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Guideline No. 30: Underwater Stunts and Underwater Operations | Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario

  • ISBN: 978-1-4249-9952-1
  • Issued: March 1997
  • Revised: March 1, 2014
  • Content last reviewed: July 2015

Underwater Stunts And Underwater Operations

Divers employed within Ontario are required to comply with the requirements of Ontario Regulation 629/94, Diving Operations (the Regulation) and Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) where applicable.

The Regulation applies to diving operations and functions in support of diving operations.

The Regulation sets out duties and responsibilities for various parties including employers, owners, diving supervisors, divers and diver’s tenders.

Some of the requirements of the Regulation that relate to underwater performances are summarized below. However, this guideline does not replace the requirements set out in the Regulation, and if there is a difference between this guideline and the Regulation, the Regulation will prevail.

Giving Notice Of Diving Operations

Notice must be given to the Ministry of Labour by each employer or owner associated with a diving operation at least 24 hours before the diving operation begins. A completed Notice of Diving Operation form must be submitted to the Ministry within five (5) days after the start of the diving operation.

A copy of the written notice must be available at the dive site for inspection by a Ministry inspector.

Written notice must be provided on a “Notice of Diving Operations” form.

Subsection 5(4) of the Regulation outlines the information to be included on the notice to the Ministry. The following is some of the information to be included on the form:

  • location of the dive site
  • expected starting date and duration of the diving operation;
  • dates when and times of day during which the diving operation is expected to be carried out;
  • name, mailing address and telephone number of an owner or employer who is associated with the diving operation;
  • the names of all diving supervisors for the diving operation;
  • maximum depth of any dive in the diving operation;
  • description of the tasks expected to be performed in the diving operation; and
  • breathing mixtures expected to be used during the diving operation.

Oral notice information (as required by subsection 5 of the Regulation) must include:

  • location of the dive site;
  • expected starting and duration times of the diving operation;
  • dates when and times of day during which the diving operation is expected to be carried out;
  • name, mailing address and telephone number of an owner or employer who is associated with the diving operation; and
  • statement whether the diving operation is to be offshore or onshore.

The contact numbers for the Ministry of Labour, Diving Offices are:

Eastern Region

347 Preston Street, 4th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1S 3J4
Tel: 613-228-8050 ext.3055
Toll-free: 1-800-267-1916
Fax: 613-727-2900

Central Region

17345 Leslie St, Unit 102
Newmarket ON L3Y 9A3
Tel: 905 953-3999
Toll-free: 1-888-299-3138
Fax: 905-715-7609

Northern Region

159 Cedar Street, Suite 301
Sudbury ON P3E 6A5
Tel: 705-564-7306 ext. 47306
Toll-free: 1-800-461-6325
Fax: 705-564-7437

Western Region

119 King Street West, 13th Floor
Hamilton ON L8P 4Y7
Tel: 905-577-6221
Toll-free: 1-800-263-6906
Fax: 905-577-1324

217 York Street, 5th Floor
London ON N6A 5P9
Tel: 519-439-2210
Toll-free: 1-800-265-1676
Fax: 519-672-0268

4510 Rhodes Drive, Suite 610
Windsor, ON N8W 5K5
Tel: 519-256-8277
Toll-free: 1-800-265-5140
Fax: 519-258-1321

Any changes made to the plan after the MOL notification must be provided to the Ministry. The employer and owner associated with the diving operation who provide notice to the Ministry must also ensure that a written operational plan and a written contingency plan for each diving operation must be prepared with input from one or more of the diving supervisors (see "Diving Crew" section) appointed for the diving operation. Items to be included in the plan as per section 7 of the Regulation are as follows:

An Operational Plan must:

  • describe the tasks to be performed in the diving operation;
  • state how those tasks are to be performed;
  • state how the hazards to be encountered in the diving operation, are to be identified and handled; and
  • state which agencies and facilities will be given notice under section 9 of the Regulation.

