An engineer diver is a professional who possesses the capacities, skills and knowledge required to plan, manage and successfully execute an underwater operation concerning engineering practice. Examples of businesses that benefit from this professional are civil infrastructures contractors (above and below water) where inspections, and maintenance projects are carried out periodically. That is the case of underwater inspections of ports, offshore platforms, vessels, bridges and dams. Other areas concerning engineer divers' expertise are the offshore drilling and maritime industries. The fact that these activities take place in underwater hazardous environments requires skills and capabilities afforded by professional commercial diving training. An engineer diver is a multidisciplinary engineering professional.
"An engineer diver is a Professional Engineer (PE), or a professional in an engineering related field, with proper training in Professional Commercial Diving, allowing engineers to perform their work underwater safely".
There are also engineer divers in military forces (i.e. United States Army Corps of Engineers and Army engineer divers) that have military occupational specialities, but they don't fit in the same category of an engineer idver for civil purposes (to possess an engineer or engineering related degree and a proper training in commercial diving), despite the fact that they can perform the same type of jobs (if needed). This definition is quoted by OSHA in its Occupational Safety and Health Standard for Commercial Diving Operations.
The American Society of Civil Engineers Standard Practice Manual No.101, Underwater Investigations, recommends that a licensed professional engineer, who is also a qualified diver, lead underwater inspection teams. The team leader should have five years of experience in conducting underwater structural inspections to reach the necessary training and experience to observe and assess deterioration. When the engineer diver completes the inspection, he should assign a condition-assessment rating, identify necessary repairs and estimate the remaining useful life of the facility.
Although an engineer may be well trained for structural inspections, additional specialized dive training is necessary to ensure a level of comfort and safety in the underwater environment. Underwater inspections are inherently more difficult and hazardous than above-water inspections because of currents, limited visibility and marine growth on the structure. A commercial dive certification provides an engineer with a level of safety and confidence, as well as the necessary dive equipment - an underwater breathing apparatus, communications and, often, a drysuit and diving helmet to protect against contaminated waters and cold climates.
However, the engineer diver also needs specialized training with the equipment to operate it safely in many underwater conditions. It is important that commercial engineer divers understand that safety is paramount in their operations. All members of an inspection team must be responsible for the safety of the entire team. In the United States, all inspection diving operations must be compliant with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. Failure to observe these federally mandated safety regulations, or using recreationally certified divers, can lead to accidents and fatalities that are avoidable. There are also specialized insurance policies required for all waterfront work, and additional riders for underwater inspections. These typically include the Maritime Employer's Liability (the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 alias Jones Act) and the U.S. Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.
In essence, all disciplines within Engineering (Civil, Mechanical, Metallurgical and Materials Engineers, etc.) could take advantage of commercial diving, as long as the activity offers additional ways to expand engineering potentials in the underwater environment.
Engineer divers are valuable because they can find solutions to recurrent problems during underwater activities, and can explore possibilities for implementing new procedures, techniques or technologies that are currently available or being developed, that otherwise would be inconceivable for a regular engineer, that is not concern with the challenges and particularities of underwater environments. These professionals also can perform on-surface (if necessary); especially in projects that require mixed operations in the surface/underwater zone.