Commercial diving in Texas is a hazardous profession with many opportunities for on-the-job accidents.
Most people hear the word “diving” and conjure up images of scuba dives around coral reefs or snorkeling through clear waters to see beautiful marine wildlife while on vacation. For commercial divers exploring the depths of Texas waterways, though, the picture isn’t quite as serene. Their jobs, and their very lives, depend upon having a healthy respect for the water, and a keen focus upon their duties.
Unfortunately, even the most prepared and diligent diver can be hurt on the job. The profession of commercial diving is fraught with danger from underwater equipment, incompetent or inexperienced boat captains and dive supervisors, rapidly changing weather conditions topside, rough seas, faulty oxygen tanks, wildlife and other vessels in the area.
Understanding the possible risks – and possible injuries that could happen – can help foster communication between injured commercial divers and the insurance companies or third parties accountable for those injuries (particularly in cases involving complex maritime laws like the Jones Act or the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act).
Some dive boat accidents are just that: accidents. They may happen to an experienced crew who followed all the rules and regulations promulgated by federal and state agencies (like the U.S. Coast Guard and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) exactly. Other times, though, an injury-causing accident can be pinpointed to a particular negligent act or error on behalf of a boat captain, supervisor, fellow diver, supply manufacturer, property owner, oil company representative or other maritime worker.
For example, the failure of a boat captain to make allowances for rough conditions above – and below – the water line can leave divers in dire straits. Other accidents could be caused by faulty tank gauges giving improper readings, leaving a diver thinking he has sufficient air for a dive but being stranded underwater, unable to breathe. Improperly maintained equipment could create a situation where a diver’s pressurized suit begins to leak, putting him at risk for drowning, getting the “bends” when surfacing and developing hypothermia.
Many divers – particularly those working on huge oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, working with a salvage crew or performing underwater construction – also must deal with dangers often seen aboveground on construction sites, such as cutting tools, welding, operating heavy equipment and handling hazardous materials. This type of work is hazardous on the surface; the dangers are magnified in the water, due in no small part to the fact that it may take longer for a diver to reach medical attention.
Divers face being injured in myriad ways while on the job. They not only face respiratory ailments and the possibility of drowning, but must also contend with more “exotic” injuries like the “bends” (also known as “decompression illness”), the negative effects of differential pressure, brain damage from an incorrect air/gas mixture, heavy equipment/crush injuries, broken bones from being tossed around by waves and injuries from striking propellers or other vessel parts.