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Diving Safety


Diving is an integral part of the aquaculture operation, says a new Aquaculture Safety Code of Practice, published by the Workers Compensation Board of Prince Edward Island.

In Prince Edward Island, divers often:

  • inspect the lines, anchors and general condition of the shellfish operations;
  • assist with double socking and basic crop operations.

While some growers only need to snorkel to check their operations, others must use Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) to dive. However, all divers must be knowledgeable about the type of diving they are about to carry out, the conditions at the dive site and the tasks they are about to perform.

Diving operations must be well planned and be carried out by experienced divers with the proper knowledge, training and experience to carry out the work they are assigned to do. Only experienced divers trained in the hazards of diving among floating structures, suspended shellfish lines and anchoring systems must be allowed to dive around offbottom
aquaculture sites.

Spot the Hazard

Divers can be difficult to see in the water. If you are navigating and see the diving flag, buoy or placard, reduce your speed and keep well clear of the vessel and diving site.

Working under the surface of the water can pose special hazards. Divers are always exposed to the risk of drowning, respiratory or circulatory problems, hypothermia or physical injury. Hazards of diving on aquaculture operations include:

  • Limited visibility created when sediment is stirred up in the water;
  • Divers getting caught away from the boat in inclement weather or strong currents;
  • Experiencing mechanical difficulties with the SCUBA gear;
  • Getting caught or tangled in the aquaculture gear;
  • Getting hit by the dive boat, aquaculture gear or other boat traffic in the area.

Assess the Risk

Consider the task to be carried out and whether it would be more beneficial to have a contracted diver, or a certified diver on your workforce, carry out the activity. Plan the diving operation taking into account the activity to be carried out, the dive area, the level of risk and any precautions that should be undertaken.

Safe Procedure

All divers should have above average swimming ability.

All divers must have valid First Aid certificates, be instructed in the work procedures they will be required to carry out and must know how to safely operate other equipment they are required to use.

Diving operations must never be done alone.

Divers must not dive if they are in any way unfit to do so (e.g., ill, fatigued, impaired, injured, etc.).

Weather and water conditions in the area of the planned dive must be considered and diving must be suspended if weather or water conditions are hazardous or likely to become hazardous.

A diver must not be forced to dive or be penalized for not diving if, for valid reasons, he or she decides not to enter the water.

Un-tethered diving below ice surfaces must not occur.

Ice diving, deep diving (depths greater than 33 feet or 10 metres) and night diving should be contracted to professional divers knowledgeable of the special procedures and hazards involved with these activities.

In the event that diving operations are contracted out, the aquaculturist must require that the operation is carried out in compliance with all applicable health and safety regulations.

Divers must not stray from the posted dive site.

Only equipment/vessels that will be used in connection with the dive should be brought within the dive site boundaries.

Divers must be provided with a lamp or other suitable device during periods of darkness. The dive site or underwater work site must be adequately illuminated if the nature of the dive permits.

Snorkel divers should use the buddy system when diving and be equipped with a whistle, weight belts (if required) with quick release closures, and thermal protection.

Cage guards must be placed on all propellers, or props on boats must be disengaged and locked out while being used as a dive base.

Divers conducting a dive in open water without a lifeline must carry an audio or visual signaling device.

A dive must not occur if a health or safety hazard may be caused by equipment at or near the dive site, unless the divers are protected from the hazard.

Additional Requirements for Aquaculture Occupational SCUBA Diving

Everyone involved with the dive (divers, lease owner, boat captains, and deck hands) has a responsibility to ensure that this Code of Practice is followed. Even if responsibility is not specifically placed on an individual, the Code of Practice must be followed by all and enforced by the person with the most control over the situation.

All SCUBA divers must be medically fit and be declared fit to dive by a family physician at least every two years using the factors listed in CSA standard Z275.2-04 “Occupational Safety Code for Diving Operations.

Every diver must meet the competency requirements set out in the Restricted SCUBA Diver section (4) of the CSA standard Z275.4-02, Competency Standard for Diving Operations for their position and the depths and circumstances of the dive.

Every SCUBA dive site must have present a dive team consisting of at least two certified divers.

When no hazards are identified (i.e., good weather conditions, no appreciable currents, good underwater visibility, no possibility of entanglement, and good way in and out of the dive site), two divers in the water may act as standby for each other providing that each diver is free swimming, the no-decompression limit is not exceeded, each of the divers has been trained to rescue a diver in trouble, and the divers are in close proximity to each other at all times.

If the second diver is no longer in the water they must act as a standby diver. A standby diver on the surface may also perform other duties provided they do not compromise their ability to promptly render emergency assistance to the diver(s) in the water.

There must be an additional team member at the dive base who is knowledgeable of safe diving procedures on the aquaculture site and has the ability to respond in the event of an emergency.

