What are the biggest risks to divers who perform underwater welding?

Maritime Welder in His Welding Gear Hofmann and ScweitzerUnderwater welding combines all of the hazards of hot work with the potential for drowning, making it one of the most deadly jobs performed by maritime workers. Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests an average of 13 workers per year suffer fatal injuries during commercial dive activities, and the number may be even higher due to lack of complete reporting.

Causes of Fatal Injury in Underwater Welding Accidents

In a study of occupational diving fatalities in the United States between 1989-1997, OSHA revealed 116 reported deaths among 3000 full-time commercial divers—a death rate nearly 40 times the national average across all industries. An employee who performs construction activities as part of a dive team is at even higher risk of severe or fatal injury, including:

Drowning

Drowning remains the overwhelming cause of death for commercial divers. Common elements that lead to drowning are failure to identify signs of distress, solo diving, high wave currents, and becoming entangled or pinned by equipment.

Equipment Malfunctions 

Defective heavy machinery may cause bodily trauma or electric shock, while handheld welding tools may cause burns and explosions.

Decompression Accidents 

Underwater welders should be trained on proper decompression procedures during deep dives. Even with adequate training and certification, divers may suffer decompression sickness (called “the bends”) or embolism due to the necessity of immediate surfacing to treat their wounds.

Hypothermia 

Maritime workers may be so focused on the job they are performing that they ignore the warning signs of hypothermia. Divers working on large projects such as hull repair or pipe maintenance must be given adequate breaks and stay in regular contact with crews on the surface.

Each year brings improvements to diving gear, construction equipment, and safety standards that protect maritime employees. However, workers will see little benefit from these advances if employers and shipowners do not bring these practices onboard.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a maritime welding accident, we can examine the details of your case to get you the maximum compensation you may be owed for your injury. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer about your case.

 

Paul T. Hofmann
Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.