The Commercial Diver's Handbook: Surface-Supplied Diving, Decompression and Chamber Operations Field Guide



Hal Lomax
October 2013


About the Book

For several generations, the U.S. Navy Diving Manual has been considered the Bible of both military diving and the commercial diving industry, regardless of where in the world these operations were performed. In the past, the U.S. Navy Diver’s Handbook was the go-to source for military and commercial divers when they were in the field and did not wish to carry the complete manual with them. The last official printing of the handbook was in 1994, and there has been a desperate requirement for a handbook for the commercial diver ever since.

The Commercial Diver’s Handbook fills that requirement and more, presenting the three most commonly used decompression tables world-wide, as well as the latest tables for the treatment of pressure-related illness and injury. In addition, an updated diving medicine section is presented; a section on enriched air (Nitrox); and the Canadian Navy surface mixed gas tables as well. The technical editing was provided by CPO1 Charles Trombley, Canadian Navy, formerly of Canada’s Experimental Diving Unit, and currently Chief Diver, Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic. This handbook will prove to be a valuable tool in every commercial diver and diving supervisor’s pocket, no matter where in the world they find themselves working.

About the Author

Hal Lomax came from a family of commercial fishermen, and had a love for the sea since he was a small boy. He decided on his career at age 5, when his great-uncle, a long time diver, set a MKV copper helmet over his head. By the age of 10, he was on the fishing boats on weekends with his uncles and grandfather; before the age of 16, he was working deep sea on the salvage tugs. In the mid 70s, he started working as a diver, training on the job under ex-military divers as there were no schools yet established in Canada.

He went on to work for many different outfits over the years; on inland hydro dams and power plants, coastal construction and demolition projects, and offshore salvage, construction, and oilfield work. He ran his own diving business for a couple of decades and operated his own school at the same time, where he wrote all of the course material and texts. In 2006, Hal went back to work offshore as a free-lance supervisor. He is a founding member of the Divers Association International and currently sits on the Board of Directors as Board Member for Canada. Since he hung up his helmet at the end of 2007, Hal works in various locations around the world as a diving superintendent and supervisor, and spends his free time with his wife and four parrots in New Brunswick, Canada, or at their winter home in Florida.

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A Note From the Author

Men have strived to work underwater for as long as they have worked on the water: ports in the Roman Empire employed divers to retrieve cargo lost overboard well over two thousand years ago. The Greeks had sponge divers, the Japanese and Arabs had pearl divers, but all of the early divers had one common problem – their bottom time was limited to one breath. There were various inventions over the centuries as well: bladders to hold air, armored diving suits, bells full of air; but until the early 1800s, and the diving helmets of the Deane brothers and Augustus Siebe, the depth and time that a diver could work were severely restricted. The Deanes and Siebe created helmets that allowed the diver to breathe air from the surface, and they ushered in a whole new era of working underwater. Since the mid 1930s, deep diving has been performed using mixed gas, and since it was first used in the early 1960s, saturation diving has become quite common. The advances in both technique and equipment within the past 50 years alone are truly remarkable.

One would think an industry able to trace its roots back that far would be developed to a point that an accident would be a rare thing and a fatality would be unheard of. Unfortunately that is far from the case. Too many accidents occur in this industry that should not happen. Every year there are divers killed for lack of a bailout, killed because machinery is not locked out, killed by differential pressure, killed by improper rigging, killed while burning unvented tanks, and the list goes on. Every one of these accidents has one thing in common: they have happened before and should not have happened again. We are not learning by our mistakes.

Every diver has got to realize this: if you can “flange up” a spool piece or install hydra-tights quicker than anyone else on the crew, it will not matter to your family when they are burying you. Life does not have instant replay. If the job you are on is not being run safely, speak up or walk away. It is far better to be unemployed and alive than to be a dead “yes man”. Working safely does not cost – it pays.

It is my sincere wish that every diver using this handbook will make a conscious decision to operate safely, to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, and that every last one will enjoy a long retirement. Too many never had the chance. Have your say on safety in diving operations, and join the Divers Association International at; together our voices will be heard.

I wish to thank my friend Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Trombley (Chief Diver, Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic, Canadian Navy) for taking the time and patience to provide the technical editing. I am truly honored to have a man of his caliber edit my work. Also I wish to thank my friend John Carl Roat for providing information and encouragement. Thanks as well to my wife Myra, for her patience and a pile of great ideas for the book. And finally to the good folks at Best Publishing Company who made this possible, thank you very much indeed.

Hal Lomax

Book Reviews

"The Commercial Diver's Handbook is a great resource for the working diver. Hard packed with vital information for dive planning and essential for continuing review to keep supervisors sharp. Reviewing the content it is evident of the authors experience and knowledge within this industry recognizing the lack of such a publication. The Commercial Diver's Handbook will provide the diver with tools to make good decisions small enough to have on hand on site and while in transit for review and planning purposes. The worth of a handbook can only be judged by how usable and necessary the information contained within. I could see this Handbook as the diver's new best friend. I can only say Hal you have done an outstanding job pushing to compile such an important book for the dive side."
Charles Trombley

- Charley Trombley is the Chief Diver, Fleet Diving Unit, Canadian Navy, and the technical editor for the Handbook. Charley is well known by Navy divers world wide, and diving contractors in Canada, and is the main man responsible for both the fine-tuning and manned testing of the DCIEM Diving tables, reckoned by most in the industry to be the safest decompression tables available to divers today.


"If you are a serious diver or dive supervisor you should have this excellent decompression resource on the job. It may save your or another divers butt. Well done Hal!"

- John Carl Roat, Senior Supervisor/Diver, Legacy Offshore, LLC

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