USGS Home Page

U.S. Geological Survey Manual

SM 445-2-H CHAPTER 28

Underwater Diving Safety

28.1 Purpose and Scope.

A.  To specify the minimum Occupational Safety and Health Program (Program) requirements for the underwater diving safety program in the Department of the Interior (Department or DOI) and U.S. Geological Survey (Bureau or USGS).

B.  Provide the authority, policy, and responsibility to execute an occupational safety and health management program covering diving operations conducted by personnel and organizations of, or under the auspices of, the USGS.

C. This chapter specifies the minimum requirements for an underwater diving safety program. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that all underwater diving (hereafter referred to as diving) under the auspices of the USGS is conducted in a manner that will maximize protection of divers from accidental injury and/or illness.

D. These standards are intended to encourage and facilitate diving program reciprocity among the bureaus and other governmental agencies and academia through a sharing of diving expertise and resources. It will provide for bureau-specific approaches to diving, tailored to address their unique program mission, research, and resource management requirements. This chapter also establishes minimum diving, safety, training, equipment, and medical requirements.

E.  Diving is defined as any activity taking place underwater using self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA), surface-supplied air, mixed gases, enriched air (such as nitrox), or a rebreathing apparatus.

F.  The requirements contained in this Chapter are applicable to all diving activities performed by USGS personnel. The USGS is responsible for ensuring that contracted diving services are conducted in accordance with applicable local, State, and Federal regulations.

G.  This chapter is intended for USGS personnel and cooperative divers involved in official activities where any underwater breathing apparatus (other than a snorkel) is used. All diving operations must comply with the USGS Scientific Diving Safety Manual (DSM) at Web site,requiring diver authorization and dive plan approval before a dive takes place.

H.  Ensure that the USGS Scientific Diving Program remains in compliance with applicable OSHA regulations and the scientific diving exemption from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) commercial diving standards as well as DOI Safety and Health Handbook (485 DM).

I.  Ensure that the USGS Diving Safety Board (DSB) has, at minimum, the necessary authority to fulfill all obligations under OSHA regulations.

J.  Set forth minimum standards for conducting the USGS Scientific Diving Program and fundamental requirements and procedures to assure safety in scientific diving operations through the USGS DSM. The DSM also establishes a framework for reciprocity for organizations that adhere to these minimum standards for joint scientific projects.

28.2 References.

A. 29 CFR 1910, Subpart T, Commercial Diving Operations, and Appendix B, Guidelines for Scientific Diving.

B. American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z86.3, Minimum Course Content for Safe SCUBA Diving Instruction.

C. 29 CFR 1910.20, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records.

D. DOI Occupational Medicine Program Handbook.

E. USGS Diving Safety Manual.

28.3 Requirements.

A. USGS Programs.

(1) The USGS is to ensure that its diving policy is wholly consistent with OSHA requirements specified in 29 CFR 1910, Subpart T (Commercial Diving Operations), as amended and Appendix B (Guidelines for Scientific Diving) to that standard.

(2) The USGS will establish and maintain an active diving safety program. The program shall include provisions for the establishment of USGS Diving Control Board (DCB). The Board will meet or exceed the requirements in 29 CFR 1910, Subpart T, Appendix 1 (see 28.2.A of this chapter) and provides administrative oversight of the USGS diving safety program to ensure compliance with OSHA, Departmental and Bureau requirements.

(3) USGS organizations that conduct or participate in diving activities included in exemptions authorized under 29 CFR 1910.401(a)(2) will ensure that such activities are conducted in strict accordance with these exemptions. For diving activities conducted under the OSHA exemptions, the USGS will develop appropriate operational safety requirements to ensure that equivalent or greater safety precautions are instituted (see 27.3.E(1) and 1.F of this chapter). These measures shall be reviewed and approved by the USGS Diving Control Board.

B. Minimum Diver Requirements. Each diver must:

(1) Complete a course and be certified by a nationally recognized dive program/agency. The training, as a minimum, will meet the requirements of this section. The USGS will establish additional training requirements as necessary to ensure that divers are qualified to safely perform their mission.

(2) Take a drug test administered in accordance with 370 DM 792.9 and 792.10 for which a negative drug test is received prior to appointment. Once employed, the diver will be subject to the DOI’s random drug testing program.

(3) Undergo a periodic diving medical examination to determine individual’s fitness to dive. Guidance on medical examinations for underwater divers can be found in the Department of the Interior Occupational Medicine Program Handbook located at Handbook 2009Final.pdf .

(4) Complete a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) course, comparable to American Red Cross (ARC) or American Heart Association (AHA) Adult CPR, and a nationally recognized first aid course, taught by the ARC or AHA. Certifications must be current at the time of dive. Further emergency medical service training in diving-related subjects and oxygen administration is recommended.

