ABSTRACT

The risk of decompression sickness is a safety problem related to offshore diving operations Modern safety management defines a systematic approach to such a problem based on policy edition, support from an organisation, planning and implementing, monitoring, reviewing and auditing These activities are analysed In light of the experience of a large diving company, achievements are listed and areas of improvement are identified It IS shown that the next edition of decompression procedures will require hundreds of thousands of dive records to identify the critical factors, define models and validate new procedures This exceeds the experience of a single diving company or even a single nation and it is believed that efforts of decompression sickness management should be coordinated at a European level.

INTRODUCTION

Decompression tables have been developed since the beginning of the century and have evolved to a point where the risk of decompression sickness (DCS) is considerably reduced However, this risk cannot be completely ruled out Considering the variations between individuals and worksite conditions, it must be admitted that a diver may develop symptoms during any given dive DCS IS a risk related to offshore diving operations that needs be recognised and managed as such Safety management, according to recent publication(1), is based on the following Interrelated activities

  • definition of a policy,

  • support from a competent organisation,

  • planning and implementing,

  • monitoring,

  • auditing and reviewing

It is reasonable to assume that the DCS risk can be managed on the same basis An investigations conducted using a large diving company's experience, such as the former Comex and the recent Stolt Comex Seaway, to identify and analyse these activities

POLICIES

Diving companies that are successful In achieving high standards of health and safety have adapted policies which contribute to their business performances It must be admitted that the attitudes towards DCS have evolved over the last 25 years from ignoring the problem to openly discussing the issue

Twenty years ago, DCS incidence rates were neither monitored nor published except for military diving. Diving companies could not reliably assess the problem because the reporting systems were Inadequate or because they employed free lance divers and could not follow up of their personnel

Nowadays DCS incidence rates are monitored and published but there is st111 a lot of suspicion on the reliability of this data

It is possible to suspect diving contractors of minimizing the DCS incidents because the costs for the associated insurance coverage are high (2) However, I like to believe that it is not justified First, there is a professional ethic built through organizations like AODC and DMAC Second, there are elements of references, such as the statistics published by the HSE on air diving (3), and deviations from the industry's standards can easily be spotted Finally, diving is a small world and facts that have been hidden come up sooner or later It is often suggested, especially among medical doctors, that figures are under estimated even if diving companies honestly report DCS cases

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