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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.
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January 10, 2003
Contact: Bill Wright
Phone: (202) 693-1999

OSHA Proposes Revision to Commercial Diving Standard
Amendment codifies three-year old variance on decompression chamber requirements

WASHINGTON -- Recreational diving instructors and diving guides would be allowed to use alternatives to an on-site decompression chamber under OSHA's proposed amendment to its Commercial Diving Operations standard, the agency announced today. The proposal is published in today's Federal Register.

The proposed changes to the standard would allow these particular divers the opportunity to use nitrox breathing gas under specified conditions, thereby making a decompression chamber near the dive site unnecessary. The changes impact recreational divers who rely on self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) and dive at depths of 130 feet or less. The revision does not change requirements for commercial divers who do not regularly use SCUBA gear due to the nature of their work and the length of time they must spend underwater.

"The diving industry has developed innovative diving methods and procedures that have helped prevent and treat diving accidents such as decompression sickness and embolism," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "By relieving many of the industry's employers of an unnecessary regulatory requirement, we believe our proposed revision will help them focus even more on the safety and health of their workers."

In nitrox diving, a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen gases replaces compressed air as the breathing gas. The partial pressure of nitrogen (the gas that causes decompression sickness) in the gas mixture is lower than compressed air, and that lower pressure allows the diver to remain longer at specified depths than conventional SCUBA divers who breathe compressed air at those depths, and to do so without increasing their risk of decompression sickness.

OSHA is basing its proposal on a variance granted to Florida-based Dixie Divers, Inc. in 1999. That variance exempted Dixie from OSHA's decompression-chamber requirements for recreational diving instructors and diving guides, under the same conditions mentioned above. The proposal will incorporate the terms and conditions of that variance into the standard itself.

Comments on the proposed revisions must be submitted by Apr. 10, 2003. To submit comments by regular mail, express delivery, hand delivery or messenger service, send three copies and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S-550, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. You may also fax comments (10 pages or fewer) to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648. Include the docket number in your comments. Finally, comments may be submitted electronically through the Internet at Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is dedicated to saving lives, preventing injuries and illnesses, and protecting America's workers. Safety and health add value to business, the workplace and life. For more information, visit


This news release text is on the Internet at Information on this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 693-1999.
Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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