Long-term health follow up of divers: the safety barriers
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- Studentoppgaver (TN-ISØP) 
The long-term health effects of petroleum related diving activities have been much debated in recent years. The case of the pioneer-divers has been well documented and as the use of divers continues to be a requirement in the petroleum industry, the issue of long-term health effects is currently on the agenda of the authorities, operators and diving entrepreneurs. The aim of this study has been to assess how good the existing safety barriers are with regard to long-term health monitoring of offshore divers. The focus area was soft defences in the form of regulations, standards and procedures with regard to offshore saturation diving on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. The safety barriers specifically identified were the requirement for offshore health certificate, certificate for offshore divers, pre- and post-dive medical checks, and exposure assessment. In addition, two safety barriers where participation is voluntary were included, the 3-yearly medical examination and the annual health screening questionnaire. A qualitative method was employed and key informants from the diving industry were interviewed. Representatives from the authorities, diving entrepreneurs, and divers were selected as key informants. The latter were selected based on a short set of criteria related to diving history, and the remainder were selected based on having in-depth knowledge regarding the subject matter. In addition, data was obtained through personal communication with operator and persons with expertise within diving medicine. Data was collected and analysed, and the results discussed in light of relevant theoretical framework. The main findings from this study are that the effectiveness of the two voluntary safety barriers, which together with exposure assessment form part of a long-term health follow up program, is poor. Many divers are reluctant to participate due to factors such as suspicion, or no knowledge of its existence. Some divers reported that they have in fact not been invited to participate during a three-year period. Further, one diving entrepreneur´s organisation of the 3-yearly medical examination in particular, has much room for improvement. The medical examinations appear, at times, to be organised in an ad hoc manner, sometimes resulting in the contracted diving doctor being unable to accommodate the requests for these. As the effectiveness of both the 3-yearly medical examination and the annual health screening questionnaire relies first of all on divers actually participating in them, it goes without saying that the divers must then do just that, participate. In order to participate, divers must first be invited to participate. With regard to the annual health-screening questionnaire, the authorities and diving entrepreneurs identified low response rate as a challenge. Research suggests that divers as a group have a different risk perception than other offshore workers and a different safety culture. It would seem pertinent for diving entrepreneurs, as well as authorities and operators, to establish a good rapport with the divers in order to build up trust and good communication in both directions. By communicating the risks involved in saturation diving, and by disproving their concerns or suspicions, divers can better make informed decisions related to the safeguarding of their own long-term health. The originality of this study is that few, if any, have looked into the effectiveness of these safety barriers from a safety point of view. There exist layers of defences, but when looked at from an “organisational accident” perspective, it is argued that these layers are in fact based entirely on divers voluntary participation and to some extent coincidences.
Master's thesis in Risk management and societal safety