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Commercial Diver


Pipelines, cables and bridges. What do these things have in common? They can all be found within our waterways and like other structures they need to be built, maintained and repaired. Commercial divers perform underwater activities related to construction, inspection, search, salvage, repair and photography. They work inland in rivers, lakes and canals or offshore in harbors and oceans. They may use specialized equipment such as diving helmets, underwater cutting torches, underwater welding equipment, wet-suits, dry-suits, hot water heated suits, diving bells, decompression chambers, full face masks and air compressors.

Commercial diving is a mentally and physically demanding occupation. It is necessary that divers have a good understanding of the physiological and psychological effects of pressure, such as burst lung syndrome and decompression sickness. They must be strong and able to think well under pressure and in adverse weather conditions. Divers must also know how to interpret blueprint information and plan and execute a successful dive.

There are diving rules to be followed: they must dive in teams, with someone monitoring from land or from a boat or submarine. Often, paramedics stand by in case of any emergencies. When working in dangerous or difficult areas, or when conducting a search for lost property or bodies, they plan the dive before they jump, use scuba-diving equipment, and restrict their searches to small areas -- only searching about 150 ot 300 feet at a time. Using maps, they sweep the areas, while attached to a tether. They must be meticulous about their work, ensuring that all points on the map have been covered before calling an end to the search.

On any given day commercial divers can be found installing or repairing pipelines in a local canal or taking pictures of structures using special photographic equipment. It may sound like fun, but sometimes divers are called upon to perform less than desirable tasks such as working in sewage treatment facilities, taking bottom samples, and inspecting and repairing plumbing systems. Divers are also called on for search and rescue missions and are responsible for locating bodies under the water or ice.
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  Interests and Skills  
Divers must have physical stamina and must be emotionally stable. This is because unnecessary risks or unplanned moves can cause death or injury to the divers in the team. They should love adventure, have a strong mechanical aptitude, and be very organized. Divers must have good report writing skills as well as perform thorough, meticulous work during a dive.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Maintain and repair diving equipment
  • Dive into reservoirs, quarries, lakes, sewers, rivers, at all times of day and night
  • Photograph and film underwater
  • Inspect, build and repair structures and pipelines using underwater tools and equipment
  • Survey areas and search for objects, structures or criminal evidence
  • Collect samples for scientific purposes
  • Gather seafood
  • Locate bodies lying underwater (often under ice)
  • Salvage wrecked ships and/or their cargo
  • Repair steel underwater using various welding techniques
  • Explore, inspect, maintain, and repair of oil drill rigs and platforms
  • Construct, repair and inspect dams and bridges
  • The day-to-day routine of a commercial diver is hard to chart. They may only work occasionally as divers, and spend other days working as instructors or promoting their services. They will also be maintaining their equipment, re-training in diving techniques, or presenting information in court. Divers work in small teams and on any given day they may interact with engineers, scientists, police staff, film and fishing companies, and other divers. They may only do this work part-time, depending on the demand for their services.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Commercial divers are employed by commercial diving agencies or independently/on contract to construction companies, the police force, scientists, and oil companies. They spend their working hours in wet suits and scuba gear, swimming around in a variety of bodies of water, from freezing oceans to murky lakes. They are found in swamps, streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, ports, harbors, locks, weirs, reservoirs, spillways, quarries, pools, sewers--all are potential hiding spots for criminal evidence, construction needs, scientific exploration, or clean-up jobs.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Commercial divers may choose to join the police force as police divers, or get into offshore or inshore diving (depending on where they started out). With additional certification, commercial divers can become diving instructors. Some may want to train to become supervisors, underwater welders, consultants, or marine scientists.They may also choose to work as underwater photographers or communicate information about water safety and diving.

  Educational Paths  
Commercial divers require good training in order to work within the commercial diving industry. Completion of high school is typically required and completion of a commercial diving program is mandatory. Commercial divers typically need to complete a program that complies with regulations and that meets the code for diving competency. Students enrolling in these courses need their high school, a basic scuba certificate, and valid CPR and first aid training.

However, that's just the first part of their education. Diving is really only the mode of transportation for these underwater workers, who can be called on to do anything from underwater construction and carpentry to identifying significant sea plants for scientific study. Training is usually offered on the job, but courses in marine biology, welding and carpentry, and photography are beneficial.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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