A Contingency Plan must:

  • include instructions for communicating with medical assistance in the event of an emergency
  • outline emergency procedures for the evacuation of an injured diver from the dive site
  • outline emergency procedures for responding to any significant failure of a component of any diving equipment
  • outline emergency procedures for responding to a loss of communication with a diver
  • outline emergency procedures for responding to hazardous weather or ice conditions
  • outline emergency procedures for aborting a dive
  • outline emergency procedures for responding to any inability of an offshore dive site to maintain station

All diving crew members are to be briefed on the plans and the plans must be available at the dive site for inspection by a Ministry inspector.

Section 9 of the Regulation requires notification to the law enforcement agency that has responsibilities in relation to the area in which the dive site is located.

Section 8 of the Regulation requires the following documents to be available at the dive site:

  • A copy of any written notice that has been given in respect of the diving operation under subsection 5 (1).
  • Where written notice has not yet been given in respect of the diving operation under subsection 5 (1), a written statement including the date of the oral notice given in respect of the diving operation and name of the person to whom the oral notice was given.
  • A copy of the operational plan prepared for the diving operation under section 7.
  • A copy of the contingency plan prepared for the diving operation under section 7.
  • A copy of this Regulation.
  • A copy of any standard published by the Canadian Standards Association and referred to in the Regulation that may apply to the diving operation.

In addition, there must be a diver’s log book that includes a diver’s medical certificates (see subsection 13(1) of the Regulation. The diving supervisor must have proof of training and his or her log book (daily record) available for inspection by an inspector as per subsection 12(1) of the Regulation.

If operating within the port of Toronto you must notify and receive written approval from the Harbour Master. The Toronto Police Marine Unit must also be made aware of the diving activity. If operating in the port of Thunder Bay you must notify and receive written approval from the Port Authority.

Diving Crew

The Regulation states a minimum crew requirement where Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) or surface-supplied diving is used for underwater film production. The diving supervisor will determine the number of persons necessary for each dive. Section 6 of the Regulation requires that competent diving supervisors be appointed for every diving operation.

There is a minimum crew requirement for certified competent members for a basic diving team. The following roles must be filled:

  • a diving supervisor
  • a standby diver
  • a diver
  • a diver’s tender

Section 37 of the Regulation sets out minimum crew requirements where SCUBA is used and in subsection 37(2) allows that the diving supervisor may also function either as a standby diver or as a diver’s tender. Section 39 of the Regulation sets out minimum crew requirements when surface supplied diving is conducted. Adequate numbers of diver’s tenders are required for surface-supplied diving. A diving supervisor may only dive in the case of an emergency.

Subsection 4.1 (2) of the Regulations requires that an employer shall ensure that every person who participates in a diving operation meets the competency requirement applicable to the type of diving operation being participated in as set out in CSA Z275.4-12.

(Note: Recreational diving certification is not acceptable for occupational diving purposes in Ontario)

Each diver, diving supervisor, and at least one diver's tender must be certified in CPR oxygen administration and first aid. Certification documentation must be available at the dive site for inspection. Each occupational diver must be certified medically fit to dive. A physician who is knowledgeable about diving medicine and hyperbaric medicine must conduct the medical examination.

The OHSA and sections 12, 13 and 14 of the Regulation outline some of the key duties of diving supervisors, divers, standby divers and diver's tenders before, during and after the dive. Sections 4.1 to 10 include duties of constructors, employers and owners. The Divers and Diver's Tender have specific duties under sections 13 and 14.

Section 63 of the Regulation requires every diver to maintain an up-to-date logbook, which includes proof of fitness and competence. Section 64 of the Regulation requires a diving supervisor to maintain a daily record of a diving operation containing prescribed information.

No person shall dive unless he or she has undergone a diving medical examination during the twenty-four(24) month period preceding the dive and has obtained a written statement from the examining physician indicating that the diver is fit to dive. (Note: Divers aged 40 years and over must have undergone a diving medical examination in the preceding 12 months.) The examining physician must be knowledgeable about diving medicine and hyperbaric medicine as per section 32 of the Regulation.

