Choose a Dive Crew, 101: Make the Right Decision
Maintenance Supervisors and Engineers, particularly those involved with Hydro and Coal Fired Generating Facilities as well as Transmission Pipelines, are often called upon to hire independent commercial dive companies for routine and emergency diving services. The task of choosing the best dive company obviously has many variables, such as price, meeting Federal, State, and Company standards, and the ability to commence and complete the task at hand in a timely manner. The problem for you, the person hiring, is that all the companies competing for the job will try to prove that they meet these requirements…the question then becomes, how do you make the best decision?
A primary consideration should be EXPERIENCE. There is no substitute for experience and there is no underestimating the importance of it. Take a look at what the company’s been doing and how long they’ve been doing it – longevity is a sure sign of satisfied customers. Call those past clients and see what their experience with the company was like. Most dive companies conduct the bulk of their business with return clients and referrals, and will welcome the chance to let their reputations speak for them. If a company bidding for the project doesn’t provide you with a client or reference list, make sure you get one. This seems elementary, but it’s amazing how few people really check references when there are reassuring elements such as a good price, and proof of adequate insurance.
Never forget it’s easy to look good on paper. Time spent looking into a company’s background, the collective experience of the dive crew, and the company’s previous work history is time well spent. When hiring a dive company remember that, in a very real sense, they represent you. Just as the dive crew’s success will mean your success, so too does a dive crew’s failure have obvious repercussions for you, the person in charge of the project.
Another aspect of experience is obviously the question of just how familiar the company is with facilities like yours. Although a dive company does not have to specialize in your particular area of need (most dive companies are very diversified,) clearly it will relieve you to know that a company has successfully completed jobs similar to the one in question.
The next important element to consider is the dive crew. Obviously, each diver will have the appropriate certifications, but what sets one dive crew apart from another? Just as a dive company’s previous experience speaks volumes about that company, so, too, does an individual diver’s experience speak volumes about how he might perform on an important job.
Let me put it this way. Historically speaking, the Navy used to put together its dive crews by pulling people from a variety of fields such as engineers, machinists, welders, electricians, etc. to ensure they had a pool of knowledge and talent capable of handling any situation that might occur. This was a tried and true method of fielding a well rounded crew. The crew individuals were tradesmen before being trained as divers, making them doubly qualified as professionals divers.
Looking at it from that perspective, just how qualified are the dive crews bidding on your project? Presumably, they will all be competent, but just how talented are they? For example, the Diving Supervisor should have a thorough understanding of the engineering aspects of a hydroelectric facility so that he and the person hiring him are on the same page when it comes to the task at hand. Otherwise, how will the dive crew in question know how to handle an unexpected situation that may arise? He needs to understand the terminology you’re using, be familiar with the equipment of the facility, and be able to describe what his crew will be doing in terms that you clearly understand.
When the divers you’ve hired each have a solid background and diversified experience, you may be surprised by the results. Perhaps a diver with a good knowledge of engineering can do more than just make a necessary repair. Perhaps he can suggest a permanent solution to the problem that could save a facility an enormous amount of money in the long term.
I know my past experience as a welder has served me well many times on a job and my crew and I often fabricate necessary tools or structures to aid us in our repair work. We realize what all divers should: that 95% of an underwater job is topside preparation. Experience of the crew and experience working in facilities like yours should lessen the divers’ “bottom time,” automatically decreasing costs and the odds of something unexpected happening and insuring the operations success.
There are steps you can take to ensure you choose the right dive crew. Take the time to log onto the OSHA website at www.osha.gov or ADC, The Association for Diving Contracters, at www.adc-int.org, and familiarize yourself with the standards and guidelines you find there. Just as your divers need to be able to “speak your language,” so must you, as the project manager, need to be able to speak to them about the assignment at hand and clearly understand what their qualifications mean, and what they are doing on the project.
I hope my insight as the owner of a commercial dive company and as a diver, may be useful to you, engineers and maintenance supervisors, when you are facing the task of hiring a crew to complete a job that is crucial to your facility. As you can see, a few simple steps can result in the objective being completed successfully, and hopefully will have the long-term effect of forging a business relationship with a dive crew that can be depended upon in the future.
Before forming 2-W Diving in 1988 (the company's name was changed to SDMC in 2009), Gary Weaks received his formal dive training during his enlistment in the US Navy in 1973. He has been diving professionally for 36 years, with expertise relating to power plant maintenance, infrastructure inspection, ship’s husbandry, and subaqueous pipeline rehabilitation.