Time to become a professional level diver?
So now you are a competent scuba diver, but feel it is time to help others get into this exhilarating sport. You might want to 'live the dream' and earn a living from diving, or even use this as your ticket to go around the world! There are many opportunities for dive instructors and divemasters both in the UK and around the world. So how do you go about it?
This website will be devoted to the situation in the UK. There are likely to be different local laws and requirements in other countries. I suspect that you will find the situation in the UK one of the most demanding and highly regulated.
First, do you want to make money (OK earn a little) from your diving? If not then consider becoming an instructor with a club e.g. BSAC. You will still need to meet high diving standards and organise safe diving for your students, but you will not be 'controlled' by the Diving at Work Regulations 1997 (DWR97.) Alternatively, if you wish to earn money then become a professional instructor with a training agency such as PADI, RAID, SSI or SDI. As this is now classed as working then you must comply with the DWR97.
The Diving at Work Regulations 1997
These are the 'laws' that govern commercial diving in UK waters.
It also includes recreational diving instructors who usually earn
very little money and may not actually be earning anything - if the
dive school is charging students then it is a commercial course! Not
complying with these laws may result in a prosecution and
potentially a prison sentence.
The Health & Safety Executive has a duty to monitor, investigate and prosecute breaches of these regulations. More information is available on their diving website and on their approved codes of practice (ACOP) page.
Medical requirements for professional diving
To be a working divemaster or instructor in the UK you need to be fitter and healthier than that required to be a recreational diver. This is because you have the student's lives in your responsibility and you must be able to assist them if they get into difficulty. You will need a valid HSE Diving Medical certificate. For more information see the HSE Diving Medicals page on this website.
What about volunteering?
Firstly are you really a totally unpaid helper? Are you getting free air fills, dive site entrance fees paid etc? If you are then this is considered payment in kind and makes you a professional diver. Even if you are genuinely not being paid then if the course is still a commercial course e.g. the students are paying fees then the DWR97 must be complied with and there must be a minimum (more if the Risk Assessments suggested otherwise) of 3 people in the team, 2 divers and 1 surface support. Both of these divers must have HSE Diving Medical Certificates. The volunteer, if extra to this requirement, would not then need a HSE Diving Medical Certificate.