What regulations apply to diving in the UK?

The main set of regulations that apply to diving are the Diving at Work Regulations 1997 (DWR). DWR cover all divers when one of more divers are at work, whether employed or self employed.

What do I have to do to comply with the regulations?

That depends on what sort of dive project you are involved in. There are five Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) which give advice on how to comply with the law. These Codes are for different sectors of the commercial diving industry and cover:

What is the minimum age for diving at work?

There is no lower or upper age limit set for divers. However, it is unusual for anyone below school-leaving age to undergo commercial diver training and no one under 18 is accepted for work offshore.  All divers must be fit and competent to dive. Further advice can be found here.

If I hire a diving contractor to do work, do I have any duties under the regulations?

Yes. Everyone involved in a diving project has responsibilities. This includes clients, dive site owners, boat operators, crane operators etc. Further details can be found in the Approved Codes of Practice.

Do I need to notify HSE that I am a dive contractor?

If you are a dive contractor, you need to notify HSE. You do not need to notify HSE if you are diving under the Recreational Approved Code of Practice.

What are the rules regarding shellfish diving?

The Diving at Work Regulations apply to shellfish diving unless you are collecting the shellfish for your own personal consumption.  HSE has produced a leaflet on how shellfish divers can comply with the law – Commercial Shellfish Diving in Inshore Water

What if I dive at work under yachts and small vessels to clean hulls and carry out minor repairs?

This type of diving falls under the Diving at Work Regulations, and would come under the Inland/inshore ACOP. You will need to notify HSE that you are a dive contractor, have an adequate team size and ensure that the divers and supervisor have the appropriate diving qualification.

Do I have to comply with the regulations if I am diving in a swimming pool or tank?

Yes – although some of the requirements may be relaxed in certain situations

What are the requirements if I want to dive to collect golf balls?

Diving in a pond or lake to collect golf balls will come under the Inland/inshore ACOP.  You will need to notify HSE that you are a dive contractor, have an adequate team size and ensure that the divers and supervisor have the appropriate diving qualification.

What are the rules for recreational instruction and/or guiding?

If the instructor or dive guide is at work, then the Diving at Work Regulations will apply and the recreational ACOP should be followed. If you are paying for an instructor or guide use this information sheet to check on what is required.

Do the regulations apply if I am diving for fun or diving where no-one is at work?

The regulations do not apply.  HSE does however recommend that you follow any guidance provided by your recreational diver training agency.

If I take photos or videos during a recreational training dive, do I have to comply with the Media ACOP?

A. No - this is considered to be within a recreational diving project.

If I take photos and sell them to a recreational diving magazine, do I have to comply with the Media ACOP?

A. No. The recreational ACOP covers "recreational journalism", which is specific to commissions, articles and photographs for the recreational diving press.  Any commissions, articles and photographs for other sectors of the media industry requires the Media ACOP to be followed.

A. It is difficult to provide clear and unambiguous interpretation of the law regarding the involvement of unpaid 'volunteers' in diving projects. This document explains the various roles involved and clarifies the situation.


Do I need an HSE diving medical?

If you are diving at work in the UK you must have a current certificate of medical fitness to dive issued by an HSE approved medical examiner of divers (AMED). This situation is less clear cut for volunteer divers.

Who can carry out an HSE diving medical?

Only doctors approved by HSE can carry out a medical. They are known as Approved Medical Examiners of Diving (AMEDs). In addition HSE approves some overseas and military Classes of Medical Practitioners.

How long will my HSE diving medical remain valid?

A diving medical will normally remain valid for 12 months. In certain situations however, a doctor may limit a medical to a shorter period.


What are HSE diving qualifications?

HSE issues four types of diving qualification – HSE SCUBA, for commercial SCUBA diving, HSE Surface Supplied, for diving using surface supplied equipment, HSE Surface Supplied (Top-Up) for diving using Surface Supplied equipment in the offshore industry, and HSE Closed Bell for closed bell or saturation diving.

How do I get HSE diving qualifications?

You must attend a course at an HSE Diver Competence Assessment Organisation. Information on careers in diving can be found here.

Can I cross over to HSE qualifications if I have trained overseas?

No. You must attend an HSE Diver Competence Assessment Organisation in order to get an HSE qualification.  You may however be able to work in the UK with your diving qualification, if your qualification appears on the HSE List of approved diving qualifications and is still current in the country of issue.

How long are HSE diving qualifications valid for?

HSE diving qualifications are not renewable, and are valid indefinitely. However, the responsibility to ensure a diver is competent lies with the diving contractor. If a diver has not dived for a number of years, then the contractor should take that into account when deciding on the competence of the diver for the type of work proposed.

I have lost my HSE diving qualification card, how do I get a replacement?

The HSE can issue a replacement certificate, and will invalidate your lost certificate(s). In order to obtain a replacement certificate, you must complete this form and send it to HSE with a recent signed photograph of yourself and a copy of photographic proof of identity (photocopy of passport / driving licence / national ID card).

How do I check to see if an HSE diving qualification card is genuine?

Send an email to [email protected] with the HSE diver certificate number, the diver's name and their date of birth. In addition HSE publishes a list of invalidated certificates which lists all lost and stolen certificates that have been notified to HSE.

I have an overseas qualification; can I work in the UK?

