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Diving work

There are specific laws about working safely when diving. Here we summarise those laws and give you some practical tips for being safe and complying with the laws.

Types of diving work

General diving work is work carried out in or under water while breathing compressed gas, and includes:

  • incidental diving work
  • limited scientific diving work

but does not include high risk diving work.

Incidental diving work is general diving work that:

  • is incidental to the conduct of the business or undertaking in which the diving work is carried out, and
  • involves limited diving.

Limited scientific diving work is general diving work that:

  • is carried out for the purpose of professional scientific research, natural resource management, or scientific research as an educational activity, and
  • involves only limited diving.

High risk diving work is work carried out in or under water or any other liquid while breathing compressed gas, and involving one or more of the following:

  • construction work
  • work of the kind described in regulation 289(3)(d)
  • inspection work carried out in order to determine whether or not work described in th above two points is necessary
  • the recovery or salvage of a large structure or large item of plant for commercial purposes

but does not include minor work carried out in the sea or the waters of a bay or inlet or a marina that involves cleaning, inspecting, maintaining or searching for a vessel or mooring.

Medical fitness

Your workers must hold a current certificate of medical fitness to be able to be a dive worker, which you can get from a doctor who has been trained in underwater medicine (see Resources below).

Training and competence

It is your job to make sure your workers are properly trained for diving work. As well as a medical certificate, workers must hold a certificate for general diving work. For incidental diving work or limited scientific diving work, they must also have completed a certain number of hours of relevant diving experience. Additionally, your workers must be skilled (through training, qualification and experience) in:

  • understanding diving physics
  • using, inspecting and maintaining diving equipment
  • carrying out the proposed type of general diving work
  • using decompression tables/dive computers
  • communicating with other divers, and people on the surface while diving
  • planning dives
  • diving physiology, emergency procedures and first aid.

Incidental diving work must only be carried out if accompanied by a person holding a certificate for general diving work or high-risk diving work.

Manage the risks

You must manage the risks associated with diving work.

Assess the risks

In the first instance, ensure a written risk assessment is conducted by a competent person. You should talk to your workers about all potential hazards related to their work.

Have a dive plan

There must be a competent person supervising the diving work and diving functions at all times. That person needs to prepare a dive plan before the work takes place and give workers instructions about it. The dive plan must be followed and must contain:

  • the type of diving work
  • the task/s of each person who is diving
  • the diving equipment needed
  • the breathing gases required
  • the dive procedures
  • the dive times, bottom times and decompression profiles
  • any hazards relating to the dive and steps to be taken to control the risks
  • emergency procedures.

Keep records

After a dive takes place, there are certain records you must keep for legal reasons. They include:

  • medical fitness certificates: must be kept for one year after general diving work has been completed
  • written risk assessments: must be kept for 28 days after work has been completed
  • the dive plan: must be kept for the duration of the work, or for two years if a notifiable incident occurs
  • written evidence of relevant competencies demonstrated by workers: must be kept for one year after diving work or diving function has been completed.

Sometimes these documents will be needed at short notice, so keep them in a place that’s easy to access and is available to all workers engaged to carry out the work.

Dive safety logs

Dive safety logs must be kept before and after each dive, and each log must include:

  • the name/s of the worker who is diving
  • the name/s of anyone else who is diving (whether or not they are employed by you)
  • the name of the supervisor
  • the date and location of the dive
  • the time each diver enters and leaves the water
  • the maximum depth of the dive
  • any problems or discomfort that occur during the dive
  • the dive time if using a dive computer
  • the repetitive dive group and the bottom time/dive time if using a dive table
  • if you get a repetitive factor, include this and the surface interval
  • if you use EANx, you must also supply:
    • the oxygen content of the EANx, and
    • the maximum operating depth of the EANx
  • if the dive is carried out using mixed gas :
    • the oxygen content and the nitrogen content (if any) of the gas, and
    • the maximum operating depth of the mixed gas, and
    • the minimum operating depth of the bottom mix.
  • the names of people on the vessel, both before and after the dive (if you are diving from a boat).

You must keep your dive safety log book for at least one year after the last entry.

After a dive

The person taking the log must make sure each person has returned from the dive as soon as possible. Both the divers and the supervisor must sign (or enter their unique identifier if the log is electronic) to record everyone’s safe return in the dive safety log.

Resources and solutions

For the specific laws about the risks of diving work, see Regulations 167 – 184 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2012.

AS/NZS 2299.1:2015 Occupational diving operations—Standard operational practice: SAI Global (external link)

Gas cylinders manufactured from aluminium alloy 6351-T6 safety alert: SafeWork NSW (external link)

South Pacific Underwater Medicine Society (external link) for doctors trained in underwater medicine

Updated: 29th October 2019