Changes to AT Diving Medicals

Changes to AT Diving Medicals

We’ve just received advanced notification that the Institute of Naval Medicine (INM) intends to make changes to the policy for AT service diving medicals.  This is likely to appear in the next version of BR1750A which should be published in Autumn 2014.

The change has been driven by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and will bring AT service diving medicals fully into line with the Diving at Work Regulations (DWR).  Specifically it will remove the exemption that currently exists for some AT divers to have an annual health surveillance check rather than a full physical examination.

The INM intend to allow grandfather rights, i.e divers will only need the full medical when their current medical expires.

Final point is that this is advanced warning and not current policy as the revised BR1750A has not yet been published.  We’ll notify everyone when it comes online.

The INM is aware of the difficulties some medical centres have in conducting service medicals for all those who need them.  One piece of good news is that the HSE have allowed the MoD to use locum doctors who are in date for the standard underwater medicine course to conduct military AT medicals.  This will increase the pool of doctors who are able to conduct medicals and should reduce the difficulties that medical centres face.  Once again this change will be promulgated in the revised version of BR1750A.dd text, images, and other content

Suspension of AT CCR Diving

Earlier today I received the following message from Rear Admiral Woodcock in his capacity as the Operational Duty Holder (ODH) for AT diving:

My responsibility is specific and focussed about the safety of AT Activity conducted at the Joint Service Sub Aqua Diving Centre. It is not for me to comment on manufacturers or any other issue but to determine if the Risk we are carrying and I hold personally as ODH is appropriate. At this stage I do not consider I have sufficient information to determine that it is safe and therefore pending further assurance I can only assume it is not. The level of assurance I need is high as Diving AT can be conducted using non re breather eqpt with a significantly lower level of risk and there is no operational imperative for us to use re breather eqpt.

Once I have coherent advice and assurance I will be able to make a final decision but in the interim all training in Re breather is to cease at the JSSADC. Clearly I have a wider responsibility for all Military AT Diving (although not a specific one) and therefore all MOD sponsored Diving AT using Re breather equipment should also be suspended.

I intend holding a meeting to discuss the issues raised in detail once we have the appropriate advice and by the end of May.

Questions on this topic should be directed via SO2 AT in HMS TEMERAIRE.

Guidance on Snorkelling / Breath-Hold / Free-Diving / Duck-Diving after SCUBA Diving

Note from the Superintendent of Diving


Guidance on Snorkelling / Breath-Hold / Free-Diving / Duck-Diving after SCUBA Diving


Fellow Divers, a recent tragic incident which occurred during an Expedition which took place overseas, has identified a number of lessons, which the Service Sub-Aqua Diving community needs to be informed about.  While the investigation process is still ongoing to fully explain the cause of this incident and which I can therefore not comment on at present, one clear aspect of the circumstances needs to be carefully considered by all those enjoying SCUBA diving for authorised Adventurous Training and Service recreational purposes, namely the practice of snorkelling and breath-hold diving, after diving using SCUBA. 


The risk of a shallow water blackout when conducting even shallow breath-hold diving is well documented and while it is virtually impossible to ‘police’ this activity, I would strongly advise anyone indulging in this activity to cease doing so in the future.  The risk of decompression sickness being aggravated by the practice of breath-hold diving after SCUBA diving is the subject of debate within the hyperbaric medicine community.  But it does appear that there is a possibility of DCS occurring during breath-hold diving following diving involving the use of compressed gas.  Therefore, until this risk can be discounted, it must be made clear to divers by the SADS, that during Service Sub – Aqua diving projects, divers must not engage in breath-hold diving activity until they are clear of residual gas as indicated by dive computer or calculated from dive tables.  By breath-hold diving I mean that activity where individuals take a breath on the surface and ‘duck dive’ underwater to any depth.  This obviously also means ‘free-diving’ and a number of free-diving websites already warn against this practice.  Military divers have been prohibited from breath-hold diving since the death of Lt MacAuley RN in 2002 and in light of the recent incident it is clear that this prohibition must apply to Service Sub – Aqua Diving also.   


With regard to snorkelling, many divers, me included, carry a snorkel for use on the surface and if used on the surface only, I do not believe that there is any potential increase in risk of DCS or actual risk of shallow water blackout.  Indeed in an ‘out of gas’ situation, the availability of a snorkel could be considered to be a piece of emergency equipment.  However, while there is no clear guidance from BSAC, it is considered reasonable to ask Service Sub-Aqua Divers to wait until they have completed their off-gassing period before undertaking anything other than snorkelling on the surface activities.



