Teamwork Under Pressure

Poisson Rouge MD, Mark Katz recently spent a weekend in Devon with good friends enjoying the sea air, the walks, the pubs and all the West Country has to offer. Finding out more about a friends incredible job has him thinking about teamwork under pressure – literally. He picks up the story:

Amongst the ‘usual suspects’ that we know down there in the local pub is a friend of ours who has one of the most extraordinary jobs on earth – he’s an Aquanaught or to use the correct term – a ‘Sat’ or Saturation Diver.

By way of explanation – Saturation Diving is without doubt one of the deadliest, riskiest, most physically demanding jobs on earth. These are divers who work at extraordinary depths on the ocean floor (down to 160 meters) fixing oil pipelines, oil rigs, in fact anything that requires maintenance in these harsh environments.

Having been flown out to the support vessel or dive ship somewhere in the world , the dive crew spend 3 week periods  sealed into a metal tube (known as a sat). The tube is no bigger than the interior of an air stream caravan and the three guys have to live eat, work, sleep, shower etc. in this confined space.

The reason they are sealed in and can’t come out is that slowly – over a 5 day period the atmosphere within the Sat is steadily increased to 5 times that of our normal environment and one equal to the depth they intend to work underwater. This process increases the saturation of gasses in the blood steam and body tissues – hence the name of this dive technique. As a result divers can work at these extraordinary depths for extended periods without the significant health risk of multiple decompressions that coming back to the surface would entail.

Many weird things happen under these conditions. Nitrogen that we breath in ‘normal’ environments becomes poisonous at these huge pressures and thus the oxygen they breath must be mixed with Helium.

The divers must be in peak physical condition as the impact on their bodies is immense.

Teamwork Under Pressure Requires Full Participation

To put two divers on the ocean floor for work (the third controls the dive bell) requires a team of 140 specialists – each one controlling one or several key aspects of this hugely complex and dangerous operations.

This is an example of ultimate teamwork. There is zero tolerance for errors. The costs in terms of both risk to life and in commercial terms for the oil companies employing them is beyond imagination.

In this team – every person has to understand their own role, the role of their colleagues, the role of the team as a whole.

They have to have no doubt about any part of what they are doing, why they do it, how it should be done, what the risks are and where are the margins for error.

This ultimate teamwork depends on trust, openness, clarity, clear leadership, clear guidelines and respect.

In “Sat” Diving everyone plays their part and everyone does what they must do to the very best of their abilities every time.

Leadership in Sat diving is clear, unambiguous and professional. From The ship’s skipper to the ‘Dive Master’ – each person understands their role.

Ask yourself the same question – do you know what each and every person does in your team, why they do it, what impact it has. Do you understand what value they ‘add’. Would you trust them if your life depended on it?

We help build better teams, preparing them to be efficient and resilient under pressure. Our challenges help develop team members, boosting communication, co-operation, understanding and performance. Find out more here >>


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