Underwater Welder: The Fusion of Danger and Adventure
Being an underwater welder is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. While many contend the danger lies in working with electricity underwater, the greater challenges exist in the environment this method of welding is being conducted.
Become a Commercial Diver
To work as an underwater welder, you must first go to school to become a commercial diver. Commercial divers are basically underwater construction workers, hence the reason for the hard hat. The commercial diver will wear a dive helmet fitted with a welding lens, along with a dive suit and other customized equipment designed for working in this environment. The diver will descend to the worksite and use a “stinger” to conduct the welding procedure. This “stinger” is attached to a long cable (lead) that extends up to the surface and is plugged into a welding machine. The welding technique is referred to as SMAW (shielded metal arc welding), otherwise known as stick welding.
Jobs as an underwater welder
There are numerous applications for underwater welding, just as there are for topside welding. Underwater welding jobs include oil platforms, tanker ships, pressure vessels, underwater pipelines, and other structures requiring welding repairs, modifications, or custom fabrication. The risks associated with underwater welding are primarily associated with the environment itself. Working in this environment exposes divers to the risk of decompression sickness, explosive gasses, and traumatic injuries associated with the work being conducted. This is why all underwater welders must first attend a professional commercial diving school before embarking upon a career.
Careers as an Underwater Welder
To pursue a career as an underwater welder, you must first attend an accredited commercial diving school. Commercial diving schools are typically 5-8 months long and consist of classroom instruction, training in a dive tank, then on to realistic dive training at a pier and at sea. Upon completion of commercial dive training, graduates will go to work for commercial dive companies as a dive tender (apprentice). During the time spent as an apprentice, generally 1-3 years, the diver begins to learn the ropes as a commercial diver and demonstrating their ability as a diver and as an underwater welder. Most dive companies require underwater welders to pass qualification tests and be competent in accordance with the AWS D3.6M Underwater Welding Code prior to conducting underwater operations as a welder.
Take the Plunge
Not only is underwater welding one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, it is also one of the most difficult. Although the dangerous working conditions associated with underwater welding jobs may not be for everyone, those seeking an adventurous job packed with excitement and challenge find this career very fulfilling.