A Brief History of DMAC
On 11 November 1975 a number of individuals associated with the medical aspects of diving were invited by Malcolm Williams, Chairman of the Medical Committee of the Association of Diving Contractors (AODC), to a meeting in Aberdeen. These included representatives of:
- the UK Department of Energy, which had the primary UK responsibilities offshore
- the Norwegian Labour Directorate
- the UK Royal Navy and the Royal Norwegian Navy
- the Scottish Home and Health Department (SHHD) and Grampian Health Board
- the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) and several member oil companies
- the Decompression Sickness Panel of the Medical Research Council (MRC)
- Aberdeen University
- Underwater Engineering Group (UEG)
- North Sea Medical Centre (NSMC).
It was recognised that there had been a deplorable lack of communication between the various responsible authorities in the North Sea on what was needed to provide an effective medical service for working divers.
The inaugural meeting of the Diving Medical Advisory Committee was held a few weeks later under the Chairmanship of Sir John Rawlins. It appointed members and defined its terms of reference for improving the medical support of professional diving. The committee accepted organisational support from the AODC for its meetings and publications, but beyond that the individual members remained fiercely independent. Each delegate is responsible for funding their own time and travel and so DMAC in its opinions owes allegiance to no single organisation.
Over subsequent years DMAC has continued under its past Chairmen (Robin Cox, David Elliott, Tor Nome, Alf Brubakk, Stephen Watt) to fulfil its original role, has undertaken additional tasks in the field of diving health and safety and has become recognised internationally as an independent body that is able to offer authoritative advice. Its scope has extended to cover all categories of divers at work and its breadth of membership has extended from the UK and Norway to include diving doctors with similar responsibilities from Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, France and Italy.
Its work may be surmised from the wide variety of its advice. Some pioneering examples include a workshop on the in-water hazards of cold stress, the hazards of exposure to various chemicals at pressure, the prevention of otitis externa, the limitations of the US Navy Diving Manual as relevant to commercial diving, the hyperbaric evacuation of saturation divers and the maximum safe oxygen level for nitrox diving. Close liaison is maintained with the European Diving Technology Committee (EDTC) particularly in relation to implementing the training objectives for diving doctors worldwide. Current publications can be seen under the heading 'Guidance' to the left.
While its published advice is used world-wide perhaps the most important benefit of the committee's work does not feature as a guidance note or as a recommendation. This is that each DMAC meeting is an active international forum at which there is an exchange of invaluable information between members that avoids a return to the relatively random medical advice provided during the growth of the diving industry in the early '70s. With its continued advice to government bodies and to industry (through AODC's successor, IMCA), DMAC enables optimal coordination for the medical support of diving activities worldwide.