Changes to the HSE Diving Medical Guidelines

PADI members working for reward in the UK have to have a valid HSE Diving Medical (MA1). This usually includes someone who receives their expenses or gets free air in return for what they do, however it is best to check with the HSE if you are unsure if you need the medical.

If you do need to get or renew your medical in the coming year you should be aware that since October 2015 it has effectively changed and is stricter in how it measures some aspects of fitness. In other words, although you may have passed before, you should not assume you will pass now. The changes were announced in a revised document relating to the medical standards for fitness to dive: the medical examination and assessment of commercial divers (MA1). Full details can be downloaded here:

Two parts of the medical that are more stringent are the interpretation of Body Mass Index (BMI) and fitness.


This revised MA1 gives clear guidance to the doctor conducting the medical on BMI. Based on these guidelines anyone with a BMI over 35 will be unfit, those with a BMI of less than 30 will be considered fit, and those between 30-35 will depend on their waist circumference.

(To estimate your own BMI, use an online calculator such as




As part of the medical the diver will need to do the Chester Step test to estimate their VO2 max. There are defined levels now in the MA1 document.


PADI is in active consultation with the HSE about these changes and are monitoring the situation to see if the new guidance show signs of being to be overly restrictive. Following our discussions, the HSE have send a message to all AMEDs (Approved Diving Doctors) on 1 December 2015 which clarified what leeway AMEDs have when interpreting the fitness (VO2) results. The bulletin included this text:

“AMEDs are reminded that the flow chart is purely a guide to help interpret VO2 max values.  It provides flexibility so that for divers with a VO2 max of 40-44, the AMED should conduct a risk assessment, taking into account other findings from the medical and the type of diving activity to be undertaken.  Based on this assessment, the AMED may be able to issue a certificate of medical fitness to dive for 12 months, limited to a specific diving activity.  For example, a diver could be passed fit to dive only in recreational, media or scientific diving projects.  The AMED must make clear in the restrictions section on the certificate that the diver is fit to only undertake that specified diving activity.”

PADI is continuing to represent you in discussions with the HSE and similar bodies and will advise you if there is any more progress.

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