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July 14, 2011
Contact: Office of Communications
Phone: 202-693-1999

OSHA revises directive for reducing, eliminating hazards
in commercial diving operations

WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently revised a directive* that provides guidance on OSHA procedures aimed at eliminating hazards and reducing worker injuries, illnesses and deaths during commercial diving operations.

"Commercial divers who spend extended periods of time underwater are exposed to hazards such as drowning, circulatory and respiratory problems, and hypothermia," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "The guidance provided in this directive will help ensure consistent enforcement and compliance with OSHA's commercial diving operations standards."

OSHA's commercial diving standard (29 CFR 1910 Subpart T), issued in 1977, applies to diving and related support operations in the general, construction and maritime industries. OSHA published a Federal Register notice in January 1985 that exempts scientific diving from the commercial diving standard's requirements if those diving operations meet certain conditions. OSHA amended the standard in February 2004 to allow recreational diving instructors and guides to comply with an alternative set of requirements instead of the decompression chamber requirements in the existing standard.

This revised directive updates the Subpart T - Commercial Diving Operations directive issued in 2006. Changes in the current directive include:

  • providing information to OSHA compliance officers, consultants, government and industry groups in support of interventions to help minimize worker exposure to commercial diving hazards
  • listing answers to commonly asked questions about commercial diving operations
  • clarifying the requirements for and duties of workers who assist divers with their diving suits and gear, communications equipment and other functions
  • updating the instruction to ensure that current editions of other OSHA instructions, as well as industry standards and manuals, are referenced
  • updating the instruction about no-decompression air dives (Appendix D) based on Revision 6 of the U.S. Navy Diving Manual, and
  • adding electronic links to enhance the directive's Web-based usability.

Included in the directive are inspection procedures for before, during and after dives, equipment maintenance and recordkeeping requirements. The directive is available on OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page on Commercial Diving, along with commercial diving standards specific to shipyard employment, marine terminals and longshoring, hazards and solutions, and safety and health programs.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to assure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit


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