C M Baldwin

Cdr RN


Important Information Regarding Overseas Expeditions


A recent incident in the Red Sea during a Service AT diving expedition has lead to an investigation by Superintendant of diving (SoD) as concerns have been raised about operating procedures. Expedition leaders are to use only those centres which have been approved by SoD staff.


Any overseas dive centre is expected to be operated to the same standard as those in the UK and many do so. However, it is also Diving Standards Team (DST) experience that the claim that a venue holds official endorsement such as a BSAC or PADI ‘accreditation’, is no proof that the centre has even minimum levels of safe practices. Failure to apply appropriate levels of assurance is in breach of MOD safety policy and may result in recommendation by the Defence Safety Environment Authority (DSEA) that disciplinary action be taken if personnel are considered to have acted negligently.


The DST (AT) can provide details of UK and overseas centres which have been inspected and it is recommended that if AT Diving Expeds are to continue, these approved sites should be used. To date these are MOD - JSSADC Plymouth (re-opened at new location), ASADC Bovington, JPDU Gibraltar, CJSATC Cyprus, and RAFSAA Ascension Island. Commercial – NDAC, Castlemartin in Pembroke, ‘Dive In’ Larnaca, Cyprus and ‘Aqua Ventures’, Kenya





 Please read below for info/action as appropriate. This email is based on similar info already dist on the Army net. I know some of you are aware and have commenced dissemination of this info already. Please further dist where/if you deem appropriate.

 Following recent close scrutiny of the policy in JSP 319 on Air Purity Standards for Sub-Aqua Diving (which all AT diving ought to have been following since it was issued), there has been identification of a common mis-practice concerning air purity standards.  The HSE now demands that, since AT is considered to be “At Work”, the MOD must abide by the appropriate HSE direction.  Following a meeting at HMS Temeraire last week, it was hoped that a realistic deadline for absolute imposition of the instructions would be extended, however, the RN Legal Department has ruled that the guidelines are extant and that we must abide by them wef 31 Jul.

 To that end, this must now be rigorously enforced from that date.  A number of actions are now required before any of the Sub-Aqua diving expeditions (that are deploying after 31 Jul) can be granted final authority by the AT Policy Office.  As this is with almost immediate effect, all affected Sub-Aqua Expedition Leaders now need to do the following:

Ý.      Contact the diving centre(s) from which the expedition will be sourcing their air-fills and

ask for their up-to-date Compressor Air Purity Certificate(s) to be faxed across.  (This needs to be done immediately in the case of expeds BELIZEAN DIVIDE and DEEP BLUE). Regional ATIs may know of other upcoming expeds to whom these developments also apply that will need to be informed immediately.

Þ.      On receipt of the Air Purity Cert(s), the Expedition Leader must then fax them throughto SO2AT/AT1 at HMS Temeraire who will then forward them to Nick Harrington (DSO(AT) at Fleet Diving HQ), either by e-mail (Copy Addressee) or by Fax to +44 (0)23 9222 4150.  Once he is satisfied that the proposed Centre meets the Air Purity Standards required, he will give authority to SO2 AT to allow the Expedition Leader to continue to plan/execute the expedition. 

ß.      Exped Leaders must also arrange to pick up an Air Purity Test Kit from the Loan Poolat Bicester which they MUST take on the expedition with them (it weighs approx 2.5 kgs).  The Test Kit will be loaned to the expedition free of charge; however, the expedition will regrettably need to fund the consumables for the testing.  This will cost 㿔 for each test conducted.  Exped Leaders (or, preferably, their exped SADS) should contact Nick Harrington on +44 (0)7795 012561 so that he can explain the testing regime and the operation of the equipment (this is reasonably simple).  Provided that the Centre’s air passes the standard (highly probable in the case of all European and Egyptian Dive Centres) on the first test, no further testing will be required, provided there is no change in the compressor “circumstances”.  Nick Harrington will explain further. 

 In due course, specific direction on all of this will be promulgated by the Superintendent of Diving, but this is unlikely to be before Sep.

 Note: This is not optional; it is policy that must be carried out with immediate effect.  If these instructions are not followed, the expedition will regrettably have to be cancelled. Any exped that goes ahead without carrying out the action detailed above will lose On Duty status, and the Crown Liability and funding support that goes with it.