Commercial Diver Suffers Severe Infection Due to Untreated Wound

Scuba Diving Expert WitnessThis case involves an injury to a commercial diver during a repair to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, during which he sustained a cut on his hand. The individual began experiencing pain and throbbing in his hand, reported it to his employer, and asked to be taken back to shore for treatment, which was not granted for an extended period of time. The individual eventually sought medical treatment but the delay allowed his condition to worsen and resulted in a more severe infection, which eventually caused permanent injuries to his hand.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience with diving safety.
  • 2. If a diver is injured, when should he/she be taken back to shore?

Expert Witness Response E-132537

I worked in the diving industry since leaving the US Navy in 1967 as a diving salvage officer and have seen numerous cases where diving injuries need immediate and proper treatment. The delay here is too long for the diver to wait. If the vessel was far from shore, it could have called support vessels to retrieve the injured individual. Responsible diving contractors will have a minimum of 2 qualified diving paramedics in the dive team to start immediate first aid. If they consider the wound needs further treatment, they will make that decision. If the diving contractor doesn’t follow that advice, they are negligent. The diver contractor was either not a member of a recognized diving organization (in the US it would be ADCI, and if they were, they were not following ADCI guidelines) or compliant with USCG requirements. Not sending a diver ashore for first aid if the above is not in place is negligence. If the diving contractor is following established USCG or ADCI Guidelines, he will have a professional medical service available ashore to deal with such injuries. Responsible oil companies will audit dive contractors to assure that there is compliance with USCG and good industry practice.


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