Legislating For Safety

The basis of the new professionalism that crept into the occupational diving industry belonged to the discovery, during the late sixties, of huge oil and natural gas reserves in the North Sea.

With demand for qualified divers to work on the offshore oil and gas platforms outstripping supply, recruitment programmes focussed on the supposedly huge earnings on offer. Virtually anybody with diving training could sign up to pit their wits and meagre expertise against the world’s worst diving conditions. (One of the reasons why the recruitment of ex-Navy Divers proved so popular. At least they had a good underwater experience and could survive far better than a recreational scuba diver in the North Sea.)

Challenged by fierce storms, pounding seas, zero visibility, and numbing cold – and with no similar precedents to call upon – fatalities and injuries among divers exceeded what had previously been regarded as acceptable levels.
Spurred on by competing Dive companies, eager to retain their lucrative contracts with the oil companies, Divers were pushed to the limits of what was then regarded as Safe Diving Practice – and beyond.

At last, in the mid-seventies, it had become apparent that the standards and regulations covering diver training and work practices were totally inadequate to the conditions and tasks which divers were called upon to perform. (See image of article from a 1974 Sydney Newspaper. )

Finally, in 1981 the U.K. Government, under the Occupational Health and Safety at Work Act, introduced universal legislation governing both Off-shore and On-shore diving activities. Measures aimed at ensuring that equipment, operational procedures and personnel were adequate in all respects to meet the high risks involved in Diving Operations at Work.


The above snippet is a short excerpt from a piece on diving safety first published in the early 1990’s

Categories: General

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