Australian pearl producer, Paspaley, is under investigation after the death of one of its pearl divers in April.
Melbourne man Jarrod Hampton died while diving for Paspaley Pearls off the coast south of Broome.
Mr Hampton, 22, was employed as a drift diver, a job which involves collecting shells from the sea bed while being towed under water from a boat.
ABC’s Four Corners revealed the inadequacies of rescue and safety procedures in place on the boat Mr Hampton was working.
A three-day course to train new Paspaley divers conducted by the Pearl Producers Association only included a half day of practical work in a Darwin swimming pool.
Industry sources said the course is not designed to train divers for drift diving.
Although Mr Hampton had diving experience, the young man was left unaided on his second day of diving where he encountered trouble.
The only experienced diver had to look after five new recruits and could only properly watch one at a time.
Only when head diver Sam Morton looked up and saw Mr Hampton face down in the water was the dive called off.
It took the crew 10 to 20 minutes to get Mr Hampton back to the boat and start CPR. He was later pronounced dead, eight hours later after his body was transported back to Broome.
In recent years, Paspaley has seen a number of experienced divers quit the company after their pay was cut.
The divers have told Four Corners that their wages were effectively reduced by $20,000 a season, with the company citing the Global Financial Crisis as the reason.
Several divers wrote to the company warning the low pay rate would make it hard for Paspaley to hold onto its experienced divers.
Jarrad Norton, a former pearl diver with Paspaley Pearls, says that at the end of last year he told the company, “I promise you, I guarantee you, next year you’ll have a serious accident or a fatality unless something changes”.
When the company did not offer any more money, divers began leaving and many were replaced by new divers with no experience.
During the season, divers’ dive nine times a day, with only a 20 minute break in between dives for a light snack and shell cleaning.
In a written statement to Four Corners, Paspaley expressed regret but mentioned safety as the “high priority” for the company.
The company said “Paspaley usually has two people on the back deck of all its boats during dive operations and one of those persons is a spare diver”.
Although the Australian Standard recommends a stand by diver, it is only a standard and not a law, so the Pearl Producers say they don’t have to follow it.
On the day Mr Hampton died, Four Corners has found there was no standby diver, no safety boat and no one was trained to dive in for emergencies. No emergency signal was given.
Paspaley says there was a spare diver on the boat the day Mr Hampton died, but does not mention if he was trained to rescue divers in distress.
Jarrod Hampton’s Mother, Robyn told Four Corners that her son did more than his part to show he needed help, managing to surface and alert the people on the boat.
“He managed his emergency ascent. He couldn’t do anything more and he knew he couldn’t do anything more. He called for help. There’s a whole big boat there, a boat that’s been involved in an industry for years. He is retrievable. He is attached to the – to the ship. How can they not get him? How can they not know what to do?” she said.
900 people attended Jarrod Hampton’s funeral in Melbourne.
The Pearl Producers Association has now agreed to discuss whether changes need to be made in direct response to the report.
They are still waiting for a Coroner’s report but are looking to review the industry as a whole in the next coming weeks.
Paspaley Pearls now brings in more than $100 million a year and the Paspaley family is the 13th richest in Australia.