We’ve received the letter below from the new Superintendent of Diving, Cdr Mark Atkinson which is for dissemination to all those interested in AT diving.
Having recently taken up the role of Superintendent of Diving at the end of May from Cdr Chris Baldwin I just wanted to offer a few initial thoughts on the state of Sub Aqua Diving Adventurous Training (AT).
Whilst reading into the appointment before even stepping over the threshold of Bridge Building AT diving clearly stood out as one of the 3 top priorities that I would need to come to terms with very quickly on taking up the post. 7 weeks in the number of worry beads has grown however, my top 3 remain unaltered and are the ones I am working hardest on to come to terms with and move forward. The thing I have been most struck by to date is the dedication and motivation of all those involved in AT diving with whom I have come into contact. This will be critical in allowing us to come together and advance the AT diving case; there will be much to do. Before going into specifics I would just like to draw a distinction in roles between the diving standards team who do everything we can to ensure best and safest practice, whilst the (Captain Naval Physical Development) CNPD team provide the governance. Both organisations have and will continue to work very closely together to deliver you the best diving experience we can.
On the regulation side we effectively work to 3 documents. For diving we work under the rules of the National Governing Body – BSAC. Because the Health and Safety Executive have deemed that entitled personnel are diving at work when conducting AT diving we are bound by the Diving at Work Regulations (DWR). The final document that impacts on AT diving is JSP 917 which captures those elements of the HSE regulations that effect us (i.e. if you are compliant with the JSP you have met the remit of the DWR) along with knowledge learned the hard way since 2006 through understanding the causes of the numerous incidents that have occurred including sadly a number of fatalities – it would be remiss of us to make the same mistake twice. A recent investigation into the death of one of our members commented very positively on the regulation of AT diving but equally pointed out that there was a breakdown between the regulator and the AT diving community. It has become readily apparent that one of the running sores in the relationship has been the JSP 917. This is currently been re-written to incorporate all the outstanding DINs and the lessons identified from the previously mentioned SI.. Whilst I have no ability to change the regulations, we will work hard to try and make it a more user friendly document. The AT Diving Standards Team (DST) will be finished the rewrite by the end of this week, the remainder of the DST will then proof read and amend over and around summer leave with the aim of releasing it to the community for staffing early in September with the goal of signing it off at the next Joint Service Sub-Aqua Diving Policy Advisory Committee (JSSADPAC) in Oct. We are also aiming to bring the current JSP into the Military Diving Manual series as BRd 2806 Vol 5. This will nor affect the content but will reduce the number of JSPs, help move the various arms of diving into one body and achieve staffing and writing support through the Fleet Staff Authors group which will help improve penmanship and clarity
The future and development of AT diving lies with CNPD and the governance team. Without stealing all their pies the aim is to try and better develop the infrastructure of current diving facilities and funding to branches whilst opening up diving to mass participation. Much still needs to be done to bottom out all the details however the headlines are that their will be no change to the delivery of ESADS led AT diving expeditions. We will look to bolster the current AT facilities both in the UK and overseas, any remaining DST (AT) resource will be spent in auditing and providing as many overseas commercial sites as possible where expedition leaders can take teams and use the facilities of commercial forms to deliver AT diving. The DST(AT) team will be able to cover a total of 12 sites a year and we will work with the Temeraire team to develop a 2 year rolling programme of sites again for agreement at the Oct JSSADPAC. Much of the 2015 programme is already fixed by work conducted this year but the community will be engaged to look at the remaining opportunities and the 2016 programme. What we the community need to do is work together and build the mass of individuals participating in diving as an AT activity. If we are unable to stem the decline in numbers of entitled personnel and demonstrate that we are a mass participation AT activity then the future could well be grim.
And finally an update on Closed Circuit Re-breathers (CCR). Whilst getting to know some of the individuals involved in diving AT, I have come across something of a mixture of fear and mistrust of the
DST organisation. The CCR tail appears to capture how best practice by the teams diving the equipment and sensible actions to keep those diving it safe, appear to have grown into a doom laden story of near biblical proportions. Before going on I would like to emphasise that whilst the DST team have a role to fulfil in auditing the branches and organisations delivering AT diving they are there to help and assist, not to catch you out. If things are amiss yes they will be reported but the aim is to also enable the DST organisation to help resolve the problems; we are not here to act as judge, jury and executioner. If we uncover issues with equipment we will work to get them fixed, if we find issues with training we will go back to the delivery teams and amend the training where necessary and if it is an individual that has come up short (we are all only human after all and we all make mistakes) then provided it is not gross negligence (which would then be reported to an appropriate authority for investigation) then we will work with the individual and the training/support organisation to resolve whatever the issue was. The CCRs fall very clearly into the first group. JSSADC undertook an advanced diving expedition the Red Sea to conduct a series of dives using CCR equipment earlier this year. During the course of which they had 11 instances of equipment malfunction all leading back to failures of the O2 sensors. They correctly reported this using the incident reporting procedures. The outcome was that the team looked at the information provided and subsequently stopped diving on the set until the issue could be resolved; please note diving on a military set would have been similarly stopped, in fact diving on military CCRs has been stopped previously for a similar reasons. Trials on the O2 sensors proved that they were not performing to specification and study of communal social media sites soon identified that the issue was also occurring on a large scale within the wider sports diving community. Close engagement with the manufacturer has now led to the development of a replacement O2 sensor which has just started a 2 year trail at the cost of £5k. Provided we do not see an occurrence of the failures during testing the sensors will be cleared for use in Jan 15 ready for the start of the new season. So whilst there is a temporary suspension of CCR diving, a defective component was identified, a replacement developed and a rigorous trials programme started all of which should lead to a safer diving experience. I genuinely believe this is a good news story and shows how the system can work to help protect the diving community so please, please keep reporting in your incidents – your one off issue might be repeated as one offs in many branches and point to a bigger issue – you will never be wrong to report any issue or near miss. The Future of CCR diving will again be down to the community. Assuming the new sensors work, JSSADC will be re-starting CCR training next year and running a number of camps for those qualified. Dom and his team have been set the task of developing a 5 year programme to develop and grow an advanced technical 60M CCR AT diving capability. Its success or failure will lie with the community’s ability to deliver the milestones, if the will isn’t there than we will look to develop other elements of technical diving for the advanced cadre.
I have gone on a lot longer than intended but felt it worth putting out the stall and updating you on developments from this side of the hill. I will aim to try and submit to the majority of the bulletins to keep you abreast of issues. However, this is a 2 way flow so don’t be shy engaging with the team. Enjoy your diving, be safe and don’t forget the post cards to remind us just how much fun you’re having whilst we’re stuck in the office!
Superintendent of Diving
Fleet Diving Headquarters
United Kingdom (for those of you who make it overseas!)
Challenge is to fill one of my notice boards before I leave – over to you