In 1997 the Health and Safety Executive approved 5 codes of practice, called ACoPs, for the different diving sectors where divers are considered to be at work. These include Commercial Diving Projects Offshore, Commercial Diving Projects Inland / Inshore, Media Diving Projects, Recreational Diving Projects and Scientific and Archaeological Diving Projects. These were all reviewed recently and the changes came into force on the 8th December 2014.
What exactly is an ACoP and what is it for?
An ACoP is an Approved Code Of Practice. It gives practical advice on how to comply with the Diving Regulations and the duties imposed by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. ACoPs are books which contain the text from the Diving at Work Regulations 1997, along with explanatory guidance for each section on how best to comply with law. You might say, putting it in layman’s terms and explaining what you need to do.
Recent changes to the Offshore and Inshore Diving ACoPs
Changes were made to all 5 ACoPs based on input from public consultation, and with the help of several parties including diving contractors, divers, and trade associations. Each comment was reviewed by the Chief Inspector of Diving and his team; the aim being to update, simplify and improve the existing ACoPs, and also to reflect changes in technology and industry practices.
How do these changes affect commercial divers?
Changes to the Offshore ACoP
- The Offshore code now includes diving in connection with energy sources other than oil and gas, and includes projects in support of renewable energy.
- The maximum partial pressure of oxygen that a diver may be exposed to in the water is now reduced from 1.5 bar to 1.4 bar. 1.4 bar has been widely used as the maximum PPO2as it’s stated in IMCA’s guidance. Many companies choose to go lower than the maximum recommended PPO2 to err on the safe side, but this can have an affect on the maximum operating depth when using specific Nitrox mixes. Some commonly used decompression tables allow for in-water decompression on a higher PPO2; the ACoP now explains that this type of decompression requires the risks to be assessed by the contractor; whereas before the PPO2 limit would have excluded the use of such procedures.
- Another change for Closed Bell diving is that divers on a 3 man bell run take a break within the first 4 hours of the start of the lock-out, rather than being “offered” a break as was previously the case. This positive change will no doubt be welcomed by divers.
Changes to the Inshore ACoP
- One of the most noticeable changes to the Inshore ACoP is that the minimum team size for a surface supplied Diving Operation has gone up from 4 to 5. This is a positive change as it was often noted that if the standby diver was deployed on a team of 4 then the team would struggle: the Supervisor would have to manage the incident and perhaps have to dress and attend to the standby’s umbilical. This is good news for divers as there is more chance of work to make up the team size for contractors who still opted for a team of 4, but the cost of hiring a dive team will undoubtedly go up. This cost will be handed over to the client hiring the team. Where risk assessment allows for the conditions to be considered safe for the use of Scuba inshore, a team of 4 may still be used. It is now made clear that standby divers “should remain” on the surface during a Diving Operation. This cleared up the historic grey area of whether 2 divers could look after each other in the water.
- The requirement for a decompression chamber to be on site has been reviewed. Previously it was based on the planned time of the decompression stop: now contractors have to take into account the nature of the diving before deciding if a chamber is required on site. Risk assessment would include multiple ascents, hard work and water temperature.
Information on all of the HSE ACoPs can be found here. For more information on commercial diving visit our website here.