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Photo
Credit: Matthew Lawrence, NOAA
Photo Credit: Matthew Lawrence, NOAA
Dive Regulations


OMAO Diving Policies


OSHA Commercial Diving Regulations (for working dives):

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)


OSHA Scientific Exemption

In 1982, OSHA exempted scientific diving from commercial diving regulations. The final guidelines for the exemption became effective in 1985 (Federal Register, Vol. 50, No.6, p.1046).

In order to qualify for the scientific exemption, dives must be completed by a scientific diver, are limited to observation and data gathering, and are performed for collection of data used for the advancement of science.

In contrast, working divers perform commercial-oriented diving tasks. Examples of such tasks include: deploying, moving and retrieving heavy objects; locating submerged objects; using heavy hand or power tools; performing ship husbandry; inspecting, repairing, and cleaning underwater structures.

Criteria to be used to distinguish between a working and scientific dive are presented at www.osha.gov and in the list below. A negative answer to any of the following questions would require the task to be conducted as a working dive.

  • Can the tasks be accomplished using simple hand tools (e.g., small hammers, pliers, chisels, wrenches, cameras, measuring tapes, nets, collection jars) weighing 25 pounds or less underwater?
  • Do the tasks require the expertise of a scientist or scientist-in-training?
  • Can the tasks be accomplished with minimal physical exertion?
  • Can the tasks be accomplished in short duration (e.g., <1-hour)?
  • Are the tasks limited solely to the observation of natural phenomena or responses of natural systems and/or gathering of data for scientific analysis?
  • If any object is to be lifted or moved, is its weight underwater <100 pounds?
  • Will the tasks result in the advancement of science?

When conducting mixed operations (i.e., dives involving both scientific and working tasks), or when in doubt as to the nature of the dive, the dive shall be conducted as a working dive per the NWDSSM. 

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A publication of the NOAA Dive Center, Office of Marine and Aviation Operations
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