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Commercial divers’ medical fitness and assessment during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

In the light of advice from Public Health England on COVID-19, HSE issued guidance (on 24 March 2020), setting out a proportionate and flexible approach so that medical assessment of commercial divers can continue.

This advice set out below updates that guidance. It continues to balance the need to protect divers’ health, safety and welfare with the current constraints of the coronavirus pandemic. It also takes account of emerging evidence on lung and cardiac changes in people with COVID-19.

The guidance came into effect on 27 May 2020. HSE will continue to review it as appropriate.

Under the Diving at Work Regulations 1997, divers:

  • must not dive in a diving project if they know of anything, including any illness or medical condition, which makes them unfit to dive
  • under certain circumstances following illness or injury, must be re-examined by an approved medical examiner of divers (AMED) to assess their fitness to return to work (see below)

When you can return to diving after COVID-19 infection

COVID-19 status Minimum recovery time (with no symptoms) before diving can resume Return to work assessment by an AMED required
Previously asymptomatic and tested positive for coronavirus 1 month No
Previously had mild symptoms that improved within a week with complete recovery. Back to your usual levels of fitness 1 month No
Previously had moderate symptoms. Back to your usual levels of fitness 2 months Yes
Previously had severe symptoms requiring hospitalisation. Back to your usual levels of fitness 3 months Yes

Arrangements for medical assessments

Interim telephone assessments

Divers may be able to have an interim telephone assessment by an AMED if they:

  • have had no symptoms
  • did not need to self-isolate
  • have had similar symptoms to COVID-19, but tested negative

Divers meeting these criteria who, because of restrictions due to COVID-19, cannot find an AMED to provide a face-to-face medical examination, may be able to get a medical certificate of shorter validity by doing a phone interim assessment with an AMED.

The AMED should obtain a completed medical questionnaire from the diver as a self-declaration plus their last MA2 form and do a phone consultation. Providing there are no problems and the diver’s last medical certificate was for 12 months, they can issue a medical certificate for 3 months.

At the end of the 3-month extension period, an AMED should perform a face-to-face medical examination to renew the diver’s certificate.

A medical certificate for longer than the 3-month extension period can only be issued by AMEDs who conduct a face-to-face medical examination in accordance with MA1.

Divers with automatic extensions up to 1 June 2020

Under the previous HSE guidance issued on 24 March 2020, some divers had an automatic extension of their medical certificate to 1 June 2020. For such divers the AMED can follow the interim assessment arrangements explained above.

If there are no problems, they can issue a new medical certificate which extends the diver’s 12-month certificate up to a maximum of 3 months from its expiry date. For example, if the diver’s certificate expired on 10 April and was automatically extended to 1 June, the AMED can issue a certificate with an expiry date of 10 July.

At the end of the 3-month extension period, an AMED should perform a face-to-face medical examination to renew the diver’s certificate.

All other divers

All other divers will need to have a full medical in accordance with the requirements of MA1. In some circumstances, a medical without the breathing (spirometry) test can be performed. If this is the case, and the medical assessment is satisfactory, a 6-month medical certificate may be issued.

Where a diver requires an initial medical, the AMED should obtain a completed medical questionnaire from the individual, countersigned by their GP, and conduct a full medical examination in accordance with MA1.

In all cases, the divers should discuss options and availability with their AMED.

Specific guidance is being provided to AMEDs by HSE, and this will be regularly reviewed to ensure it reflects the most up-to-date position.

Contacting us if you have questions

If you have any questions, please contact [email protected]

Page last reviewed: 1 December 2020

Next review due: 31 December 2020

2020-06-11