OSHA cites Fleming Island company after diver drowns in Ponte Vedra golf course pond


Federal workplace safety inspectors examining how a 26-year-old diver drowned in a golf course pond — after only three days working for a Fleming Island commercial diving and recovery company — found the employer failed to follow required safety standards, including ensuring that adequate supervision was in place and that required training was provided.

The December 2021 incident occurred as the dive technician and a coworker employed by Ballhawker of Florida Inc. recovered sunken golf balls in a pond on a Ponte Vedra Beach golf course. When the diver became unresponsive, the coworker pulled him from the water and asked a passing golfer to call 911. The diver was transported to a local hospital where he later died.

Following an investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued citations to Ballhawker concerning 12 reported violations. OSHA found the company failed to:

  • Train divers to handle assigned tasks safely, including using equipment. 
  • Ensure all dive team members are CPR trained.
  • Provide a first-aid handbook or a resuscitator at the dive location.
  • Provide continuous monitoring and oversee diving operations.
  • Inspect diving equipment and components prior to every dive.
  • Test air compressor systems for air purity every six months.
  • Use diver depth gauges.
  • Set up an operational communication system among all dive team members.
  • Comply with pre-dive requirements prior to operations.
  • Develop and maintain a safe practice manual for divers.

Inspectors found that Ballhawker also failed to keep records of workers and job details, including a designated person-in-charge; the date, time and location of the job; and water and surface conditions.

OSHA proposed $55,870 in penalties.

“Ballhawker ignored safety standards and a young man lost his life,” said OSHA Acting Area Office Director Erin Sanchez in Jacksonville. “Commercial divers are exposed to a variety of hazards, and it is an employer’s responsibility to not start a dive until it is safe.” 

The company has 15 business days from receipt of their citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Go to osha.gov/commercial-diving for information on commercial diving safety and standards. Employers can also contact the agency for information about OSHA’s compliance assistance resources and for free help on complying with OSHA standards. Go to osha.gov/complianceassistance/cas.