Last updated 7 Mar 2010

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Are you Diving at Work?

Diving is considered to be an area of work that carries a higher than normal risk to persons’ health. For this reason, all diving operations ‘at work’ are regulated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It is important to know whether or not your diving operation should be covered by the HSE regulations(1). The simple indicators are:

  • you are diving as part of your work (ie. You are being paid for diving)
  • although diving out of working hours, or as a student or volunteer, the data obtained through the operation goes toward a report or publication that has some academic or monetary value (defined as diving for reward)
  • you are diving for work or reward within the UK territorial waters (usually 12 nm from the coastline).

Although the HSE regulations are only enforceable by the HSE within UK waters there are also regulations that cover diving operations undertaken from UK-registered merchant vessels(2). Because the HSE regulations establish an Industry standard, many employers will insist that they are adhered to, where it is reasonably practicable, irrespective of where the diving operation takes place worldwide. The NERC diving guidelines state this(3).

The HSE have divided the Diving Industry into a number of sectors. For each sector there is guidance as to how to comply with HSE regulations. Guidance for Scientific Diving is given in the Scientific and Archaeological Approved Code of Practice (ACoP)(4).

If you are a student or volunteer you are usually regarded as being NOT at work.  However, if you are diving as a student or volunteer as part of an organized event or diving programme, the diving contractor will still have duty of care.  The HSE give guidance on University Students and Diving Safety here.

Where the student is at the postgraduate level whereby diving is a significant part of a research project and/or the student is receiving a bursary or postgraduate award, then they must be assumed to be diving at work and would have to comply with DWR97.

Information Sources:

The Diving at Work Regulations 1997

  • 1 The Diving at Work Regulations 1997.
  • United Kingdom Parliament Statutory Instrument 1997 No. 2776.

Merchant Shipping (Diving Safety) Regulations

  • 2 The Merchant Shipping (Diving Safety) Regulations 2002.
  • United Kingdom Parliament Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 1587.

NERC Health and Safety Guideance Note

  • 3 NERC Health and Safety Guidance Note: NERC Divers at Work.

Approved Code of Practive: Scientific and archaeological diving projects

  • 4 Approved Code of Practice: Scientific and archaeological diving projects (Diving at Work Regulations 1997).
  • Norwich; HSE Books 1998: L107: 26pp.

Other sources of guidance and advice:

SDSC Advice Notes

  • The Scientific Diving Supervisory Committee (SDSC) Advice Notes for the Scientific and Archaeological Approved Code of Practice.

NOAA Diving Manual

  • NOAA Diving Manual - Diving for Science and Technology.

Scientific Diving: A General Code of Practice

  • Fleming NC, Max MD (eds). Scientific Diving: A General Code of Practice (second edition). Best Publishing Company – UNESCO Publishing. 1990; 278pp.