A written dive plan tailored to the specific dive site must be prepared before a dive is conducted at a dive site. The dive plan must include:

  • A description of the tasks to be performed at the site
  • Work procedures for each type of dive
  • Diving equipment to be used
  • Estimated maximum time to be spent at each depth
  • Decompression tables and procedures to be used
  • Procedures to identify and address health or safety hazards at the dive site
  • A list of industrial plants and water control facilities in the immediate area of the dive site
  • Instructions for getting medical assistance
  • Instructions for evacuating an ill or injured diver from the dive site
  • Emergency procedures for responding to any loss of communication
  • Emergency procedures for responding to diving equipment malfunction
  • Emergency procedures for responding to hazardous weather or water conditions
  • Emergency procedures for aborting a dive
  • Emergency procedures for responding to any difficulties in keeping the dive base

Before the dive, the diving team must be briefed on the following:

  • Dive plan including the planned location of all dives
  • Work to be carried out
  • Possible hazards that may be encountered
  • Intended duration and maximum depth of the dive(s)
  • Decompression table to be used
  • Communication signals to be used
  • Planned location of all divers
  • Any emergency procedures to be followed in the event of an accident or unsafe

Any individual on the diving team has the authority to restrict, prohibit or suspend any diving operation or diver if the conditions are thought to be unsafe.

Divers must keep a log book that has the name of the diver written on it, is permanently bound and has consecutively numbered pages. The diver logbook must be kept at the dive site at all times during the diving period. The diver must make and sign an entry in the logbook as soon as reasonably practicable after a dive and before leaving a dive site.

Another member of the diving team must countersign an entry in the diver’s logbook and make note if they disagree.

A dive base logbook must be kept to record the name of the diving team, records of all equipment examinations, and an entry for each planned dive or dives conducted by a diver.

An entry in the record must include:

  • Date of the dive
  • Geographic location of the dive
  • Name of each diver
  • Unique identifier of any vessel or installation from which the dive was conducted
  • Type of diving equipment used
  • Weather and water conditions during the dive
  • All underwater worksite hazards
  • Indication of whether the dive occurred in a contaminated environment,
  • Indication that the no decompression limit tables have been followed
  • Time each diver started and finished the dive
  • Work performed and procedures used during the dive
  • Maximum depth of the dive
  • Any decompression table used or procedure followed
  • Any accident or near miss or unusual incident with the potential to affect health
    or safety
  • Any discomfort or illness experienced by a diver
  • Any other factor that might be relevant to the health and safety of the divers
    (Appendix A)

A signed copy of the diving record must be filed with each employer within seven days of the end of a planned dive or dives.

An employer with whom a diving record is filed must retain the record for at least two years after the date for which the last entry was made.

Divers must have a two-way system of communication with the person manning the dive base (voice or pre-arranged communication signals on a lifeline or float).

The dive base (e.g., boat, onshore platform) must be stable and large enough to fit all persons and equipment required in order to complete the dive safely.

If the dive base is not onshore it must be equipped with a method of evacuating persons. It must also be capable of remaining stationary or moving without posing hazard to the health or safety of the dive team.

Buoys, lights, flags, lamps, barriers or placards must be placed and displayed to define the boundaries of the dive site.

A notice clearly setting out the boundaries of a dive site must be posted on each vessel at the dive site.

Only equipment to be used in connection with a dive may be brought within the boundaries of a dive site.

The dive base must remain on site at all times while a diver is in the water.

The dive base must be equipped with a means of immediately bringing an unconscious diver out of the water.

Each dive site must have an up to date list of the locations/telephone numbers of the hyperbaric chambers and hospitals nearest to the dive site and a #2 First Aid Kit.

All diving equipment that is necessary for the safe conduct of the diving operation must be kept in adequate condition, examined by the diver at least once each day it is used.

Malfunctioning diving equipment must be removed from service immediately, clearly identified as malfunctioning and must not be used until it is repaired and tested. Repair records must be kept for two years after the date of repair.

Diving equipment must be tested in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications. The owner of the diving equipment must keep a record of diving equipment testing for at least two years after the date of the test or until the equipment is retested, whichever is longer.

Immediately before conducting a dive, the diver must check that they have the required diving equipment and that it is functioning properly.

Dive team members who become aware of a diving equipment malfunction or hazard on the dive site must notify the other divers who may be affected by the malfunction immediately. If the malfunction occurs during a dive, and no replacements are available onsite, the dive must be immediately aborted in co-operation with the other diving team members.

Each diver must be equipped with a strong, sharp knife; weights with a quick release mechanism that are sufficient to control buoyancy; a diving suit or other protective clothing; and adequate head protection while conducting a dive that exposes the diver to a hazard of falling objects or head injuries.

Any gauge or metering equipment that may affect the health or safety of a person must have been tested by a competent person within the 12 months immediately before it is used.

A dive must not be conducted if a health and safety hazard may be caused by equipment near the dive site, unless the divers are protected from the hazard (e.g., locked out).

SCUBA is permitted to be used at commercial aquaculture underwater work sites for diving near unscreened/active underwater intakes less than 10 centimeter in diameter if it is integral to normal operations and the employer has implemented an OHS approved written safe work practice that includes the dive plan.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

October 2008

Filed as: Health