If your qualification is listed on the Approved List of Qualifications under the class of diving you wish to carry out, and the qualification is still current with the country that issued it, then you may legally work in the UK.  The diving contractor still has a duty however to ensure that you are competent for the work to be undertaken.

What diving work can I carry out using recreational diving qualifications?

If you have a suitable qualification issued by an approved recreational training agency, you can instruct or guide under the recreational ACOP. In addition, depending on your level of qualification, you may be able to carry out Shellfish Diving, Scientific and Archaeological Diving,  or Media Diving (normally only in a  pool or tank).  For further information see the list of Approved Diving Qualifications.

How deep can I legally dive whilst at work in the UK?

This depends on your diving qualification, and the type of diving you are carrying out. HSE diving qualifications have a depth limit of 50m (except for Closed Bell which has no limit). There is a depth limit of 50m for surface supplied diving Offshore, Inland Inshore Diving, Shellfish Diving, and Police diving.  There is no depth limit for Scientific and Archaeological Diving, Media Diving or recreational diving as long as suitable qualifications are held. For further information see the list of Approved Diving Qualifications.

What first aid cover do I need for my diving project?

This depends upon which Approved Code of Practice you are diving under. For most projects there should normally be more that one qualified first aider (who should also be trained in Oxygen administration). Those qualified should not hold other important duties which would conflict with the need to administer 1st aid. For Commercial Offshore projects all divers should be qualified in first aid.  Further information.


How often should I check the quality of air from a compressor?

A competent person should test the quality of the air supplied for breathing apparatus at least once every 3 months.  More frequent tests should be conducted if contamination is foreseeable within this 3 month period (see Diver's breathing air standard and the frequency of examination and tests).

How often should diving cylinders be inspected?

Diving cylinders should be inspected in accordance with the relevant BS EN standards or industry guidance, whichever is more stringent.  For steel and aluminium cylinders, the BS EN standards require that a periodic inspection is carried out at least every 2.5 years, however, if you suspect that moisture may have entered the cylinder (for example if the cylinder has been emptied underwater), then it is strongly recommended that an internal visual inspection is carried out in accordance with the relevant standard before it is refilled (See Diving cylinders:Guidance on internal corrosion, fitting valves and filling).

If a cylinder is for use with Oxygen or Oxygen enriched air ("Nitrox") it will need to be inspected and cleaned more regularly.

Who can inspect diving cylinders?

A. Cylinders which are used as part of diving breathing apparatus should be inspected by a competent person. There is no unique legal definition of competence for testing these cylinders, however HSE have published some guidance on the criteria that may be used.

How often should I have my dive equipment serviced?

A. In accordance with the equipment manufacturer's recommendations.

What are the requirements for transporting SCUBA cylinders by road?

A. When transporting cylinders which are used as part of diving breathing apparatus measures should be taken to secure them adequately and prevent leakage (See Diving cylinders guidance on their manufacture inspection and carriage.)

What are the labelling requirements for diving cylinders?

The hazards posed by cylinders containing high-pressure gas are considerable. People involved in their handling, particularly the emergency services responding to an incident, need to be able to identify these hazards. Diving cylinders should be labelled in accordance with BS EN ISO 7225:2007 namely with a label displaying the green compressed-gas hazard diamond, an additional yellow hazard diamond if the gas contains elevated levels of oxygen, plus the UN name and number of the gas contained in the cylinder.

See Diving cylinders: Guidance on their manufacture, inspection and HSE recommends the following label formats.

What are the requirements for a cylinder charging system?

A. Where a charging system includes a dedicated air/gas bank a Written Scheme of Examination (WSE) will normally be required for the system. For smaller systems without an air/gas bank the system should be maintained and inspected to ensure its continued safe operation. Advice regarding specific systems in commercial premises can normally be obtained from the owner's insurance company.

What are the requirements for the composition and purity of diving breathing gases, other than compressed air?

A. These requirements are provided in British Standard BS EN 12021:2014.

Why is it important not to allow water or damp gas to enter a diving cylinder.

Research has shown that corrosion rates in cylinders containing compressed air or "nitrox" can be more than 100 times faster than normal. If fresh water is present in the cylinder this can mean the loss of more than 2 mm of the thickness of the cylinder wall within 6 months. This is increased to more than 5mm in the presence of salt water. Diving cylinder walls are generally between 2 and 5 mm thick. Being in date for test (2.5 yrs) is no guarantee of safety if water has been allowed to enter the cylinder. Further information on cylinder care.

Why do you need to check valve threads before re-valving a diving cylinder.

There have been several incidents where the threads of diving cylinder valves have failed during charging. This has resulted in the valve being discharged from the cylinder with considerable force often causing injury. The cause of these failures is often due to the valve and cylinder having incompatible threads. The force at the base of the valve of an "average" pressurized SCUBA cylinder is in the order of several thousand kilograms. Significant injury can be inflicted by a valve that is discharged from a cylinder with this magnitude of force. Further information on Cylinder threads.

What first aid equipment do I need at the dive site?

A. You should have a first aid kit.  You should also have an oxygen administration set.  The quantity of Oxygen provided should be assessed as sufficient in order to get an inured diver from a dive site to a recompression facility.

Is this page useful?

Updated 2023-10-17