• Keefe, A. (2024). Assessing the needs, gaps, and opportunities for occupational diving in aquaculture. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

Executive Summary

The rapid growth of aquaculture in Canada and around the world, coupled with the decline in offshore oil and gas-related occupational diving, has resulted in many divers migrating to the aquaculture and seafood harvesting industry. With this influx of workers, there is a need to understand whether Canada’s current occupational diving regulatory framework and voluntary occupational diving standards are meeting the needs of the sector.

The research conducted for this report evaluated which diving methods are appropriate for aquaculture, which tools and technologies are acceptable, and which skills and competencies occupational divers must possess to perform aquaculture and seafood harvesting jobs safely. This report synthesizes the findings from a review of the scientific and grey literature, an environmental scan of regulations and standards pertaining to occupational diving in general and to diving in aquaculture and seafood harvesting specifically, and key informant interviews.

Key findings include:

  1. Although aquaculture is one of the fastest growing industries in Canada and around the world, it is understudied when it comes to occupational health and safety. Research conducted in Canada, Australia, and the European Union over the past two decades shows that, relative to other industries, aquaculture has high rates of lost time injuries and illnesses and a high incidence of fatalities. Divers in aquaculture experience higher risks of injury and mortality compared to divers in other industries. Furthermore, because the injury, fatality, and illness rates reported in the literature are based on workers’ compensation statistics, they likely under-represent actual injury and fatality rates in aquaculture.
  2. Despite the presence of a relatively robust regulatory framework, there are several gaps and inconsistencies in how occupational diving is regulated in Canada. Examples include a lack of alignment in some jurisdictions’ regulations and two of the standards in CSA Group’s suite of occupational diving standards, and a lack of aquaculture-specific guidelines or codes of practice to assist with interpretation of and compliance with the regulations.
  3. Key informants indicated there was value in a standardization solution for aquaculture and seafood harvesting, which would allow for harmonization of occupational diving requirements across the country, as well as the creation of industry- and task-specific guidance. Two principal options emerged: (a) development of a new standalone standard for diving in aquaculture or (b) amendment of CSA Z275.2, Occupational safety code for diving operations.
  4. The preferred option is to amend CSA Z275.2 by creating a new section on aquaculture and seafood harvesting, which would address the key issues and gaps identified in this report and ensure that CSA Z275.2 reflects the needs of the aquaculture and seafood harvesting industry.

In addition to amending CSA Z275.2, key informants indicated there was value in CSA Group developing an informative annex with guidelines for aquaculture diving that include preferred or recommended methods aquaculture employers can use to comply with the diving regulations, and that provide guidance to help interpret and achieve compliance with the regulations.