Dive Fitness: Physical & Fitness Requirements for Underwater Welders
Last Updated: November 19, 2020
If you’re serious about underwater welding, then you’ll need to pass the dive training and earn your commercial diving certification. Before you can enter underwater welding school for training, however, you’ll need to show that you’ve passed a recent dive physical.
A dive physical is different from a regular physical checkup, as commercial divers work in underwater with specific air, water pressure and light environments. These changes affect everyone a little bit differently, so it’s necessary to perform tests to measure the body’s tolerances and abilities.
Recreational Versus Commercial Diving
You may have heard swimming is actually better for you than movement on land. For most forms of exercise, that’s true.
But underwater welders don’t get paid to practice for the first leg of a triathlon. Their objective focuses on underwater installation, repair and inspection. Though it’s not “exercise” in the traditional sense, the job will still test your stamina and dexterity.
All diving requirements are subject to national and local requirements, but we’ll look at some of the similarities.
Dive Physical Requirement
Cost: $250 – $1,000+
Healthcare is expensive, and most underwater welding schools require you to front the bill of your diving physical test. This may not be a problem if you have government-supplemented healthcare or good insurance. But keep in mind that the physicians will perform specific tests and lab work related to diving, so all costs may not be covered.
Check with your healthcare professionals first to determine whether you’ll be paying for any part of your dive physical.
Ability to Swim
Webster defines swimming as a way “to propel oneself in water by natural means.” Yet it’s not quite so cut and dry when you’re talking about swimming for a living. You should be able to do more than simply propel yourself – even a dog can do that. Still, there’s hope for those who’ve never taken swimming lessons.
Includes front and back crawl of 25 yards, butterfly and breaststroke of 15 yards, allowing for turns while swimming.
The swim stroke is an essential technique in case you find yourself on the surface without somewhere to take refuge. It also teaches you the fundamentals of swimming. Obviously, most of your work will be spent underwater, so you’ll focus most of your swim power on your legs.
Schools will probably administer their own fitness test to administer to you, but training up to a level 4 (or equivalent) is a good start. And taking diving lessons beforehand will also help you become familiar with basic movements and equipment.
Doctors will do a complete checkup of your heart, lungs, muscles and joints. If you have any pre-existing conditions, they’ll make sure that these aren’t serious to your work as a diver and may do extra testing.
This test checks your cardiovascular system and heart to make sure it’s strong and healthy. It bumps up your heart rate, so they’ll probably have you do some sort of exercise.
You’ve all had one of these done: A nurse or doctor straps on the oversized velcro cuff, a sphygmomanometer (all medical equipment has long names that no one can pronounce). This has a gauge for your top and bottom number, which should be around 120/80.
Doctors will use general observation procedures to inspect your breathing pattern.
They’ll ask the patient to sit in an upright position, and then the doctor will put their hands over the patient’s chest, diaphragm, upper back and lower back. Each time, the doctor will ask the patient to take a deep breath. More tests may be required, but this is a preliminary.
With handy tools, the doctor will do the usual inspection of all your canals. This includes the open-your-mouth-and-say “ahhhh” procedure, along with nasal and ear cavities. It’s all connected, so if you’re prone to ear or sinus infections, you should talk with your doctor to determine how serious these can be for your diving career.
Temporary / Permanent
Depending on your organization’s standards and severity, you may be temporarily or permanently banned from a diving career for these illnesses or substances in your system.
- Bacteria or virus causing sickness
- Drugs combating sickness
- Other pharmaceutical drugs (anti-depressants, sedatives, steroids)
- Marijuana, LSD and other hallucinatory drugs
If you exhibit the risk or have any of these conditions, you may be permanently banned from underwater welding and diving. In specific cases, the doctors may ban you from participation in specific types of dives (i.e. swimming below 15 meters).
- Pneumothorax: Partial or total collapsed lung
- Medically-controlled Epilepsy: Seizures in the brain
- Brain Aneurysm: Weakened blood vessels in the brain causing expansion and risk of rupture
- Congestive Heart Failure: Complete shutdown of the heart where it can’t pump blood
- Cardiac Dysrhythmia: Sporadic or irregular heartbeat
- Angina: Dealing with the heart – intense pain in the chest cavity
- Pericarditis: An expanding of the sac around the heart, causing chest pain
- Asthma: Lung disease that causes narrowing and irritation in airways
- Claustrophobia: The fear of being contained in a small space
- Motion Sickness: Becoming disoriented and nauseous from mild to intense movement
- Sinusitis: Infections and inflammation of the sinus areas
- Psychological Disorders: Behavior that majorly impacts an area of life, causing problems
- Severe Stomach Disorders: Intestinal or other digestion issues that affect daily life
- Pregnancy: Um, I don’t think this needs an explanation
Work up to the Pass
Don’t be intimated by the long list of “don’ts” here. Doctors are there to help you, and if they find anything that may disqualify you from diving it’s better to find out now than later. Be open about any pre-existing conditions.
Most important: Work your body into shape before going to your dive physical. This will show the doctors, schools and, ultimately, your employer that you’re serious about underwater welding.