First aid requirements for diving

As part of diver training and assessment, commercial divers in Great Britain are taught diving physiology (which includes the function of the nervous and musculoskeletal systems), and diving medicine (which includes decompression illness and ear problems). 

At the same time as the diver undertakes training and assessment, they will also be taught and assessed for separate first-aid and oxygen administration qualifications (oxygen administration is an essential element of diving first aid procedures). Both these qualifications will be valid for three years.

HSE has published information on the selection of a competent first aid training provider. For oxygen administration refresher training, "in house" training by the diving contractor may be considered.  In this case, the diving contractor will need to ensure that training is conducted by competent instructors. It is recommended that any such training is fully documented and the results of any exams or competence assessments are recorded.

Commercial diving projects inland/inshore

While it is not a requirement for all inland/inshore divers to hold a valid first-aid and oxygen administration certificate the diving contractor has a responsibility to ensure that suitable and sufficient people are available at the dive site to provide first aid. It is an Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) requirement that at least two people of the team should be qualified in first aid. The supervisor should be responsible for arranging their duties so that one of them should be able to administer first aid.

Commercial diving projects offshore

It is an ACOP requirement that all members of the dive team should be competent in the provision of first aid and hold a current qualification in first aid. In addition at least one person in the dive team, other than the diver in the water, should be qualified to a diver medic standard. This person should not be the dive supervisor because of his or her need to be in direct control of the operation at all times. There are situations where additional members of the dive team should be qualified to a diver medic standard. The diving contractor's risk assessment should consider the numbers required to be qualified to this standard.

The diver medic qualification requires renewal every two years (during the final three months or within eight weeks after the expiry of a certificate). Where a diver has a diver medic qualification, they do not need to also hold a first aid qualification.

Details of diver medic courses are available from the International Marine Contractors Association .

Scientific/archaeological, media and recreational diving projects

The diving contractor is responsible for ensuring that enough people in the diving project are trained and competent in first aid. The risk assessment should identify the first-aid equipment required on site and the number of qualified personnel needed to use it.

The risk assessment should take into account the type of diving taking place, the size of the team and the distance of the dive site from the emergency services. It is sensible to have more than one person in the team qualified in first aid in case that person becomes injured. Those who are qualified should not hold other important duties which could conflict with the need to administer first aid in an emergency.

There are situations where some members of the dive team should have additional training in first aid. The need for additional training may arise where remoteness from local emergency medical services means that there is a need to maintain life until the emergency medical services are able to assume responsibility; or where the diver requiring first aid is inside a compression chamber and medical assistance cannot be provided by normal emergency medical services. First aid at work (L74) sets out additional advice for those areas where special additional training may be necessary to cover less common risks.

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Updated 2020-12-03