Chamber Maintenance Part 1

Good on-site skills in maintenance are invaluable for the longevity of equipment. The nuts & bolts course aims to keep facilities running at maximum capacity by providing a platform to learn these skills.
There must be a maxim somewhere that links the concept of remoteness with the world’s most beautiful dive spots. When you then factor the provision of specialist medical services for injured divers into this, you start to realise how challenging the role of DAN as your partner in need can be.

Back in 1999, we realised that we relied rather heavily on recompression chamber facilities in these remote spots. However, the ability of these facilities to remain sustainable, available and suitably equipped was indeed a tricky business. We needed to somehow find a means to support them, and to ensure at least a minimum level of quality of service.

IDAN (International DAN) commissioned the Risk Assessment Guide for Recompression Chambers in 1999 to provide some form of international best practices for this industry, and followed this up with a series of on-site risk assessments under the Recompression Chamber Assistance and Partnership Programme (RCAPP) over the next 12 years. From these assessments, we have been able to become a force for change and to work with these facilities on many fronts. The resulting on-site needs assessments all showed that consistent and comprehensive training in operating facilities, tending to injured divers inside the chambers, and basic dive medicine and technical skills (such as maintenance of facilities) were all high on the priority list at all but a few of these chambers.

Over the past eight or so years, Alert Diver has provided numerous articles on DAN’s endeavours to visit, assess and assist facilities, some of these in the really remote corners of the diving world, like the Galapagos Islands, Papua New Guinea, Zanzibar and the Azores, to name but a few. The latest ambitious project continues in this mould and includes what we like to refer to as our Nuts & Bolts programme: Maintenance training for remote chamber facilities to empower staff to be able to keep their facilities running effectively and safely, using really basic technical skills and tools.

The full scope of the training course includes some 22 different talks and covers all the aspects of the facility, from oxygen delivery and analysing equipment, through to compressors, chamber air conditioners and fire extinguishing systems. If offered in full, this could take up to five days to accomplish.

Perhaps, when one thinks of “maintenance”, the first image that one might have is seeing a complicated compressor lying on the workroom floor in its thousand individual parts! This is not, however, what maintenance really includes, and in fact, rarely is maintenance the same as repair. Rather, we teach maintenance as a series of well-planned, preventative inspections, checks, tests and basic service steps. If you care for your equipment and note when things start to change, most often you can effect simple procedures to avoid costly breakdowns and failures.

The next mind-block to change is the concept of the maintenance technician, so more appropriately in this case, the typical profile of a suitable, first-line maintenance enabler. Most interested staff members can be taught how to accomplish 95% of the steps needed to keep a chamber facility working in good order. Comprehensive services and overhauls remain a requirement, but these can be planned for properly, and fitted into both the operating schedules and the budget where you know that everything is being done as the manufacturer intended. Much like your motor vehicle and the 10 000 or 15 000 km services, you simply cannot neglect the oil level between your planned services, and if you remember to do the basics and pay attention, your vehicle will give you many years of reliable and efficient service.

Nuts & Bolts is an IDAN initiative and once we had drafted out the course, we set about offering it to future presenters, maintainers, managers, owners and even doctors on an international front. Two comprehensive training opportunities were organised as trial runs: one on-site on the Honduran island of Utila in the Caribbean, and the other at the impressive Polish National Centre for Hyperbaric Medicine in the Baltic port town of Gdynia.

We believe that we are now ready to roll this out, most likely in smaller and more focused “doses” at the recompression chamber facilities that engage with DAN under the RCAPP. It is our hope and intention to raise the level of on-site skills at these facilities and thus empower them to be in a position to take better care of their not insignificant “investment in equipment and human resources”.

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