As part of a pearling operation, workers of Paspaley Pearling Company Pty Ltd (Paspaley) collected pearls from the ocean floor in a specialised form of diving, known as drift diving. This required the workers to dive
underwater for up to 45 minutes at a time.
During a diving operation near Broome, WA, one of Paspaley’s workers emerged unconscious from a dive and was unable to be revived.
The Court found that a series of missteps resulted in the diver’s retrival taking longer than it should have, including:
- Retrievers not having fins to speed up the retrieval from the water; and
- Attempting to return the unconscious worker to the boat by a ladder
However, best practice was set out in a Pearl Diving Industry Code of Practice, which provides that:
- All personnel be trained and practised in signalling systems, emergency and resurce procedures in a working environment
- Diving emergency drills be practised at least twice a year; and
- The business should ensure that dive emergency procedures cover the search, recovery and retrieval of injured divers
After the incident, Paspaley put such a procedure in place.
This decision highlights the need for you to have written emergency procedures for any foreseeable risks in the workplace in order to comply with your work health and safety duty.
Emergency procedures should include the roles that staff are to fulfil in an emergency. Drills (ie practice runs of the emergency procedure) should be conducted regularly. The decision should also serve as a reminder that industry codes of practice are a valuable resources to assist you to comply with your work health and safety obligations.