A review of the hyperbaric evacuation methods and the responsibilities of persons appointed for the Health 8 Welfare of the offshore diving workforce: Post Cullen.
Train crashes, explosions, gas leaks and fire have all caused extensive loss of life and serious injury to large numbers of people world wide. The ability of rescue services to respond to disasters of this magnitude, depends on the availability of specific equipment, logistical support and the training of specialised rescue teams.
When incidents occur offshore, the problem is compounded by the fact that adverse weather conditions and the remoteness of the installation or vessel, can both initially delay the primary response from a dedicated safety vessel, if applicable and reduce the response time and effectiveness of co-ordinated rescue services.
For divers under pressure the rescue process is further complicated, because the evacuation of such personnel, must be conducted by transferring them under pressure with sufficient life support, to a place of safety away from the installation. Lord Cullen, in his recommendations following the Piper Alpha disaster, stated that "operators should be required by Regulation to submit to the regulatory body for it's acceptance, an evacuation, escape and rescue analysis In respect of each of it's installations"
The Offshore Safety Division is presently of the opinion that in the interests of safety this recommendation should also be applied in respect to all diving support vessels (DSV), pipe laying and crane barges and other craft which may be employed to carry out air and saturation diving operations
The analysis should specify the facilities and other arrangements which would be available for evacuation, escape and rescue of personnel in the event of an emergency which makes it necessary or advisable In the interests of safety for personnel to leave the installation.
In both the United Kingdom and Norway there is a legal requirement to provide a suitable means of hyperbaric evacuation. The legislation which specifies the requirement, in the UK, is The Diving Operations at Work Regulations 1981 as amended by The Diving Operations at Work (Amendment) Regulations 1990. Regulation 5
paragraph (2)(b) states- "every diving contractor shall so far as is reasonably practicable ensure that: emergency services are available including In particular In the cases of diving -
using saturation techniques or
at a depth exceeding 50 m,
Facilities for transferring the divers safely under a suitable pressure to a place where treatment can be given under pressure. This instruction is further qualified by the following guidance on Regulations which is included in the HSE L6 document which replaces HS(R) (8).
Guidance Note 109 of the Regulations states: "special attention should be given In the rules to emergency procedures, including first-aid and medical assistance, and in particular to contingency planning for the evacuation of divers under pressure from an offshore installation or vessel".