Dive Business Tips: Staff Health and Safety

The mantra “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business,” is especially true in the dive industry. It helps builds morale, enhances efficiency, reduces lost time and staff turnover, helps lower insurance costs and importantly, ensures compliance with the law.

Owners sometimes assume their responsibilities extend only to appointed employees, perhaps not considering contractors, seasonal employees, interns, etc. Health and safety (H&S) legislation applies to everyone working on your premises, where you are responsible for providing a safe working environment. This includes full- and part-time employees, interns, commission-based operators, freelancers, contractors, seasonal workers and even friends of the family. They are all covered by H&S laws.

Countries who are signatories to the Internal Labor Organization (ILO) are required to have H&S legislation in place — even if it is somewhat difficult to retrieve or comprehend. As a business owner, safety in the workplace is your responsibility, and this requires you to perform an appropriate risk assessment to identify and manage workplace hazards.

Download DAN’s HIRA Guide

Before you begin your assessment, download the DAN Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Guide to fully understand the process. This comprehensive guide provides information about the often unique and unexpected risks in dive operations and includes a section dedicated to staff H&S safety considerations. DAN is pleased to offer the digital edition of this guide to all dive businesses at no cost.

Occupational Hazards in the Workplace

A thorough assessment of all potential workplace hazards is essential. This will enable you to address, mitigate or at least contain the risks under your control.

Some often-neglected or unassessed hazards include overexposure to ultraviolet rays, noise-induced hearing loss, long-term effects of working with harmful cleaning chemicals, exposure to infections or infectious diseases, decompression stress, repetitive strain or lifting injuries, and even workplace stress due to performance pressure, overwork and burnout.

There are practical ways of preventing harm, reducing exposure and empowering staff to protect themselves through education, training and personal protective measures.

Insurance Cover

Dive businesses should ensure they take advice from appropriate insurance providers. There are important differences between general business and professional liability coverage, property and marine insurance, occupational H&S workers compensation, medical and dive accident insurance.

Employees, clients and the broader public all have safety rights when engaging with a dive business. A thorough review of insurable risks is part of protecting your investments.  

H&S Surveillance and Fitness for Duty

Some health-related issues may be based on pre-existing conditions and some are purely a result of aging. Screening employees both prior to employment or appointment, and then periodically throughout employment and when exposed to any identified workplace hazard provides you with a good degree of protection against future occupational-health-based compensatory claims. Good examples here are an existing hearing or skin condition, or a divemaster with a (perhaps concealed) history of asthma.

Fitness-for-duty is about more than just a form that’s completed during the appointment process. Daily monitoring of any unfitness for work is essential and should include conditions such as symptoms of respiratory or gastrointestinal infections, effects of alcohol or drugs, exhaustion and physical injuries.

Record Keeping

Let’s consider these wise words: “If it doesn’t exist in writing, it doesn’t exist.” A lack of comprehensive personnel records detailing employees’ health, current qualifications and job responsibilities may render you vulnerable to employee-related actions or claims of discrimination or unfair treatment.

File all personal records, exposure and accident reports, medical surveillance records and claims, and necessary disciplinary documentation in your business’s information database. This provides you with easy-to-retrieve and credible records and will serve you well should a compensatory claim be made (even if it pertains to a years-old incident).

Invest in Your Staff

When you invest in employee health and safety, the results permeate into all aspects of your business. Your employees will feel seen and valued and take pride in their work, creating a richer and more enjoyable customer experience. The investment now will pay dividends in the future