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Diving fatality

A member has reported the following incident, which led to the death of a 34 year old diver with 12 years’ experience.

The diver was carrying out routine burning and salvage, with approximately 45 minutes of bottom time in 103 feet of sea water. Visibility was noted as excellent and there was virtually no sea current.

The diver’s helmet flooded, within 7-12 seconds. A heavy purge on pneumo was immediately initiated and the standby diver launched within 30 seconds, reaching the diver within one minute 25 seconds. The diver was recovered to the surface within six minutes.

The diver was found with his helmet off, with his umbilical and helmet attached to his harness. His neck dam was missing.

The company notified the diver’s family, the local regulator authority, and the customer for the operation. It also notified all of its other operation sites of the fatality. Diving supervisors on every job were directed to inspect all helmets and bailout rigs.

Investigations, including those of the regulator involved, noted the following:

  • The diving systems involved – compressors, umbilical/pneumo, manifold, gauges, volume tanks – had all passed local authority and relevant third party tests. The system had been tested thoroughly from the intake to the end of the umbilical;
  • Historically, surface diving helmets, bail-out bottles and harnesses have been owned and maintained by divers themselves;
  • The first stage regulator had leaked at 4 litres per minute. The side block had leaked. The free flow and purge had not functioned. The second stage regulator had not functioned properly and was found to be poorly maintained;
  • The root causes were identified as:
    • Failure of the diver to follow emergency procedures;
    • Lack of proper care and maintenance by the diver of his personal dive equipment;
    • Lack of a manageable company system of control to ensure personal dive equipment was maintained by its divers in accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations.

The company involved has advised of the following action plan it has implemented:

  • Company-controlled emergency loss of air exercises to be made mandatory;
  • Maintenance of personal dive equipment (while remaining owned by its divers) is controlled and ensured by the company;
  • An enhanced pre-dive checklist has been introduced;
  • Audits of compliance with the above actions are to be carried out by the company’s quality assurance department.

Safety Event

Published: 1 January 2003
Download: IMCA SF 01/03

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