Project number: 2002-232
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $71,656.00
Principal Investigator: Mick Buckley
Organisation: Pearl Producers Association (PPA)
Project start/end date: 1 Apr 2002 - 1 Aug 2006


At various periods, the lack of detailed information on the development and application of the pearl industry dive protocols has resulted in criticism of the industry's occupation health and safety performance from Coroners, Unions, Government, Statutory Organisations and other parties.

The review of OH&S processes and finalisation of the drift dive research will present a cogent, defensive argument of the Industry's safe diving practices. This will place Industry in a better position to negate the need for future legislative or Industrial Relations initiatives by responsible departments and bodies because they will be better informed regarding pearling industry occupational health & safety standards.

The diving systems and protocols developed by the pearling industry would be applicable to similar diving industries. Without a review and documentation of the process by which they were developed and the results, it could limit those industries ability to adopt and develop their own appropriate economic and efficient systems of safe diving.

This review will also constitute an element of the required documentation for Worksafe WA to consider, examine and gazette a Pearling Industry Code of Practice. This Review will also contribute to the consistency of OH&S across WA fisheries.

There is a crucial need for an objective, factual measure of the safety being achieved by the pearling industry. The drift dive database was the tool used for this measurment, however it has become dysfunctional and requires upgrading to supply this measure. (This component of the proposed review comes under the State IDU Programme 5 - 'Information Systems' and Strategy 5.2 - ' Maintain a database of relevant information, and access to similar databases.'

It will also be a benchmark document by which further studies and research on divers health can refer to and build from.


1. Write a brief history of the pearling industry focusing on the reasons and 'drivers' for the development of the OH&S processes and programs within the industry.
2. Compile, from all previous reports to FRDC & Fisheries, the Final Research Report on the drift diving profile research and summarise in the review report the results and principles applied to establish their safety. This Final Report is for the FRDC project 'IMPROVED HARVESTING EFFICIENCY OF PEARL OYSTERS THROUGH MODIFICATION OF DIVE PROFILES' (94/098)
3. Document the development process and implimentation of the PPA Diving Code of Practice that was developed in conjuction with Fisheries WA and Worksafe WA.
4. Update the PPA drift dive database and draft a statistical report from the dive data base, which will have logged the total manhours of drift diving over the past 10 years and correlate the reduction in decompression illness (DCI) incidents to the adoption of the research results.
5. Collect and summarise the international presentation papers of pearling industry systems by Dr. R. Wong. Briefly describe the fishing industries worldwide that have adopted the principles that underpin the pearl diving system as conveyed by Dr. Wong at international hyperbaric medical conferences.
6. Document the work done by the PPA in support of hyperbaric medicine including the provision, training and support of the recompression chamber facilities in Broome.
7. In support of the above objectives, to collect all source documents regarding OH&S in the pearl diving industry since the inception of the PPA (1989). (Dive mortalities, Incidents, Coroners reports, CoP development, Chamber Purchase, International Conference papers etc.)

Final report

ISBN: 978-0-9581421-4-4
Author: Mick Buckley

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