(5) Make a minimum of 12 logged dives in 12 months with at least one dive in 6 months. The minimum requirements for a dive are use of an underwater breathing system by the diver and at least a 10-minute surface interval since the previous dive. Consecutive no-decompression dives with less than a 10-minute surface interval will be considered as a single dive.

(6) Complete a minimum of 40 hours of diving-related training over any 3-year period.

(7) Complete an annual test of diver physical fitness as defined by USGS requirements.

C. Equipment Inspection. All diving equipment used by a diver must be professionally inspected on an annual basis according to OSHA, industry, and/or manufacturers’ standards.

(1)  All equipment used in any diving operation, regardless of ownership, shall be well maintained, complete and in proper order, and be thoroughly tested according to industry and/or OSHA requirements prior to any dive operation.

(2)  Records of equipment maintenance and repair shall be maintained for a minimum of 3 years.

D. Recordkeeping.

(1) All divers will maintain a personal dive log of each dive performed (record of dive). Bureaus will ensure that accurate dive logs are maintained and tabulated on an annual basis.

(2) A log of all equipment modification, repairs, tests, calibration, and maintenance will be maintained.

(3) Underwater diving safety records identified above will be retained as required by 29 CFR 1910.440(b) (see Appendix 28-1, Underwater Diving Recordkeeping Requirements). Diver medical records will be maintained in accordance with the requirements of 28.2.C of this chapter (i.e., 29 CFR 1910.20, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records).

E. Diving Safety Manual.

(1) The USGS will develop and maintain a safe practices manual which includes, as a minimum, the following: procedures covering all diving operations specific to the program; procedures for emergency management, including recompression and evacuation; identification and use of appropriate dive tables; criteria for diver training and certification;and aviation flight restrictions following dive operations. The manual will also include appropriate operational safety requirements covering, at a minimum, dive team composition, required equipment, use of hand-held tools and equipment, and pre- and post-dive procedures.

(a)  A Diving Safety Manual (DSM) shall be prepared to provide guidance to personnel conducting diving activities. The DSM shall cover the following:

(i)  Required procedures for diving under USGS auspices.

(ii)  Emergency rescue and care procedures including recompression and evacuation.

(iii)  Criteria for diver training and certification.

(iv)  Establish operational guidelines for the USGS DSB.

(b)  USGS personnel shall meet the following certification requirements prior to being assigned diving duties:

(i)  Hold a current SCUBA certification card (“C” card) issued by an approved national or international underwater diving organization. The training must meet, at a minimum, the requirements of American National Standards Institute Z86.3 standard.

(ii)  Pass a comprehensive physical examination as outlined in the USGS DSM.

(iii)  Demonstrate diving proficiency and competence by fulfilling the requirements listed in Chapter 5.1.C of the USGS-DSM.

(iv)  Forward copies of “C” card and copy of dive logs through the Field Dive Officer (FDO), to the DSB for final approval.

(v)  Forward the original medical examination, medical history, and test results to the appropriate USGS servicing Human Resources Office.

(vi)  Hold a current certification in both CPR and basic/standard first-aid.

(c)  In order to maintain diving certification all USGS divers are required during any 12-month period to:

(i)  Log the minimum number of dives as required in the DSM to maintain certification.

(ii)  Maintain diving proficiency and training as outlined in the DSM.

(iii)  Pass a medical examination as required in the DSM.

(iv)  Maintain a current certification in CPR and basic/standard first-aid.

(v)  If a scientific diver’s certification/authorization to dive for the USGS expires or is suspended or revoked, the diver may be reauthorized after complying with such conditions as the DSO or DSB may impose. Divers shall be given an opportunity to present their case to the DSB before conditions for recertification are stipulated.

(2)  USGS programs will include provisions for establishment of a USGA DSB to provide oversight to ensure a mission-related Diving Safety Program is maintained.

(3)  The USGS DSB, with the majority of its members being active divers, shall have the authority to approve and monitor diving projects; review, revise Bureau dive safety policy; ensure compliance with the manual; certify the depths to which a diver has been trained; take disciplinary action for unsafe practices; and ensure adherence to the buddy system (a diver is accompanied by and is in continuous contact with another diver in the water) for SCUBA diving.

(4)  The USGS DSB shall consist of one USGS Regional Dive Safety Officer in regions where diving is taking place, and up to three Field Dive Safety Officers from local science program organizations within each respective region. In addition, the USGS DSB will also consist of a member from the Bureau Safety and Environmental Branch. The majority of USGS DSB members shall be active scientific divers.

(5) The USGS program will include provisions for conducting appropriate dive planning, together with preparation of written diving plans prior to initiating specific diving operations. Diving plans will include an activity hazard analysis for each diving assignment/operation.

F.  Specialty and Technical Diving. USGS divers engaged in specialty and technical diving including, but not limited to, decompression diving, closed circuit diving, mixed gas diving, surface-supplied diving, and high altitude diving or cave diving must establish operational procedures specific to the specialty or technical diving covered. These procedures will be incorporated in the DSM (see 28.3.E of this chapter) and will include specific safety and training requirements needed to comply with OSHA (for nonexempted diving activities), community, and/or manufacturers’ standards.

