Commercial diving as an occupation is described by the U.S. Bureau of Labor as “[w]ork below surface of water, using scuba gear to inspect, repair, remove, or install equipment and structures…. conduct tests or experiments, rig explosives, or photograph structures or marine life.” This work can include the use of powerful drills, hammers, torches, and other welding equipment. Typically, a commercial diving team includes a diving supervisor, an ROV supervisor, the diver, an ROV pilot/technician, a standby driver, a tender, and a life support technician.
Commercial Diving is an inherently dangerous profession, and as a result, commercial diving accidents do occur. However, commercial diving accidents are preventable if divers are adequately trained and qualified, safety protocol is followed, and their equipment is maintained. Diving accidents can be very complicated, and most will fall under federal maritime law. Due to the intricacies involved, it is important to contact an experienced attorney that understands the laws surrounding maritime injuries.
Commercial Diving Industries & Types of Divers
Divers are in high demand, especially in Louisiana. In the Gulf of Mexico, it is more likely that commercial diving is being done offshore at the gas and oil rigs and refineries. Divers do work such as the repair of pipelines, inspections of oil rigs, and other types of welding work. Offshore commercial divers also complete HAZMAT and nuclear diving with hazardous materials. These activities are very high risk for accidents and serious injuries when divers are not sufficiently trained or their equipment is not properly prepared.
The different types of commercial divers include:
- Offshore divers;
- Inland divers;
- HAZMAT and nuclear divers;
- Scientific study/data divers;
- Media divers; and
- Military divers.
Divers working in the Gulf of Mexico also perform “saturation diving.” The Divers Institute of Technology described saturation diving as challenging work “where divers are required to work at depths of over 50m or 150ft for long periods of time” and “remain in the same pressure environment even when they are not working.” During this time, divers inhabit “pressure chambers” so that the tissues of their body stay saturated. While this work is profitable, it is very dangerous and carries its own plethora of risks.
National commercial diving industries include:
- Architectural, Engineering, and Related Services;
- Museums, Historical Sites, and Similar Institutions;
- Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals (OES Designation);
- Support Activities for Water Transportation;
- Nonresidential Building Construction;
- Other Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction; and
- Other Support Services.
Causes of Commercial Diving Accidents
Often, commercial diving accidents occur due to the negligence of their employer. In such a dangerous work environment, an employer’s negligence can result in severe injuries or even fatalities. Commercial divers are equipped with specialized gear and therefore must be properly trained.
If your employer’s negligence resulted in your injury, whether directly or through a lack of training provided, you are entitled to recover compensation. Compensation may be awarded for any physical injuries, pain and suffering, disability, and/or lost wages.
A commercial diving accidents can occur from:
- Inadequate training;
- Improper equipment maintenance;
- Improper decompression tables;
- Use of the wrong dive table;
- Improper gas mixtures;
- Twisted air tubes being pulled up too quickly;
- Encounters with differential pressure hazards;
- Vessel negligence and equipment failure;
- Offshore explosions and fires;
- Equipment failures and on-vessel accidents with fatal consequences; and
- Other risks inherent in operating outside dive limits.
Commercial diving injuries include:
- Gas narcosis;
- Decompression illness;
- Dysbaric osteonecrosis;
- Barometric pressure injuries;
- Brain damage;
- Gas toxicities; and
- Underwater welding burns.
Laws & Regulations Governing Commercial Diving Accidents
Commercial diving and the hazards that come along with it are addressed in specific OSHA standards for general industry (29 CFR 1910), maritime (29 CFR 1915, 1917, 1918), and construction (29 CFR 1926). There are also a number of publications on the United States Department of Labor website which includes resources for Safety and Health Programs and other additional resources for commercial divers.
When conducting a safe commercial dive, one should consider the following:
- Mode and location of the diving
- Presence of any hazards on or in the water
- Availability of thermal protection
- Oxygen supply levels
- Adequacy of diving equipment and systems
- Decompression, treatment, and emergency procedures
- Overall competency of all the members of the diving team
Diving accidents themselves are covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act protects seamen when they are working offshore and are injured due to their employer’s negligence. In order to be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act, divers must fall within the classification of a “seaman,” meaning the driver must both contribute to the work and function of the vessel and the diiver’s work must account for at least 30% on the vessel.
Consult with an Attorney
The laws that govern commercial diving accidents can be difficult to understand, nonetheless without the guidance of an experienced maritime attorney. With Cueria Law Firm, we will move decisively to investigate all circumstances of a commercial diving accident and assess your rights under the Jones Act and other applicable federal and state laws. Exposing commercial diving accident causes and the negligence that factors into them is a proven strength of our collaborative legal team.
Your challenges are undoubtedly significant in this traumatic time. We can help you to make sound decisions. Our proven Louisiana scuba diving death and injury attorneys will assess your legal options and offer straightforward counsel. Our focus is on pursuing fair compensation to address your financial needs, freeing you to focus on personal recovery.
Our attorneys have helped hundreds of injury victims get the fair compensation they deserve so they can get back to their lives and their families. Call Cueria Law Firm at (504)-525-5211 today!