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Incident during entry to diving bell

A member has reported an incident during a ‘routine’ operation on a diving support vessel (DSV) where a diving bell had been surfaced from 140msw for maintenance. The bell had been returned to atmospheric pressure and the surface stand-by diver had been tasked with opening the door of the surfaced bell and inserting an air hose to be used to flush out the residual diving gas (4% O2 in He) to ensure a breathable atmosphere in the bell prior to personnel entering it.

Having opened the bell door the stand-by diver stood up and started to climb into the bell. He immediately started to suffer the effects of oxygen starvation, became confused and fell out of the bell. Due to the hypoxic effect of the bell atmosphere the stand-by diver lost consciousness for a short period of time on deck in the bell hanger area.

He recovered quickly with no apparen’t ill effects and had regained consciousness without the need for resuscitation before the medic arrived on the scene.

The member noted that entry into recently surfaced diving bells and chambers was a potentially hazardous activity despite the fact it is considered to be a ‘routine’ task.

The member issued instructions that personnel on all diving worksites should be made aware of this potentially serious incident and should take steps to ensure that low oxygen hazards are identified and suitably addressed (by access control, flushing and atmospheric monitoring) before any person was permitted to enter either a bell or a chamber that has recently been surfaced.

Members are reminded of the importance of robust confined space entry procedures.

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