You outlawed scuba? Why was that?
Our experience was that we had fatalities and injuries when scuba was used, even under seemingly good conditions, compared to the thousands of hours on a hose with no incidents. As CEO, I simply couldn’t justify even one fatality that could have been avoided.
The turning point for us was when we acquired Divecon and had several scuba fatalities in a single twelve-month period. Like most of the companies in those days, Divecon used scuba gear for a lot of their shallow projects and organized their jobs around it. In each case, the investigation revealed that if surface supply had been used we wouldn’t have had a problem.
I’m not saying that for the most part, good scuba divers can’t do jobs safely. But the inherent nature of scuba invites problems; incidents where the chain of events gets out of control and result in a fatality. The ingredients of a limited gas supply, no communications and no tether on a complex job site are like mixing nitro and glycerin.
I remember one incident; we had a diver in 10 feet (3 meters) of water who got hung up on a fish net during a pipeline job. Some fishermen had left a net and topside didn’t know about it. The result was he ran out of air and drowned.
No communications to be able to say, “I’m in trouble here; I’m tangled”.
It was a major event. It happened in the Escravos River out of Warri, Nigeria. I personally went up there and investigated the incident. It took two-and-a-half days. Later, I explained all this to his family. That was painful. Similar incidents happened a number of times.
After a few of those investigations, and having the job of explaining what happened to the families, and having to attend funerals, has a personal impact. You get more hard-nosed and say, “No more scuba. Period”. The benefits of using scuba on the rare job when it could be used safely were outweighed by its inherent risks and our inability to exercise control as to when it would be used. So we pulled it.
Today as you know, technical divers are greatly expanding their diving ranges using mix and other technologies. What would you say the major risks are?
Of course the obvious risk is running out of gas before you can get up, or finding yourself in a situation where you don’t have enough supply to take your proper decompression before you have to surface. So the risks range from bends, being paralyzed, to drowning, being killed— all of the above. Those are just the obvious basic risks. And I guess when I think about that, I ask, “what is justification for taking such risks?” That’s number one. Number two is, “what is being done to mitigate these risks?” And number three, if one finds a way to justify and mitigate those risks, you have to ask, “how well can you go about it, without in good conscience, knowing that you might influence someone else coming along right behind you, who doesn’t have the same appreciation you do for the whole situation, who will attempt the same dive and get killed.” That’s where I see the problem coming in.
Not that there aren’t exceptional individuals who understand all this, prepare themselves accordingly, and can do it in a manner equal to any professional commercial diver. I got to believe there are many individuals who are easily up to that challenge. My concern is not the exceptional individuals, but others around them, who see that and automatically think, “Well if he can do it, I can do it, too.” And then go out on their own, try to duplicate it and get killed.