Recommendations for Scientific Dive Operations

  1. The current state of the Dive Program will be operationally ready under the Institutions policy of guidance for essential on-campus staffing and operations. This will be for MBL employees maintaining long term experiments and maintaining active diver status. Dock and Vessel restrictions have been and will be adhered to according to the MBL/Chicago protocols.  (See 11)
  1. Institution guidelines will be revised to adjustments in Commonwealth’s Reopening Plan concerning the pandemic in its various phases. These Institutional revisions will reflect a methodology of approach in which the DCB endorses as it’s operational procedures for conducting Scientific dive operations
  1. In an effort to inform the Dive Control Board members on valid current information regarding Professional Diving, to establish a knowledge base for a shared mind set for discussion and ability to project future possible consequences, I have these recommendations.
  1. On April 28th Ed Obrien established procedures for Dive Operations from Iselin Pier, which I believe should be the guidelines that we follow, as we reopen. Each operation was planned in detail with a focus not to depart from established methods of equipment checks, information exchange and emergency procedures. The objective is to set and maintain vigilance and a level of “Social Distance” and sanitization of equipment that would be in the zone of current guidelines by respected diving authorities as Divers Alert Network (DAN) and International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA).
  1. All scheduled divers must have completed the MBL Mandatory Daily Health Screening Form and have been verified as having done so.  Will wear approved mask when any more than one person is in the dive locker or other areas where there are more than one person.   Will maintain a social distance of six feet.
  1. Dive Locker. Dive Locker will be limited to scheduled divers for that day. MBL approved mask and gloves will be worn when more than one person is in the area.  Proper disinfecting procedures will be adhered to (wiping down surfaces, doorknobs, showers, etc.).
  1. Each diver will have an independent gas source as current COVID-19 information with life support systems would prohibit the sharing of second stage regulators. Each diver should own their equipment. Rinsing and effective decontamination procedures would follow industry guidelines of the Commercial Dive Industry.  Separate buckets for each diver would be established and training provided. Social Distancing during pre and post dive operations as detailed in current procedures would be in effect. Information of sanitizing and disinfecting has inundated our daily routine.  Question, “how  clean is clean”, it can be subjective. DAN literature on surface contamination linked here.

    Even when one considers factors of half- life exposure, we have the ability to eliminate this risk.  Divers will be responsible for their own gear hence a level of investment in the process and limiting an avenue of cross-contamination that could happen in a wet humid area such as the Dive Locker.  Divers not using their own tanks will be issued one the day of the dive.

  1. Logistical support. Literature posted on the Divers Alert Network (DAN) site states that the COVID-19 virus should not be able to live through the heat of the gas compression process. This same literature also states that good hygiene while filling and inspecting cylinders Is vital. DAN states it is theoretically possible that the virus could enter the cylinder in this manner. These considerations will be closely adhered to prevent contamination of breathing gas hence the detail of cleaning and tracking of cylinders in the current procedures in case a suspect problem.
  1. Fitness for Diving after COVID-19. For this we look to IMCA and the European Hyperbaric Community. The information available at this moment is that a Diver that has tested positive and is asymptomatic should refrain from diving for 40 days. Divers that were symptomatic minimum of two months with preferred three months hiatus. The medical community in Europe has noticed is permanent pulmonary as well as cardiac muscle damage issues in COVID -19 patients. A full dive physical must be conducted by a qualified physician before individual can resume diving under the MBL protocols.
  1. We will not be taking any new divers or visiting divers into our program in this early stage of our reopening. Divers who are presently in our program will be allowed to dive with proper dive plan and approval by the DSO or DCB. Divers requesting reciprocity or diving out of state will be viewed on an individual basis.
  1. On water/small boat operations. The MBL policy and procedures on small boats will be adhered to for all dive operations. The policy now allows for three people in a boat over 16’ with proper personal protection and decontamination procedures. This will allow for a boat tender and two divers, unless diving from a boat tied to the pump dock, which would allow for three divers from the vessel.  
  1. Divers who use the dock or beach as an entry or exit to dive may use carts, if available for transporting their gear to and from the MBL. Masks, snorkels, regulators and other items that come into contact with the face or which might be shared such as an octopus, will be separated into dive bags or carried to the site to avoid cross contamination. The carts will be properly disinfected upon return by the diver using it. Tanks, BCs and other items can be transported on a single cart for efficiency.