Why should a SCUBA Equipment Service Center need to seek ASSET Approval?
- In recent years the Health and Safety Executive have voiced increasing concern about the quality and standard of service, repair and breathing gas production in dive centers.
- The HSE are about to release an information video entitled “Dive Shop Inspection”. This video will be made available to every Environmental Health and Trading Standards Department in the UK.
- Until now you are unlikely to have had a visit from either an Environmental Health or Trading Standards Officer, indeed many Environmental Health Officers were not aware that they had any specific responsibilities or duties regarding various aspects of your diving operation.
- The Video discusses five key areas: Warranties, Service and Repair, Cylinder and Valve Thread compatibility, Compressed Gas Production and other related safety issues.
- Armed with this information, Environmental Health and Trading Standards Officers may decide to carry out spot checks, in order to gauge if there is a problem and if so how extensive.
- We believe that this is the tip of the iceberg and that during the coming months and years the HSE will be seeking to enforce the law in respect of your Dive Center operations.
Why should Dive Center Management be concerned?
- A steady stream of complaints and incidents has raised concern about safety standards in our industry.
- From the Health and Safety, Trading Standards and Quality Control point of view our industry has hardly changed in the last 10 years, meanwhile, other industries have moved on and met the challenges of tighter regulation, European legislation and the growing insistence on Quality Systems.
- If we as an industry do not make vigorous efforts to improve our own standards, Government agencies will be compelled to do it for us.
What is wrong with the way we are working now?
- A key problem is that small businesses are not well equipped to address the overwhelming weight of health and safety and consumer legislation with which they must comply.
- Too much reliance is placed upon short manufacturers courses as the sole means of technician training. Close scrutiny particularly of those new to equipment maintenance may reveal an inability to meet the criteria for a Competent Person.
- Relying solely on manufacturers’ manuals, few Dive Centers have Policy and Procedures documentation that would stand up in the event of an incident and subsequent thorough investigation.
- Until now there has never been any industry standards with which to measure technical performance.
- When judged against criteria used in similar industries, our methods lack credibility.
We only maintain our own equipment, are we affected?
- Yes, rental and training equipment must be maintained and documented in a similar manner to those of retail customers, in addition the Diving Operation at Work Regulations must be complied with.
- If a third party maintains your rental and training equipment, you still have a duty of care to your customers and must maintain suitable records.
What needs to be done?
- The most urgent requirement is for Dive Centers to be seen to be working to credible standards.
- Each Center needs to develop written standards and procedures and maintain proper records.
- Technicians must be able to demonstrate competence in a robust manner.
- Working to a code of practice that has the confidence of the HSE is an essential aid.
- Approval by a body in which the HSE has confidence indicates competence.
A Comprehensive Solution
- The Association of Scuba Service Engineers and Technicians working in consultation with the HSE is the only organization to have developed a comprehensive and integrated scheme encompassing Technician Training, National Qualifications, Codes of Practice and a Service Center Inspection and Approval scheme.
What is ASSET?
- ASSET began in 1995 in response to a call from Diving Technicians and others for a body to address their desire for training, standards and a
voice to speak on their behalf.
- ASSET Members are qualified Technicians and persons interested in diving technical issues.
- ASSET Technicians have been trained and/or evaluated and have been awarded a suitable qualification.
- In November 1995 a working party was formed to address the HSE’s growing concerns.
- After discussion with HSE the working party developed a strategy to address those concerns and to integrate the response with real improvements in standards.
What has ASSET achieved?
- Set Training and certification criteria for all grades of Technician.
- Designed a series of training courses for Equipment Maintenance, Cylinder Testing and Gas Blending.
- Published six training manuals with more planned.
- The first ever codes of practice (3) written specifically for the SCUBA maintenance.
- Designed a Service Center Approval Scheme for Equipment Servicing, Cylinder Testing and Nitrox.
- Trained Over 700 Technician members.
- More than 20% of members have achieved NVQ level 2 in Engineering Maintenance.
- The support and respect of government, military, commercial and recreational diving operators.
Why should we be impressed?
- This is the largest project of its type ever undertaken in the Recreational Diving Industry anywhere in the world.
- The Health and Safety Executive have Stated: “The ASSET Code of Practice has been recognized by HSE, Offshore Safety Division, as containing notes that that would be helpful when considering how to meet your obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and relevant regulations”
Why haven’t we heard of you?
- Frankly we’ve been too busy to think about publicity. Actions speak louder than words!
What are the advantages of ASSET Approval?
- Peace of mind. An ASSET Approved Service Center has demonstrated that they comply with accepted norms.
- Protection. Approval, working to standards and good documentation are invaluable when dealing with complaints or more serious problems.
- Profitability. It is well understood that companies who implement quality systems suffer fewer returns, and are more efficient. A high quality reliable service center does not have to cut prices to get business.
- Kudos. Customers will soon come to prefer the peace of mind that an ASSET Approval engenders.
- Status. Competitors will have to come up to your standard or do less business.
Will it be difficult for us to achieve approval?
- It should not be. Experienced Dive Center Management and Technicians were consulted during the development phase. The problems of implementation have been carefully considered.
- Any operation with adequate facilities and a suitably qualified Technician will have little difficulty.
What about writing our own procedures?
- Don’t worry we’ve thought of this. Our Engineers have experience of writing operating procedures and have written comprehensive outlines, which you simply alter to suit your specific situation.
Will it be expensive?
- The inspection fee is quite modest and includes inspection visit, documentation, outline procedures, certification and initial telephone support. There are reductions for early action, multiple approvals at a single visit, and companies with more than one site.
How long does the approval process take?
- It will partly depend on if and how much work has to be done in order to bring the Center up to standard. A typical inspection will take one day. A reasonably well organized and equipped center could be inspected and approved in 2-4 weeks from application.
What happens if there are items outstanding after the inspection?
- Normally once an application has been made and the appropriate fees paid one of our Inspectors will liaise with the Center to minimize the possibility of significant deficiencies. During the inspection any defects will be noted and action agreed. A further inspection will usually be required only in exceptional circumstances.
How soon can we apply for approval?
- Immediately if you so wish, the ASSET approval scheme is in place now.
Is further information available?