ASI Group

What is Commercial Diving?

commercial divers underwater working

And how does it differ from Scuba diving?

Commercial diving is a type of professional diving where the diver engages in underwater work for industrial, construction, engineering, maintenance or other commercial purposes.

The fundamental difference between commercial diving and scuba diving is scuba divers use breathing equipment not dependent on an air supply from the surface. In fact, SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. A commercial diver is directly attached to a surface-supplied diving system which uses umbilical or hoses connected to their helmet from a gas supply on the surface.  

ASI’s commercial divers tend to work in challenging and sometimes extreme environments that can have very serious risks. In addition to the possibilities of drowning or hypothermia, they are exposed to physical injuries from underwater equipment and structures. Pressure related injuries such as barotrauma (lungs, middle ear, sinuses), decompression sickness (The Bends) and embolisms can cause damage and even death. Divers sometimes work in water with low visibility and little to no light. Working in and around dams or any structure with a water intake means no diving unless there’s a shutdown; but if there’s an abnormality in the structure of a dam wall, a loss of integrity can prove fatal for a diver.

Commercial diving is one of the riskiest occupations in the world

To mitigate these risks, commercial divers are not only trained and certified in what they do, but they must plan and assess the work and environment before anyone enters the water. A detailed risk assessment called a Hazard Assessment Safety and Environmental Plan, or HASEP, is completed and pre-dive meetings are held with the crew. All dive operations are carried out in accordance with Canadian Diving Standards and Provincial Regulations. Diving crews include, at minimum, four trained and qualified personnel (a diver, a diving supervisor, tender and stand-by diver). Once onsite the crew works together to ensure equipment is checked and the diver is suited up correctly.

Surface Supply Diving Configuration

The diver’s equipment is specialized too. The suit they wear (called a drysuit) provides them with insulation and as the name suggests, keeps them dry. Typically, a commercial diver’s equipment includes a weight belt for buoyancy control, a safety harness, a secondary source for air as back up in the case of an emergency, a knife, LED lighting and a camera. They are also hard-wired for communication so the dive supervisor on site is always in contact with the diver.

ASI uses commercial divers for underwater construction, inspections, maintenance and repairs for intakes and outfalls, bridges, dams, docks, ports, piers and more. Commercial divers are used to facilitate maintenance at nuclear facilities, and they provide inspection and repair services to ships within the Great Lakes region and on the West Coast in BC.

If you want to learn more about what our commercial divers can do, contact us today.