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NOAA Working Diving Standards and Safety Manual
Highlights of Changes to the NWDSSM
NOAA Scientific Diving Standards and Safety Manual
Highlights of Changes to the NSDSSM
NOAA Dive Regulations
Exemption Guidelines
OSHA Dive Regulations
U.S. Coast Guard Dive Regulations
Diving Unit Safety Assessment (DUSA) Operational Standards and Procedures
Forms Dive Regulation Forms


NOAA Dive Regulations

OMAO Policies - 0300 Series - Diving

Dive Regulations & Policies - Summary Presentation - updated 15 January 2011(PPT)

The NOAA Diving Regulations (NOAA Administrative Order 209-123) were revised 09/22/2011. The new regulations supersede the March 29, 1991 version.

NOAA Administrative Order 209-123 (Acrobat PDF file)

09-01 Performance of working tasks by NOAA science divers


Exemption Guidelines

The following guidelines shall be used to interpret section 6.01 Exemptions of NOAA administrative order NAO-209-123, NOAA Diving Program diving regulations.

Within the context of the NOAA Diving Regulations, an emergency is a sudden, unexpected occurrence or set of circumstances demanding immediate action in order to prevent death, serious physical harm, total loss of property or major environmental damage. It is an extreme case, and does not include such situations as: 1) failure to meet mission objectives, 2) recovery of common experimental or operational equipment, 3) loss of sea time due to mechanical problems or similar situations.

Emergency conditions that warrant actions contrary to the dictates of the regulations may require immediate on-site action. In such a case, the on-site supervisor assumes full responsibility for the consequences of the action, and must submit a full report on his/her actions to the Director, NOAA Diving Program, through LO Diving Officers/NC Fleet Diving Officer, within twenty-four (24) hours of the event. Deviations from the regulations must be both "safe and essential to program operations." The individual who approves any such deviations is strictly accountable for ensuring the latter.

The designation, qualifications, and responsibilities of the Line Office/Fleet Diving Officer referred to in Section 6 are specified in the regulations. The "designee" referred to in Section 6 is determined by the Line Office/Fleet Diving Officer and designated either on a "case-by-case" or "blanket" basis. This designation is not automatic and is not associated with any position held within the organization, such as a Unit Diving Supervisor (UDS) or vessel Divemaster.

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OSHA Dive Regulations

A copy of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Commercial Diving Regulation is also included with the handbook. NOAA diving operations that fall outside of the scientific exemption must follow NOAA and OSHA standards.

OSHA defines scientific diving as "diving performed solely as a necessary part of scientific, research or educational activity by employees whose sole purpose for diving is to perform scientific research tasks. Scientific diving does not include the performance of any task usually associated with commercial diving such as; placing or removing heavy objects underwater; inspection of pipelines and similar objects; construction; demolition; cutting or welding; or the use of explosives." Ship husbandry, item investigations, construction and diving tasks requiring the use of power tools are examples of NOAA operations that must follow OSHA standards.

OSHA standards that exceed NOAA requirements consist of; requirement for all divers to have an alternate air supply (J valve); requirement for on site recompression chambers when diving with mixed gases, (Nitrox), deeper than 100fsw or outside the no-decompression limits; dive teams shall consist of one supervisor and two divers and one standby diver.

See OSHA Diving Standards:
Title 29 CFR Part 1910 Subpart T
Title 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart Y

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U.S. Coast Guard Dive Regulations

For USCG Diving Regulations, please see,
Title 46 CFR Part 197 Subpart B

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