By Phil Newsum
Between May and July of 2019, we saw an uptick in fatalities and near-misses in the U.S. and Mexico. Additionally, there were several fatalities in Brazil in 2018 and 2019. In our industry, there will always be risks associated with divers working in the inhospitable underwater environment. However, it is frustrating to see incidents occur that are repeats of those that have already provided us with lessons learned.
Whether it is underwater excavation, differential pressure, or equipment failure, all of these have specific guidelines, safety notices, or videos outlining numerous best practices to mitigate known hazards. If it involves life-support equipment, there are volumes of checklists and recommended precautions that manufacturers have issued for proper usage, maintenance, and testing.
So where is the disconnect? Are operations being conducted without proper risk assessments (RA), Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) or equipment checks? Is there some question as to what constitutes a proper RA or JHA?
At first thought, you would assume that most, if not all, companies and training facilities would be well versed in what constitutes performing a proper RA or JHA. A JHA essentially three elements:
- Identification of the task to be performed,
- Identification of the potential hazards associated with performing the above task,
- Identification of the steps to be taken to mitigate the potential hazards.
In many cases, a company or school’s Job Hazard Analysis is more detailed and covers other specific components of a task. Yet, there are some key areas that tend to be overlooked when formulating and conducting the JHA. These areas should also include:
- Identification of any regulations associated with the assigned task,
- Identification of any and all company policies and procedures associated with the assigned task,
- Identification of the current recommended guidelines and safe practices as outlined in the ADCI Consensus Standards for the assigned task.
Despite how detailed or all-encompassing a JHA can be, it still comes down to personnel on the job taking the time and focus to perform the task in a safe manner. Are personnel at all levels of the operation properly trained? Have steps been taken for clear and immediate communication to respond to concerns or new developments with the project? These are all critical questions that need to be asked and answered, prior to the conduct of operations.
The purpose of my message is not to play the armchair quarterback, but to serve as a reminder that some of the basic questions that should be posed can be unintentionally overlooked.
Lastly, I want to invite any individual, company, or school to provide a presentation at Underwater Intervention 2020. Whether it covers a specific project, lessons learned, innovative testing procedures, new equipment, diver education, or hyperbaric medicine, there is a track for your presentation. Go to www.underwaterintervention.com for further details.