G.  Diving Safety Work Group. The Department has established a standing Diving Safety Work Group to serve as a forum for peer group discussion of diving safety issues and that meets as necessary. The Office of Managing Risk and Public Service serves as the point of contact for the Work Group.

28.4 Responsibilities.

A.  Bureau Designated Safety and Health Official (DASHO). Provides appropriate personnel and budgetary resources to establish a Bureau-wide dive safety program.

B.  Bureau Safety Manager.

(1)  Provides administrative support to the Bureau Dive Officer and DCB, as appropriate.

(2)  Maintains and updates USGS Dive Safety Program Web site.

(3)  Provides for establishment of a DCB that advises the Bureau DASHO through ad hoc membership on the Bureau Safety, Health, and Environmental Council to address all diving issues and to review all accidents related to diving, inclusive of making recommendations to prevent recurrence of similar accidents.

C.  USGS Diving Safety Officer (DSO).

(1)  Serves as a member of the DSB and is an authorized USGS diver.

(2)  Serves as the Bureau DCB Chair. Coordinates meetings and agendas and publishes minutes.

(3)  Assists in the drafting of new or revised standards for USGS diving programs.

(4)  Coordinates with the DCB to compile a fiscal year diving program action/accomplishment plan and submit annually to the USGS DASHO through the Bureau Safety Manager.

(5)  Completes a dive program self-assessment.

(6)  Provides advice and will work with other Department DSB/DSO to develop Department policy and underwater diving safety standards.

(7)  Provides technical assistance to supervisors and local dive operations with regards to the use of safety protocols and equipment.

(8)  Complete a dive program self-assessment annually.

D.  USGS Dive Safety Board (DSB).

(a)  Appoints a DSO and approves Regional DSO’s.

(b)  Develops the USGS DSM, reviews and revises the DSM as required to maintain currency and reviews and revises the USGS 445-2-H Dive Chapter.

(c)  Submits USGS Dive Program Web-page content and reviews documents and protocols/charters, etc., as appropriate.

(d)  Supports the Bureau Safety and Environmental Management Branch in the investigation of all dive safety accidents/incidents (i.e., inquiring into the nature and cause of all diving related accidents, incidents, and reports of noncompliance with the DSM standards) and provides recommendations for corrective action.

(e)  Establishes and approves training programs and authorizationrequirements for divers.

(f)  Coordinates with Bureau and Regional Safety Managers on training and dive operations.

(g)  Advises the Bureau DASHO and Bureau Safety Manager on matters of diving policy.

(h)  Develops and maintains diving information management systems, with assistance from Regional and Bureau Safety Managers.

(i)  Reviews the latest diving technology and procedures and disseminate information to the USGS diving community through appropriate organizational contacts.

E.  Regional Safety Managers/Officers. Provide support and assistance to field organizational Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinators (CDSPC’s) and Field Dive Safety Officers in establishing and implementing dive safety program requirements and training.

F.  Organizational Managers and Supervisors.

(1)  Maintain current diving authorization as outlined in the USGS DSM for all USGS and cooperative divers under their direction.

(2)  Conduct all diving operations under their jurisdiction in accordance with the requirements of this chapter and the DSM.

(3)  Submit dive plans through the local CDSPC to a member of the USGS DSB or a USGS Field Dive Officer authorized to approve dive plans, with a copy to the DSO and Regional Safety Officer or Regional Safety Manager, as applicable.

G.  Field Dive Safety Officers (FDO’s).

(1)  Review and approve all dive plans to ensure compliance with requirements set forth in this chapter and the DSM.

(2)  Provide advice and guidance to local diving projects.

(3)  Advise supervisors and the DSB, as appropriate, of unsafe diving practices discovered through a review of accident and incident reports or by supervisor requests.

(4)  Transmit records to the DSO’s for the preparation of the annual report to the USGS DASHO through the Bureau Safety Manager.

(5)  Participate in Regional Safety Committees.

H.  Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinators (CDSPC’s).

(1)  Assist supervision in coordinating approval of local dive plans.

(2)  Maintain approved plans and provide a copy to the regional DSO, as applicable.

I.  Lead Diver. One member of the dive team will be designated as lead diver. The lead diver will act as the DSO’s representative on each dive.

J.  Individual Diver(s). As a member of the dive team, the individual diver is responsible for his/her own safety, the safety of the other team members, and compliance with DSM requirements.

28.5 Additional Resources.

A.  Underwater Diving (dive web):

B.  Diver’s Alert Network,

C.  NOAA Diving Manual,

D.  American Academy of Underwater Sciences,

SM 445-2-H Table of Contents || Handbooks || Survey Manual Home Page
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, USA
Contact: APS, Office of Policy and Analysis
Content Information Contact:
Last modification: 24-Mar-2011@15:52 (kk)