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Diving and dive safety

Diving legislation in the Netherlands
In 1995 the legislation governing professional divers was incorporated into general workplace health and safety legislation (Working Conditions Act; ‘Working at pressure’: Chapter 6, Division 5, section 6.13, subsection 3). Since then anyone working under a supervisory relationship has been obliged to comply with diving regulations and health and safety regulations. This includes maritime archaeologists. To ensure that diving remains practicable and safe, guidelines were set out on such things as diving equipment and hyperbaric chambers. These guidelines stipulate how diving equipment is to be maintained. They remain in force, but there is no certification institute to monitor compliance. The next important set of guidelines to be published was the ‘Health and Safety Catalogue: working underwater’, which sets out the rules designed to ensure a healthy workplace for the entire diving industry. Clients and divers can request a copy of the catalogue, so this is a good way of ensuring that everyone involved with diving and divers takes the same approach to safety.

Diving training in the Netherlands and abroad
The National Diving Centre (NDC) was established at the request of the authorities in 1984. Its aim is to promote the professional diving industry in the Netherlands. One of the NDC’s responsibilities is to organise training and certify professional divers, diving team leaders, diving medical officers and diving doctors.

Besides the training organised by the NDC (currently only in other countries), the navy is also authorised to train divers (courses were previously run by the army in Hedel). Navy diving training is not open to civilians, however. Since virtually no training is available in the Netherlands, many civilian divers go to South Africa, Scotland, England or Norway to become certified. Our colleague Thijs Coenen has completed his professional dive training in Norway. Read more about his experiences there.

The NDC has to assess and rank all these foreign certificates, and this sometimes leads to practical problems. Each training course includes different numbers of minutes diving at a depth of 30 and 50 metres, for example. Under European legislation, diving has now been designated a hazardous job. As a result, divers must regularly demonstrate that they have had enough experience over the recent period in order to continue working safely. In the Netherlands this means that every diver must have their logbook checked every two years, and pass a practical test every four years.

Current situation
In some cases, the certifying institution (the NDC in the Netherlands) does not comply with the minimum requirements, for example in the event of use of Surface Supply Equipment, or SSE (diving with an oxygen pipe to the surface). The risk is then that a diver’s certification will be downgraded, so they are no longer able to dive as deep and are no longer permitted to use SSE. This problem appears to be particularly prevalent among academic divers (such as archaeologists and biologists). The reasons for this include the fact that maritime archaeologists do most of their work with an oxygen tank (scuba diving), that archaeological fieldwork is only a small proportion of their work, and that it is usually seasonal. All diving archaeologists working with the Maritime Programme currently have a B4 professional diving certification.

Leon Vroom