UNDERWATER Magazine had the opportunity to speak with David Dodd, Vice President, Diving Operations, CONSOR Engineers, LLC, and chairman of the ADCI-OSHA Delta P Task Force.
How did you land in the underwater industry? What has been your most influential job/position? Any memorable mentors?
I was an Army Diver for 20 years supporting the Army Corps of Engineers around the world. That career led me into the heavy underwater construction business as a diver, diving supervisor and superintendent. Eventually, I moved into the structural inspection specialty. In total, I have spent 42 years in the underwater industry with some amazing organizations and team members.
It is difficult to single out one most influential job because each position had unique characteristics and challenges. As a diving supervisor, I have had the opportunity to mentor divers as their careers develop and instill in them a passion for excellence and commitment to safety. In my current role as VP of Diving Operations at CONSOR Engineers, I educate non-diving project managers on diving and diving safety best practices and how to utilize our highly trained engineer and technician divers most effectively. Training non-divers to think about safety the way we do it smooths the way for safe and efficient operations.
I have had many mentors throughout my career that taught me everything from how to rebuild a non-return on a MK V to the proper way to cook an octopus. Roy Coker is one mentor that stands out, a true deep-sea diving man’s man. Roy always spoke clearly, distinctly, and with authority and knowledge. Roy taught me volumes about being a good diver but, his leadership lessons were even more valuable. Roy’s lessons, on courage, compassion and grace were great building blocks for many leaders through the years.
Can you identify the top safety concerns in commercial diving?
Delta P is the top safety concern in commercial diving today. As most of your readers know, we had five fatalities between June 2019 and July 2021 due to differential pressure hazards. That statistic should keep all of us awake at night. All these fatalities occurred in power generation facilities. While most divers associate Delta P hazards with some sort of industrial plant, we need to remain aware in other environments such as ships husbandry, pipelines and dams to name a few.
Complacency is also a leading cause of preventable accidents. If we are repeating the same tasks day after day, it is human nature to become too comfortable with processes. For example, do you use a checklist for conducting maintenance, or have you done the maintenance so many times that you think you have it memorized? Whose life do you want to bet on your memory? Or, if you are working in less than say 10 feet of water, do you have the standby divers gear set up and ready? Or is it too shallow to worry about?
How have you and the ADCI addressed these concerns? Can you tell me more about your work with the Delta P Task Force?
Our Executive Director, Phil Newsum, met with the Director of the Office of Maritime Enforcement at OSHA to discuss the rising number of fatalities due to Delta P hazards. From this meeting came the idea to form the Delta P task force to tackle the problem head-on. I was asked to be the task force chairman and gladly accepted. The task force grew out of a small group of experts from three diving companies, one technology firm, OSHA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the ADCI. Within a month or so, we had recruited experts from the Electric Power Research Institute and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, as well. The task force produced what I consider to be one of the main deliverables, the Delta P Checklist for Contractors. It is not possible to create a checklist that covers all scenarios and all circumstances. This checklist is intended to provoke thought and conversation that will in turn result in hazards being eliminated or mitigated. The checklist can be found on the ADCI website under safety resources and is intended to be used in conjunction with the Delta P Checklist for Facility Operators, which is due to come out next month. This checklist is a living document so always ensure you have the latest version.
How is the ADCI planning to get its safety recommendations out to those stakeholders who desperately need them?
In addition to the ADCI website, the online Underwater Magazine, and numerous social media platforms, you will be seeing YouTube programs as well as podcasts. The ADCI, like every other trade organization in the world, has embraced social media to get our critical safety messages out to members and non-members alike.
With such a busy professional life, what advice would you give ADCI members about finding time to be involved with the association?
Becoming involved with the ADCI is like putting my time (which is money) where my mouth is. I can’t talk about making diving safety and training better without getting into the weeds and helping to make things better for our divers. It is very rewarding to me to think that I may have had a small part in getting divers home safely. If you are passionate about any of the efforts on which the ADCI is working, we want you to get involved! Contact any of the board of directors, chapter chairmen or committee chairpersons to volunteer your time and talents.
We all lead busy work and personal lives and strive for a healthy work-life balance. I struggle with finding that balance at times but, giving up some free time to promote diving safety is worth every minute.
Where do you see the commercial diving industry in 5 years?
Commercial diving has been a vital part of infrastructures throughout the world for a very long time and will be far into the future. Speaking strictly about the United States, our infrastructure is in rough shape, to say the least. Divers will be needed to rebuild or make the much-needed repairs. With the declining number of commercial dive schools in the US and a steadily increasing number of diving contractors in we may very well find ourselves with a shortage of qualified commercial divers. For a young person wanting to embark on what could be a long career, this would be a great time to get on board.