Section 33 of the Regulation states that the employer associated with the diving operation must ensure that up-to-date certification in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, oxygen administration and first aid is held by each of the following:

  • the diving supervisor
  • each participating diver
  • at least one diver's tender at the dive site

Equipment

Section 15 of the Regulation requires the employer and diving supervisor to ensure that all diving equipment used in the diving operation is adequately maintained and is tested and repaired by a competent person in accordance with the manufacturer's recommended procedures. All SCUBA cylinders must be hydrostatically tested every 5 years.

Specific requirements regarding personal diving equipment and dive site equipment are described in sections 16 and 17 of the Regulation.

The requirements for lifelines are outlined in section 18 of the Regulation. For example, subsection 18(1) states:

The diving supervisor for a diving operation shall ensure that an adequate lifeline or strength member is attached to each diver participating in the diving operation when the diver is in the water.

The producer (i.e. employer) and the diving supervisor must ensure that each submerged diver is connected to the dive site by a two-way communication system. This communication may be by voice or pre-arranged line signals but must meet the requirements of section 19 of the Regulation.

Sections 20-24 of the Regulation contain specific requirements for cranes and hoisting devices, fall arrest systems, stages, hyperbaric chambers and gauges and metering equipment.

Breathing Mixtures

Breathing mixtures must be suitable for the diving operation, and should not, for example, contain levels of nitrogen or oxygen that would be a hazard at the planned depth and duration of the dive. Subsection 5(3) requires the employers and owner to give notice to the Ministry if a mixed gas (i.e. breathing mixture other than air) is used.

There must be a primary supply of breathing mixture that is adequate to complete the dive as planned and a secondary supply, which in the case of SCUBA is to be one complete SCUBA unit with a fully charged cylinder. See section 26 of the Regulation.

Each diver must also be equipped with an emergency bailout or emergency reserve system, as per section 27 of the Regulation. The purity of any breathing mixture must conform to the CSA Standard Z275.2-11 (as per section 29 of the Regulation).

There are also requirements for compressors that are used in diving operations to supply breathing mixtures and oxygen systems in section 30 and section 31 of the Regulation. Any compressor and associated equipment used in the diving operation to supply a breathing mixture must conform to the CSA Standard Z275.2-11. Additional information for compressors and associated equipment may be found in CSA Z180.1 05.

Scuba And Surface – Supplied Diving

Diving in the entertainment industry will in most cases require the use of SCUBA or a surface-supplied system. There are specific provisions for both in sections 36-41 of the Regulation. Of particular relevance are the prohibitions on the use of SCUBA, in section 36. If SCUBA is prohibited, a surface-supplied system could be used instead.

SCUBA must not be used near or in an underwater intake, pipe, tunnel, duct or other confined space. SCUBA divers are prohibited from diving at a water control structure, working with power tools, hoisting devices, burning or welding equipment, or working in depths deeper than 100 feet or in contaminated environments. (See section 36 of the Regulation).

Duties Of Diving Supervisors

The person who is hired as the diving supervisor shall ensure that there are an adequate number of divers who are competent and fit for the job. Section 7 sets out the requirements for an operational plan and a contingency plan and requires input from the diving supervisor. Clause 12(3)(a) requires the diving supervisor to ensure the operational and contingency plans are followed. Clause 12(3)(b) requires the diving supervisor to brief the workers on the operational and contingency plans.

They will ensure that all standby divers are adequately dressed and equipped at all times during the operation and that no standby diver dives except in the event of a health or safety emergency.

The diving supervisor must refer to the requirements set out in the Regulation and follow the duties as listed in the Regulation.

Duties Of Divers And StandBy Divers

Divers and standby divers must be adequately trained and fit for the job. Standby divers must not dive except in the event of a health and safety emergency. Divers and standby divers must comply with section 13 of the Regulation.

Duties Of Diver's Tender

A diver's tender shall ensure that he or she does not perform any duties other than those specified in section 14 of the Regulation.

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