The Analox team head off to the Underwater Centre

Training at the Underwater CentreThe Analox team ready to undergo training at The Underwater Centre

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A group of Analox team members were invited to The Underwater Centre in Fort William to undergo training similar to that delivered to Commercial Divers and ROV pilot technicians. The Centre provides a comprehensive, purpose-built dive-site, with subsea environments to mirror real-life surroundings.

The team travelled the 600 mile round trip in the unmissable yellow Analox van to attend an afternoon and following morning of training at the centre in Fort William. The Centre has a breath-taking view of Loch Linnhei and is positioned right at the foot of Ben Nevis, not a bad place to learn!

Once we’d arrived at the site our afternoon consisted of some initial classroom training delivered by Alf Leadbitter, Offshore Diving Training Manager, before we donned our PPE attire to tour the on-shore site. We were presented with an overview of the different applications of underwater working from mine clearance for the military, and recovery of weapons and vehicles for the police, to work on pipelines and dams as civil engineers.

Analox team members visiting Underwater Dive CentreThe Analox team after their experience in a hyperbaric chamber

The team was also taken through some laws, physics and physiology of diving to really understand the potential impacts it can have on the human body.

One key comment Alf made which really put things into perspective was that although these job roles involve diving, they’re not actually divers, they are underwater workers and diving is just the transportation used in order for them to carry out their job.

Working in Commercial Diving has always been tagged with a substantial salary label and while this may be true, the risk involved in this type of work is high. Although now ranked the 25th most dangerous occupation compared to its former position of 3rd, it is still a high risk job, which is reflected in their wage. The industry has seen less fatalities due to better equipment and technology, and a better understanding of safety procedures needed. (Incidentally, the most dangerous occupation is commercial fishing.)

That’s where we come in. We manufacture gas monitors for a range of applications within the Commercial Diving industry to ensure levels are safe at all times. We can monitor for oxygen depletion, helium, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, depth, humidity and temperature. We currently supply the training centre in Fort William with our CO Clear units. The monitor is designed to be installed inline on a heliox compressor arrangement to warn the operator if there is a potential contamination of carbon monoxide before it reaches the end user, in this case, the underwater worker.

During our training we were guided around the Centre’s facilities which includes their private pier, with a large surface working area capable of taking artic lorries, a number of buildings for work and storage, and its own electricity supply plus an on-shore tank complex, which holds 1.5 million litres of sea water, complete with viewing platforms in order to provide feedback to trainee divers. We were lucky enough to be shown inside a hyperbaric chamber and be compressed to a depth of 1 metre. Even at this depth you could feel the need to equalise the pressure from your ears. Divers can often go to depths of, up to 300 metres where saturation techniques are used. Saturation involves pressurising in a chamber before the job starts and then being transported to the worksite in a bell each day. At the end of the bell run the divers are transported back to the chamber where they need to be looked after before being required again. At the end of the job or a 28 day rotation the divers are decompressed back to the surface. This alone can take several days.

The facilities are used by trainee Commercial divers from all over the world, with more than 450 trainees using the site on an annual basis.

Lewis Gorford, Electronics Engineer at Analox said, “Seeing the environment that commercial divers train in really gave us a good understanding of what they experience in a real-life situation. The training we received provided us with more in-depth knowledge of the issues and dangers divers face, this in turn impacts on our product developments.

“I recommend going to meet the people we design equipment for, as they are more than happy to give you their thoughts and ideas for improvements, also what they look for when buying an analyser.”

An Analox SDA unit being used in the control room

Our SDA oxygen unit being used in a control panel

Steve Ham, General Manger at The Underwater Centre had this to say, “We were delighted to welcome the Analox team to The Underwater Centre last week. We delivered company specific training to their personnel in conditions that replicate an offshore environment. Leaving Fort William with increased knowledge and awareness of their customers’ needs, we are confident that our training will lead to a greater understanding of their customer requirements leading to a more efficient and effective workforce.”

We certainly learnt a lot from our visit to the centre, and it’s always good to see where the products you make are used and how valuable they can be to someone’s work and safety procedures, and more crucially, their life.

Walking the private pier at The Underwater CentreWalking into the fog along the private pier to reach the diving training facilities at Fort William