. Accredited commercial diver training organizations can also assess the competency of experienced commercial divers who were not trained at an accredited school.
In South Africa the Department of Labour regulates the activities of people who dive as part of their employment, except for those involved in diving connected to minerals and energy, who are nominally controlled by the Department of Minerals and Energy. Military diving is also officially within the jurisdiction of the Department of Labour, but provided the diving is conducted within the requirements of SA Naval Operations Publication 96 it is deemed to comply with the Diving Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1993.
All commercial diver training is within the scope of the Diving Regulations, but recreational diver training and dive leading (divemasters) are specifically excluded from the regulations, though still subject to general provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 
Commercial divers are registered with the Department of Labour after completing their training and assessment at registered commercial diving schools. The standard of training is officially specified in the Commercial Diver Training Standards for each class of diver, but the precise definitions for many of the specified items is unclear. However this is not unlike the standards for training in several other countries, as the SA standards are remarkably similar to the standards published by the International Diving Regulators and Certifiers Forum (IDRCF) of which the SA Department of Labour is a member.
In the UK, any person diving at work is required to hold a relevant qualification approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In the UK, diving schools work towards a standard HSE approved qualification, whilst divers who have trained overseas may find their existing qualifications meet the necessary HSE standards, if not, additional training may be required. HSE approved qualifications are well known around the world and due to the stringent requirements of HSE qualifications, most diving qualifications around the world are designed to meet HSE standards, allowing any diver certified to a standard recognised by the HSE to work in the UK, an important location due to the North Sea oil industry. HSE commercial diver qualifications are recognized by Australia (ADAS), Canada (DCBC), France, Norway, South Africa (SADoL) and in part by the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA).
There are several different HSE qualifications, each focusing on a different type of equipment or type of diving activity, for instance the HSE Scuba qualification allows the holder to use only SCUBA equipment. Training usually takes place at a residential school, with courses taking anything between 9 and 13 weeks although divers with existing qualifications, such as former military divers can take courses which build on their existing knowledge and experience. During training, divers will be taught how to use common types of diving equipment (nearly every school trains divers to use the Kirby Morgan equipment) and how to carry out underwater construction techniques such as welding and cutting.
In addition to physical training, there is a large amount of classroom work, with divers being trained subjects such as basic gas laws and decompression tables. First Aid courses are normally also a requirement for trainee divers, with the emphasis placed on dealing with decompression and other diving related injuries.
A Masters degree titled Engineer Diver, for a professional who has the capacities, skills and knowledge needed to plan, manage and successfully execute an underwater operation concerning engineering practice, was proposed in 2007. The proposal does not appear to have been taken up. Examples of businesses that might benefit from the proposed qualification are civil infrastructures contractors (above and below water) where inspections, and maintenance projects are carried out periodically. That is the case of underwater inspections of ports, offshore platforms, vessels, bridges and dams.
International commercial diving co-ordination and regulatory organisations
Association of Diving Contractors International (ADCI)
International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA)
The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) is the international trade association representing offshore, marine, and underwater engineering companies. Contractors, suppliers, training establishments, personnel agencies and non-voting corresponding organisations (oil companies, governmental and regulatory bodies) can become members in one or more of the four divisions (Diving, Marine, Offshore Survey, Remote Systems & ROV).
International Diving Schools Association (IDSA)
IDSA was formed in 1982 with the primary purpose of developing common international standards for commercial diver training
The Association is concerned with offshore, inshore and inland commercial diving and some specialist non-diving qualifications such as diving supervisors, diving medical technicians and life support technicians. It has published international diver training standards based on the consensus opinion of members which provide a basic standard of comparison for commercial diver training standards, with the stated intention of:-
- Improving safety
- Providing contractors with a direct input to the diver training syllabus
- Enabling contractors to bid across national borders on a more even playing field
- Improving diver quality
- Providing divers with greater job opportunities
IDSA provides a Table of Equivalence of various national commercial diver training standards.
International Diving Regulators and Certifiers Forum (IDRCF)
The International Diving Regulators and Certifiers Forum (IDRCF) confirmed its principals and purpose at their meeting in London in September 2009. The statement of principals and purpose states “The forum has agreed to work together towards mutual recognition to identify and implement best practice in diver training and assessment with the objective of harmonising cross-border diver training outside Europe.” Members of the IDRCF include ADAS (Australia), DCBC (Canada), HSE (UK), PSA (Norway), and the Secretariat General to the Sea Progress Committee (France).
European Diving Technology Committee
The European Diving Technology Committee (EDTC) is tasked with promoting good standards for diving within Europe and where practicable, coordinating differing standards. As part of this work they publish high level minimum competence standards for inshore and offshore diving industry personnel as guidance for member states to encourage harmonisation of standards and facilitate international recognition of commercial diver qualifications.
Commercial diving remains a relatively dangerous occupation, but the rate of fatal accidents has decreased over the years.
Statistics of fatal commercial diving accidents in the UK between 1996 and 2010 compiled by the HSE UK
|All workers in UK||0.5|
|Offshore diving||20 to 30|
|Inshore diving||30 to 60|
For scientific and archaeological applications for which diving is needed see:
- Underwater archaeology – Archaeological techniques practiced at underwater sites
- Marine ecology – The study of the interactions between organisms and environment in the sea
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