Diving Accidents

Diver trapped in sluice tunnel

A diver was removing a stop log from inner lock gates as part of a job to reopen locked docks. He had completed about six metres of a vertical cut when it became difficult, and he thought he had hit concrete. Telling his supervisor, he left his basket to inspect the other side of the sheet pile. On his return to the basket, one of the wall sluice gates was opened fully, and the sudden surge of water dragged him into a sluice tunnel.

When the operators on the surface realised what had happened, the sluice gate was closed. It shut on the diver’s umbilical, cutting off his air supply, but he was able to change over to his small emergency bail-out cylinder with a limited air supply. The sluice gate had to be opened slightly to release the pressure of his umbilical, allowing him to breath from the main air supply. He managed to wedge himself in a culvert, with his head tilted to one side to stop his helmet from flooding because the flow of water was so intense.

It was December, and he remained trapped in very cold water. It took nearly three hours to equalise the water pressure and slow the water flow sufficiently to recover him to the surface.

Action: There should have been adequate controls to prevent the operation of the sluice gates when the diver was in the water, such as:

  • a secure lock on the control panel or on the door into the control room, with a sign posted across the control panel to notify people of the diving operations; or
  • a sentry posted at the control room to prevent anyone operating the controls, combined with a sign to notify people of the diving operations

diving accident

Diver’s umbilical fouled

A diving support vessel moored offshore was operating two diving bells to allow four divers to work on the sea bed. The forward bell supervisor instructed deck riggers to start the recovery of an airlift bag inflation line without notifying the after bell supervisor. As a result, an after bell diver’s umbilical became entangled in the inflation line, and he was pulled about 20 metres above his diving bell. When his super- visor realised what was happening, he stopped the lifting immediately. The diver was returned safely to the sea bed and recovered into the bell. Medical advice was sought, but the diver did not develop ad- verse symptoms.


  • All commands and communications should be received and acknowledged by all relevant parties before any operation begins.
  • Before giving clearance to commence lifts, divers should ensure their umbilical are clear of the lift area.

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