OSHA Issues Diving Operations Safety Alert After Six Workers Die
October 20, 2021
Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a safety alert after six workers died while performing diving operations. Five of the deceased were power generation plant workers who sustained fatal injuries while working around pipes, drains, tunnels, and valves. Because commercial diving is a particularly hazardous line of work, OSHA provides numerous safety tips and standards in order to protect workers from industry-wide hazards.
Why are Diving Operations so Dangerous?
Commercial diving is one of the riskiest jobs out there. Commercial divers can work in many different fields, like underwater construction, law enforcement, and the oil and gas industries. According to OSHA, the inherently strenuous nature of diving creates high risks for divers. The length, type, and frequency of a dive also pose their own unique dangers. In addition, OSHA reports that professional divers regularly face the following hazards while working.
- Respiratory and circulatory dangers
- Low visibility
- Physical injury associated with operating heavy equipment under water
- Dysbarism, a term that encompasses any adverse health affects that result from a variation in ambient pressure that occur at a rate that outpaces the body’s ability to adapt in a safe manner. Types of dysbarism include nitrogen narcosis, decompression sickness (DCS), arterial gas emboli, and high-pressure neurological syndrome, or HPNS
There is certainly no shortage of job-related hazards when it comes to diving operations; certain tasks that underwater workers perform are notorious for being perilous, too. For example, commercial divers are vulnerable to sustaining injuries when conducting welding and cutting operations, hull scrubbing, materials handling, and using underwater hand and power tools.
OSHA’s Safety Alert
As you can see, working under water is an extremely dangerous line of employment. After the recent spate of fatalities, OSHA’s safety alert aims to directly address industry hazards and provide useful ways that employers can safeguard employees from sustaining preventable fatal and nonfatal injuries. One of the main hazards that OSHA addresses in its safety alert is drowning from exposure to Delta P. Delta P is a differential water pressure that creates a force so strongly and quickly that workers can become entrapped by it. Individuals that work around pipes, drains, tunnels, and valves, are particularly susceptible to Delta P forces. To reduce the risks associated with Delta P, OSHA requires contractor and facility managers to take the following precautions:
- Conduct pre-job safety briefs to discuss Delta P
- Identify and measure the force of Delta P
- If possible, perform a pre-dive inspection with remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs
- Use an effective lockout/tagout program to ensure that machinery is shut down and inoperable prior to the completion of any necessary maintenance or repair work. Employers must provide appropriate lockout/tagout training to workers, too
- Provide training to workers and ensure that all divers are properly qualified for the job at hand
OSHA recommends that diving contractors and facility operators also take additional safety measures, including:
- Update and review all facility drawings to reflect the most current piping, valve configuration, and alignment. Physically verify all information
- Verify zero energy by using meters, gauges, ROVs, SONAR, and confirmation from the diving contractor or facility operator
- Limit the length of a diver’s umbilical and use proper umbilical management techniques. A diver’s umbilical is the group of parts that supply breathing gas and other services from the surface point to the diver
- Inspect the diver’s umbilical before use and ensure maintenance between use and at product-specific time intervals
- Create a plan before every dive
When to Contact an Attorney
Every employer in the United States is generally responsible for providing workers with a workplace free from known health and safety hazards. Not only do employers need to provide safe workplaces, but they also must comply with certain safety standards, rules, and regulations. Federal law requires employers to follow different occupational safety standards depending on the nature of operations and the industry.
Even when employers are in compliance, injuries still happen. The risks that workers face are even higher when employers break the law by failing to maintain effective safety and health programs. When someone gets hurt on the job – and in most cases, whether it results from an employer’s negligence or not – they can file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers. A workers’ compensation claim can give injured workers and their family members peace of mind and some relief from the financial burden that all too often accompanies on-the-job accidents.
Similarly to employers, industrial tool, equipment, and machine manufacturers are also legally obligated to uphold numerous safety standards in order to protect workers and consumers. If someone sustains an injury that results from diving operations equipment being any of the following, he or she should consider filing a products liability claim.
- Defective or unsafe
- In a defective or unsafe working condition, like if the equipment has been inadequately maintained or inspected by staff
- Designed or maintained in such a way that it malfunctions, is unguarded, unsafely designed by the manufacturer, or comes without proper warnings and instruction for consumer use
Our firm has decades of experience representing injured workers. If you would like to learn more about filing a products liability or workers’ compensation claim, contact a representative online who can help now.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Victims of Negligence in the Workplace
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