Leadership and Maintaining the Chain of Command
Chris can discuss how strong leadership plays a vital role in all spheres of the work he does. From a robust chain of command, right through to individual leadership whilst working on the ocean floors, Chris is able to share how clear-cut but objective governance and accountability is key to the safe and efficient running of complicated and inherently dangerous offshore subsea operations. He can also describe how this same clear minded and well- rehearsed structure of leadership played a pivotal role in saving his life, and how you can use these methods to enhance the organisational culture within your own place of work.
Crisis Management and Emergency Response
What happened to Chris is the very definition of a crisis, not only to him personally, but to his crewmates and the reputation of the company he was working for. Chris can discuss how detailed preparation, effective leadership, an effective chain of command, and proper training and drills allowed the team around him to remain calm under extreme pressure and fulfil the miraculous rescue which saved his life.
Procedures and the Power of Drills and Practice
Chris works in a world where procedures, checklists, training and drills are not just essential to the work he performs, but to the preservation of life itself. He can communicate how these are used to allow him and his colleagues to safely work and live in the dangerous environments of compression chambers and the deep sea, but also how they played an essential role in allowing his crew mates to act with the calm assurance needed to pull him back from the brink of death.
Chris is able to discuss how, despite the inherent dangers involved with working in such an extreme environment, the risks are calculated and managed to make them acceptable. Identifying hazards, dynamic risk assessments and management of change are fundamental in making what could potentially be the most dangerous job on the planet, into what is arguably the safest form of diving in the world. Chris can explain how this is implemented, and how the lessons learned can apply to your sphere of work or life.
Chris’ extraordinary brush with death gave him an opportunity to contemplate his own, seemingly imminent, mortality. He is able to share how in accepting the inevitability of his own death in those final conscious minutes on the seabed, he was able to find a state of calm and reflect on what was most important in his life. The miracle of his subsequent survival has given him an acute sense of what death really means, and he is able reflect with audiences on how these insights are as important in life, as they were when facing death.
Following Chris’ life-threatening incident, which would have profound professional and personal implications for all involved had the rescue not been affected, it was essential that a far reaching and detailed investigation be conducted. Chris can recount the processes that the company went through to ensure that this was not only completed in as comprehensive manner as possible, but also in a fashion that was sensitive to the needs of those involved, as well as managing and protecting the public image of the company. This all culminated in a successful return to work just three weeks later, with the company using the incident as an industry wide learning tool and success story.
Resilience and Overcoming Adversity
The very nature of Chris’ work requires a character and mindset that is resilient and attuned to overcoming adversity. The ocean floors are possibly the most inhospitable working environments that this world has to offer, and simply to commute there on a daily basis requires Chris and the team to overcome numerous obstacles of both practical and psychological nature. Chris can discuss how this resilience has been forged not only through adversity, but by fostering a culture and mentality amongst the team which allows them to problem solve quickly and calmly in difficult situations. He can also describe how this resilience enabled the team to overcome extreme pressure and the unknown to successfully carry out his rescue, and also to return to work just three weeks later, and how this same mindset of resilience can be applied to your sphere of work.
Teamwork and Workforce Diversity
Both Chris’ work, and his miraculous survival, rely heavily on the strength of the teams he works within. From the three-man unit that ventures to the depths for its working days, to the hundreds of colleagues supporting that unit, above, onboard the vessel and ashore, their successes and failures are very much defined by their ability to work cohesively as a team. Saturation diving is a global enterprise that draws a broad range of characters together from a wide range of ethnic, cultural and educational backgrounds. Chris can discuss how these diverse teams are brought together to work towards their very singular goals, and how this diversity works in their favour when channelled and managed effectively. He will also relate how cohesive teamwork played a crucial role in saving his life, when the crew aboard the vessel came together to defy the overwhelming odds and extricate him from a seemingly impossible situation.
Chris has been a commercial diver for over 18 years, and currently specializes in deep sea saturation diving, operating almost exclusively in the oil and gas industry. This highly specialized form of diving involves living in the claustrophobic confines of a decompression chamber for up to 28 days at a time, commuting daily to the seabed in a diving bell, and working at depths of up to 900 feet for 6 hours at a time.
In September of 2012, a freak failure of the dynamic positioning system of the vessel he was working under, resulted in the umbilical which provides him with breathing gas, light and heat being severed completely. He was left on the seabed, in complete darkness 300 feet below the surface, with only the 5 minutes of breathing gas he carried in the emergency tanks on his back, and no way to protect himself from the freezing temperatures. It took his heroic rescuers over 40 minutes to come back and fetch him, and his miraculous survival story has baffled experts ever since.
His extraordinary story was subsequently immortalized in the hit Netflix/BBC documentary Last Breath, a version of which is currently being developed into a Hollywood movie starring Woody Harrelson, Simu Liu and Finn Cole.
Chris was born in Edinburgh, raised in Cambridge, and now lives in the South of France with his partner and two daughters.