Norwegian offshore service provider NUI has raised concerns over a lack of supervision for inshore divers; it has also released a new method for analysing divers’ breathing atmospheres
A new approach to supervising divers in Norwegian inshore waters is needed to address what an executive at Norwegian offshore service provider NUI described as “terrible” safety statistics in that sector of the industry.
NUI leader for health and safety Ole Lund identified the way divers are supervised in those waters as a key area for improvement, a concern it shares with Industri Energi, a trade union that represents workers in the energy industry and says on its website that it “put[s] pressure on the politicians to improve the conditions for workers”. NUI hosted a meeting in late May, organised by the union, to discuss the need to introduce supervisory responsibility for employers that are hiring diving services in Norway’s inshore waters, which extend 12 miles from the coast.
“The idea is that the responsibility will follow the money”
Although this is the norm for offshore diving, it is “not an established standard for inshore diving”, a meeting summary on NUI’s website notes. Establishing supervisory responsibility would place an obligation for the principal to check that a diving operation is carried out in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, the notes add. As Mr Lund put it, “the idea is that the responsibility will follow the money.”
Attendees at NUI’s May meeting included many from the industry, along with representatives from the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority and the Petroleum Inspection Authority. A follow-up meeting will take place in November that will include attendees from the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, the Norwegian School of Commercial Diving and the Norwegian Seafood Federation.
Although Mr Lund does not expect changes to be made as a direct result of that meeting, he is hopeful that the concerns will be fed back to the relevant government departments. But already some grey areas in current regulations for inshore diving are being addressed by The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, which has issued some draft regulations for consultation.
New sampling method launched
NUI has also been looking to improve safety for offshore divers during saturation dives. It has developed what it describes as a “simple and effective method for the sampling and analysis of contamination within divers’ breathing atmospheres.” During these long dives, air samples must be tested ashore to check for contaminants in the breathing atmosphere that could pose health risks for the divers exposed to it.
These samples are normally taken using cylinders. Once ashore, these must be handled as dangerous goods because of the pressure inside them, which complicates their transport and adds to the time and cost of testing the samples. They also only reflect the level of contaminants at the moment when the sample was taken.
"Because the sample tubes are small and are not pressurised, they can be sent for analysis by normal post"
But NUI has developed what it calls ‘hyperbaric passive sampling’, which uses small absorbent tubes to collect gas molecules over a period of time. It is based on a common method of taking samples at atmospheric pressure that relies on gas diffusing onto a collecting medium inside small tubes fitted with diffusion caps. After a period of time, the tubes are sealed and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Because the sample tubes are small and are not pressurised, they can be sent for analysis by normal post.
NUI’s development has been to make this work at the pressures and in the gas compositions found in saturation diving atmospheres. It has been available since 2015 but its use has now reached a point where it has begun to displace cylinder sampling, the company said. Its own tests in the diving atmospheres on vessels and in chambers have shown more accurate results than cylinder samples. NUI manging director Rolf Røssland reported that interest in the technique is growing “as more diving contractors become aware of this convenient and accurate sampling method.”