Members of the diving industry work in areas ranging from tourism and archaeology to construction and gas exploration. While their employers vary, divers are united by two factors—their need to get to work by going underwater and the danger in which they are placed by having to do so. Commercial diving can pose serious safety risks and is considered one of the most hazardous jobs in the industry. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an average of six to thirteen diving-related fatalities occur yearly.
Common Diving Hazards
Certain diving hazards are pretty straightforward, such as the danger of drowning while on a diving mission. Sea life and defective diving equipment also contribute to diving accidents. One of the biggest dangers for many divers involves medical conditions induced by failing to follow proper safety procedures. Some divers may develop medical conditions simply because they were not properly trained in diving as it relates to their job.
Take a look at some medical problems that can be experienced by divers:
- Barotrauma: Underwater pressure on the air pocket in the middle ear can cause severe pain and damage to the ear if divers do not “equalize” properly.
- Decompression Sickness: This is more commonly known as “the bends.” Increased underwater pressure causes the body to absorb increased amounts of nitrogen. If a diver returns to the surface too quickly, the pressure is suddenly reduced and the nitrogen can form bubbles that cause the diver to experience aching joints, pain, and in severe cases, paralysis or death.
- Nitrogen Narcosis: The presence of increased nitrogen in a diver’s body can occasionally have a narcotic effect on the diver. This impairs their sensory perception and judgment.
- Oxygen Toxicity: This can be experienced by divers who dive below 135 feet. Under increased underwater pressure, the body absorbs more oxygen. At increased depths, this extra oxygen can cause the diver to experience nausea, loss of consciousness, twitching, seizures, and tunnel vision.
- Pulmonary Embolism: Rapid ascent to the surface can cause the gas in the diver’s lungs to expand at too fast a rate. If not controlled, the lungs can swell and even pop while the diver attempts to surface. Divers are supposed to slowly ascend to prevent these injuries.
If divers are not properly trained, they can experience severe medical conditions like the ones listed above. It is imperative that employers provide adequate training, and enforce safety procedures, equipment maintenance, and other preventive measures to ensure the safety of their employees.
While some fatalities may be unavoidable, adhering to regulations and following established best practices can help mitigate many risks associated with diving. The entire dive team must be thoroughly trained in all aspects of their job, necessary tools, and safety procedure in order to be sufficiently prepared for work. To help improve diver safety, most nations follow Diving at Work Regulations (DWR).
Under DWR, divers are responsible for the following:
- To hold an approved qualification for diving
- To be able to perform work safely
- To hold a certificate of medical fitness in order to dive
Even when divers follow all the rules and best industry practices, hazards, particularly medical ones, are still a constant danger. There are many specific acute and chronic medical conditions directly associated with diving careers. While complying with accepted diving procedures can reduce the dangers of contracting these illnesses, the risks will still be there. Your company of employment should be doing everything in its power to reduce the chance of injury and give you the tools for safety and success.
Our team of Houston offshore injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin may be able to help you determine if your employer is responsible for your diving injury. Contact our firm today for a free consultation!