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HSE SCUBA: How Important is it for a Commercial Diving Career?



To start your commercial diving career, you must have a recognised commercial diving certification, such as HSE or ADAS. While a lot of commercial diving work is carried out using surface supplied diving equipment, there is still a demand for SCUBA – and you must have HSE SCUBA or equivalent to attend the HSE Surface Supplied Course.

Nick Reeves is an HSE SCUBA Instructor at The Underwater Centre, Fort William. Here he answers the most common questions he’s had about the HSE SCUBA Course.

What commercial diving work can I do with this ticket?

“HSE SCUBA is frequently used in industries such as media and journalism which can include building underwater film sets and underwater filming. Lots of nature documentaries involve divers and many stunt performers are HSE SCUBA qualified. It’s commonly used in support of marine biology and scientific research projects as well as fish farming and shellfish diving. If risk assessment allows, SCUBA may be used for more manual tasks such as clearing a fouled propeller on a boat and to perform some inspection work too.”

Can I go recreational diving with this certificate?

“Yes of course – up to the equivalent of a CMAS 3 Star Diver. It doesn’t allow you to work in the recreational sector though, for instance, as a recreational dive instructor. You would need PADI, BSAC or similar for that.”

What does the HSE SCUBA Course involve?

“At its most basic it covers life-sustaining training. It starts with three familiarisation dives in our massive onshore seawater tank, and then the remainder of the dives are from the SCUBA station on our pier, and on one of our air diving barges. There will be a minimum of 19 dives in a range of open-water depths up to 30 metres. HSE SCUBA training also involves a deep air dive to a maximum of 50 metres in a surface decompression chamber.

Our course enables you to learn best practise commercial diving work. It also includes a range of subsea hand tools and tasks, such as the use of air lift bags. It’s a valuable stepping stone for your career.

Other tasks covered during the course include:

  • Dive planning, navigation, and equipment techniques.
  • Survey techniques, search criteria, and measurement tasks.
  • Moorings, video inspections (underwater videography).

Students always love the lift bags and rigging tasks, as they’re so hands-on. The moorings work is popular too as it’s very similar to future job opportunities.”

What are the HSE SCUBA exams like?

“The exams are multiple choice, combined with ongoing practical assessments. You’ll be assessed in areas such as operating a dive site, underwater procedures and diver and self-rescue procedures. Theory topics include physics, physiology, chambers and air purity, hazardous diving and legislation.

We provide support on all of these topics for students of every level. There’s always past exam papers and homework related to each of these topics. All of the SCUBA instructors are there to help with any areas of difficulty.”

The HSE SCUBA course is included in all of The Underwater Centre’s commercial diving career packages.

Visit The Underwater Centre website to find out more, or if you have any questions for Nick, contact The Underwater Centre’s Student Advisors on +44 1397 703786 or email

Whether you're looking to start an exciting new career in diving, train as an ROV pilot technician, or your company wants to carry out vital subsea equipment testing or trials, our commitment to your needs is what makes The Underwater Centre, Fort William special.

Dive Training Blogs

When is it a good day to dive?



By Rick Peck

The standard answer is “It’s always a good day to dive.” The real question is: When is it a day we should not dive?

There are several factors that go into a decision for a dive day.

  • Weather
  • Waves
  • Tides (if applicable)
  • Physical condition
  • Mental condition
  • Water visibility


We would all like to dive in bright sunny conditions. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. It is always a good idea to check the forecast before a dive day. The weather directly before a dive might be bright and sunny, but in some areas, thunderstorms roll in quickly. While it may be an interesting experience to see a lightning storm underwater with the strobe effect, we do have to come up sometime. A 30+ pound lightning rod strapped to your back makes for a very dangerous exit.

Wind is also a concern. Storms that roll in quickly can bring gust fronts that make for dangerous conditions. It could be flat and calm when you enter, and you may ascend after the dive into 5-6 foot chop with a dangerous exit onto the boat. Having a boat drop on your head or getting tangled in the ladder is not fun.

Waves and Tides

Shore diving in a coastal area makes waves a concern. Waves are generated by wind speed, duration and fetch. If there is a storm offshore you could be seeing big waves with very little wind in your area. Linked to the wave action is the tide. At some sites, waves tend to fizzle out at extreme high tide, making for easier entry and exits.

Tides can also affect your dive in an inlet. There is a popular dive site in my area that normally dives from a half-hour before high tide to a half-hour after high tide because of the current generated by the tidal change. The tidal currents can become so strong that an average diver can’t overcome them. The question is: does the tide change match the time you have available to dive? Your local dive shop should have recommendations on where and when is the best time to shore dive. As we learned in our Open Water class, local knowledge is the best.

Physical Condition

Are you healthy enough to dive? Do you have the physical conditioning to safely do the dive you are planning? Pushing your physical limits directly after a cold or allergy attack could lead to an ear injury or worse. If you have been sick, maybe you don’t have the energy reserves to rescue yourself or a buddy if required. The typical “Oh, I’ll be alright” could put not only you but your dive buddy at risk as well. Don’t let your ego write checks that your body can’t fulfill.

Mental Condition

You could compare diving to driving a car. We have all heard of distracted driving. If you are mentally upset or dealing with a great deal of stress, it might be prudent to evaluate whether it’s a good day to dive. Frustration and an urgency to get into the water to “relax” could mean you are skipping items on your buddy checks and self-checks. Unless you have the mental discipline to set these worries aside, it is probably better to dive another day.

Water Visibility

While there is a segment of the diving population that likes to “Muck Dive,” in general we prefer to see what is around us. One type of diving where visibility is important is drift diving. It is a two-fold problem, if you stay shallow enough to avoid obstructions, you can’t see anything. If you go deep enough to see the bottom, depending on the speed of the current, there is a possibility of being driven into a coral head or some other obstruction that you don’t see approaching. It is also much easier to become separated from your buddy. Remember to discuss and set a lost buddy protocol before the dive.


While it seems like all the stars and moon must align in order to safely dive, it’s really simple. Check the weather, check the tides (If applicable), do a self-assessment, and don’t be reluctant to cancel a dive if the conditions warrant it when you arrive at the dive site. A little planning and forethought will lead to a safe enjoyable dive. Always remember to dive within the limits of your training, conditioning, and skill set.

To find out more about International Training, visit

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Dive Training Blogs

Jeff chats to… author, avid cave diver and professional adventurer Steve Lewis (Watch Video)



In this exclusive Zoom interview, Jeff Goodman, Scubaverse Editor-at-Large, chats to author, avid cave diver and professional adventurer Steve Lewis about life in general with a bit of diving as well!

Steve Lewis is also Director of Diver Training for RAID.

For more, visit Steve on Facebook at:

Rather listen to a podcast? Listen to the audio HERE on the new Scubaverse podcast channel at Anchor FM.

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This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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