Commercial divers do normal construction activities in an extreme environment making theirs a very dangerous job. The job can take divers all over the world, ask them to do countless different assignments, and every day is unique. This job is exciting, adventurous, financially rewarding and very dangerous. Commercial divers are trained professionals they have to be so they can dive another day.
The dangerous job of a commercial diver
Job description: Commercial divers repair, inspect and build underwater structures such as ships, rigs, bridges and piers. They can also take various measurements, assist police investigations and perform underwater photography. Commercial divers must be good mechanics and construction workers – the basic job is similar to mechanic and construction jobs inland – only the environment is different. Commercial divers place a strong emphasis on safety and preparation – every dive begins with a safety brief, and the work plan for the day is scrutinized due to the high cost and limitations of commercial diving. The dangerous nature of this job requires a professional and serious attitude, and commercial divers are all business when at work.
Work environment: This job is extremely varied – commercial divers can work in a wide range of environments and assignments, all over the world. Working on offshore oil rigs provides the highest salary, but involves being on the rig or a ship for months – anywhere around the world. Divers can also work in rivers, harbors, and ports or large water tanks – these jobs usually allow divers to be at home every day. There are also divers in the Navy – they mainly do underwater construction jobs.
The job itself is done underwater and involves wearing heavy, complex gear, being submerged for hours, and working with heavy, sometimes dangerous tools and machinery underwater, and often in dark, murky conditions. This job is physically demanding, and places strain on divers – from being underwater for many hours, repetitive dives and heavy equipment.
Commercial divers never operate alone, and they are part of a larger team that helps the diver prepare for the dive, and assists the diver during the dive itself – they check gauges, cables and communicate with the submerged diver.
Fatality rates: No reliable fatality rate could be found, but despite the inherent dangers, not many divers are injured – due to the extensive training and strict safety measures taken.
What makes it a dangerous job: Commercial divers face 2 major dangers – dive-related injuries and tool/machinery related injuries. Dive related injuries are usually caused by rapid or uncontrolled ascents to the surface, which can result in the bends – forcing divers to spend many hours in decompression tanks.
The other danger comes from the underwater work itself – underwater welders, for example, must make difficult welds, in difficult conditions with dangerous tools.
Hours / Lifestyle: Commercial diver can have various lifestyles, depending on the type of underwater work they are doing. Some may be away from home for months, working on oil rigs or other locations which are difficult to access. Others may be at home every day, but work hours can vary – this is not a typical 9 to 5 job. Also, commercial divers may find themselves out of work for several months and must plan accordingly.
Pay: Commercial divers salaries vary as well, depending on experience, capabilities, position in the team, and the assignment. Generally, the highest paying commercial diving jobs are on offshore oil rigs, with divers making $100,000 $200,000 annually. Inland divers make considerably less – around $100 a day – in contrast to oil rig divers who can make $1000 or more daily. However – the salary can increase – according to the danger and complexity of the job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2010, the average annual salary for commercial divers was $56,400, or $27.12 per hour – but this does not reflect the true salary rates in this profession.
Requirements: Commercial divers have to be able to physically withstand diving in great depths (1000 feet) for long periods of time on a daily basis. Also, they must have strong mechanical and construction abilities, as this is the core of their work. Good divers will be able to plan ahead each element of their dive, and improvise quickly when needed. Divers rely strongly on teamwork – so any applicant must be a strong team member, and have the ability to fit in the commercial divers comradely.
Training: Commercial divers usually complete a commercial diving course – which lasts roughly 6-7 months. Trainees are schooled in medicine, physics, welding, HAZMAT and open water deep dives. Alternatively, the US Navy trains divers for underwater construction and demolition, and after military service, these divers can also use the skills and experience learned in the Navy in commercial diving.
Career opportunities: Commercial divers usually begin be acting as a divers helper (checking cables, gauges, and communication with the submerged diver) for roughly 3 years before doing any underwater activities themselves. Once they begin actual commercial dives, divers can gain experience and acquire skills (such as underwater welding). In the long run, divers can become instructors, trainers or supervisors. They can also climb and advance within underwater construction and salvage companies, or become freelance divers.
Job opportunities: Job opportunities lay near water – the states which offer the largest commercial diving opportunities are Louisiana, Texas, California, Florida and Michigan.
Job prospects: The demand will rise by roughly 6% by 2018, according to the BLS. Prospects are subject to the economy and the willingness of divers to travel to different locations in order to work.