The Last Word

Dan Kuhs


UNDERWATER Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Dan Kuhs, Piledriver/Diver/Marine Construction Consultant, United Brotherhood of Carpenters

UNDERWATER MAGAZINE: How did you get involved in commercial diving? What are your responsibilities at your current job?

DAN KUHS: When asked as a child, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered, “a deep sea diver.” I had no illusions of scuba diving. I wanted to be dressed out in Mark V heavy gear. Having grown up in rural western New York, I have no idea where that came from, but I consistently repeated it. I attended the Commercial Dive Center in Wilmington, Calif., in January 1980. C.D.C. was owned by Oceaneering at that time. After finishing dive school, I joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (U.B.C.) Pile Drivers Local #56 in Boston, Mass. The Pile Drivers are the Marine/Heavy Civil Construction division of the Carpenter’s Union, and as such, cover the trade autonomy of the commercial diver. I worked in the field as a diver, welder and pile driver until 1997. In August of that year, I took a position as the Business Manager of Local Union #56. In August 2016, I retired as Senior Regional Manager, and was asked to become the Pile Driver/Diver/Marine Construction Consultant for the international office of the U.B.C.

UM: How have you been involved with ADCI?

DK: One of my first goals as Business Manager in 1997, was having the local union join the ADCI., as I recognized it as being the organization setting the standards for dive safety in the U.S. At that time, we were an anomaly as a labor organization joining a contractor group. I was able to stay informed and offer written comment on dive regulations, including OSHA., Coast Guard, Army Corp. and ADCI Consensus Standards revisions. In my current role as a consultant, I’m able to use the same focus on a national level. With the help of Phil Newsum and Jon Hazelbaker, we have been able to facilitate a dive superintendent course which will be taught at the U.B.C. International Training Center. All courses are available to the 1000+ divers represented by the U.B.C. nationally at no cost to the employer. I have also been asked to participate in the ADCI safety committee.

UM: What has been the most rewarding part of your career in the underwater industry?

DK: I have been extremely fortunate to work as a diver on some of the largest marine projects in the Northeast, including the Deer Island Outfall project and The Boston Third Harbor Tunnel. At the local level, I have crafted agreements that make our signatory contracts more productive and our membership safe and well trained. In my consulting position, I’ve been able to expand on this by helping to craft national and international working agreements and help facilitate training programs that benefit both the contractors and U.B.C. members nationwide.

UM: What types of issues are most prevalent in the industry now? How would you like to see ADCI approach these?

DK: I think there are two issues that need to be addressed. As with all industries, there needs to be a balance between an aging workforce and new talent. The recent dive school graduate will be more technologically skilled and aware of the importance of keeping all certificates and dive logs current. However, all dive schools need a vetting process/aptitude test for acceptance into their program. An individual who is not mechanically inclined will struggle in a career as a diver. As the old industry saying goes, “the hat doesn’t come with a set of brains.” A diver needs to be able to perform tasks such as burning, welding, rigging on deck, to be able to successfully perform them in the water. Secondly, ADCI and IMCA need to continue to move forward in the recognition of their common ground. The need for contractors to maintain compliance with both is costly in time and money.

UM: Where will the industry be in five years?

DK: I am hopeful that the Coast Guard will have finalized and promulgated 46 C.F.R. Part 197, Subpart B Commercial Diving Operations. When I graduated from dive school in 1980, we were given a copy of the ADCI Consensus Standards, which was 36 pages long. The current 6.3 edition is a great resource of 357 pages. This is a reflection of how the industry has changed and how the ADCI has kept pace with it.