If you are new to scuba diving, then the question you have or will ask yourself is; ‘Is scuba diving safe?’ Well, scuba diving was created in the 1950’s and since then has come in leaps and bounds, both technology-wise and safety-wise. In fact, scuba diving is safer then driving a motor vehicle, skydiving and even marathon running.
When studying for the ‘Open Water’ training course, you are taught about the causes and outcomes of potential diving accidents. When going out on a dive boat, your dive instructor will also brief you about potential accidents and dangers, which you may come up against once in the water. If you have undergone the training, then you are taught to always be prepared for any eventuality, however with every sport, diving is not completely devoid of risk or danger. Every diver, no matter how basic his or her training is should have an understanding of what to do, if a problem arises.
We have created a list below, which outline some of the basic ways in which to prevent or minimize the risk of an accident occurring whilst under the water. By following these rules, this will help you to have fun and really experience the gifts that scuba diving has to offer…
What do you think? Are there more tips for a Safe SCUBA Dive? Tell us in the comments below.
Always Plan Your Dives
Planning your dive is essential if you are to remain safe throughout. If you are going on a dive with a Dive Master (DM) or Instructor, then they will usually plan the dive for you. Before you get into the water, your DM will brief you about the location of the dive, the route of the dive, the current of the dive site and will discuss with you all the eventualities that may occur if something unexpected happens. If you are not going out with a DM, then make sure that you agree with your buddy the maximum depth and time before getting into the water. Always use a dive table, as you should never rely on a computer. Be familiar with the ‘lost-buddy/diver’ procedures, which may be different in various locations around the world. Make sure that you are familiar with the dive site you are diving at. Plan your route and make sure you have the necessary equipment to help you get to your exit point. Always make sure that you and your buddy know the same hand signals, as these can differ. This is essential if you are to communicate properly with your buddy throughout your dive. Always stick to your original dive plan. Check your gauges regularly as it is so easy to lose track of time.
Always Dive within your Limits
It is very easy to get pulled into a situation that you may or may not be happy with. Diving should ALWAYS be a fun experience and if you feel like your dive buddy or group are taking you into a situation that you may not be physically or mentally prepared for, remember that YOU ultimately decide whether or not you would like to take part in that particular dive. Never be afraid of changing the dive or even cancelling the dive if you begin to feel unsafe in anyway. If you are not qualified to take part in a particular dive such as a wreck penetration or a deep dive, then you should not ‘go on the dive because everyone else is’. This is how issues arise and where diving can become dangerous for yourself and other members of your dive group.
ALWAYS Dive with a Buddy
You may think that you are a confident and experienced diver, who can dive better without a buddy, however this is extremely dangerous! There are now various courses available to individuals who what to learn how to ‘solo’ dive, however this is not to be undertaken by anyone who is not properly trained to do so. When we learn how to dive, the majority of diving scenarios and skills that we learn are based on having a buddy. If you find yourself running out of air and do not have a buddy with an octopus, then unfortunately you are left with very few options, most of which will end with some very serious physical issues. Once on your dive boat, if you find yourself paired up with a total stranger, then get to know that person as ultimately you will need them if an issue such as the one mentioned above, arises. Always enquire about their qualifications and their experience level, this way you will know how to help them if an issue occurs as well as them being able to help you.
If you are diving as part of a group and with a buddy, you need to take responsibility for your actions and your own safety. You are taught when learning to dive that your safety is paramount before helping others. However, putting yourself in harms way does not only affect you, it can affect the lives of your whole team. Always make sure you dive safely and within your limits.
ALWAYS remain Alert
Being alert throughout a dive is essential to your safety and the safety of your team. When scuba diving some can get swept up in the meditative ‘Zen’ breathing which not only can help you to keep calm but also can help you to conserve your air and energy. However, being too ‘Zen’ is not a great idea when diving. In addition, ingesting intoxicating substances before a dive such as drugs or alcohol is a total ‘no-no’ before any dive. There is a reason why divers are told to not consume alcohol at least 24 hours before going out on a dive. Tired divers can also be dangerous so make sure that you get a good night sleep before going out on a dive. It is essential to be alert and focussed throughout your dive to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
ALWAYS Check your Equipment
It is so easy to get onto your dive boat and have all your equipment set up for you by other members of the team however; your safety is on you. There could numerous issues with your equipment such as holes in your regulator or even the fact that they did not switch your air on. Every diver is taught to check, check and check your equipment again before entering the water so not doing so is just bad practice and extremely dangerous. The simple saying of ‘Burgers With Relish And Fries’ (With each word meaning – B–BCD, W– Weights, R–Regulator, A-Air and F–Final checks) is all you need to ensure you are entering the water safely. If you have planned your dive weeks in advance and renting your equipment, make sure that you check a week before the dive that the equipment that you are using has been serviced and maintained properly. If you are using your own dive computer, make sure you check the batteries. If you are diving as part of a buddy system, make sure that they check your equipment too as well as visa versa, this way you can ensure each other’s safety with regards to equipment.
ALWAYS Test New Equipment
Just because you are using new equipment doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work properly. You may be excited to just turn it on and jump in, however you do not want to get into an issue on a deep dive with malfunctioning equipment. Make sure that you test your new equipment in a controlled environment such as a swimming pool, this way you will know if it works or not, whilst remaining safe at all times. If you do not have access to a controlled environment, then make sure, when first using your new piece of equipment, that you use it during a shallow dive.
No, I am not talking about the sweets. So many divers think that just because they have learnt the essential skills to dive, that they no longer have to think about them and can let these beginner-skills lapse over time. It is even possible that these skills were not taught properly in the first place or you just didn’t pay attention that day. However, there is a reason why ALL divers are taught these essential skills in the first place and knowing what to do in an emergency can be the difference between success and tragedy. Even something as simple as being able to clear your mask properly under the water could be the difference between remaining calm in a situation and becoming panicked. It is important to always take a refresher course if you haven’t been diving in over year. Practice makes perfect and even if you feel concerned before booking your dive, taking part in a refresher course will help you to rebuild your confidence and help you to practice safe diving.
Even though diving is not considered as a high intensity sport, it can be physically demanding. However, carrying heavy equipment, swimming against currents and being exposed to extreme weather conditions can all take their toll on the body. Diving safely should be your top priority and being physically fit will help you to remain safe throughout your dives. Did you know that obesity, alcohol consumption and smoking can all increase your susceptibility to decompression sickness? Being unfit can also hinder the length of your dive as not being physically fit can cause overexertion which can in turn lead to faster air consumption. Even having the flu or a short term illness can lower your response rate by over half that of a healthy individual so always make sure that if you feel like you are coming down with something, postpone your dive until you are feeling fit and well. When filling out a medical form, prior to your dive, make sure that you are honest.
Practice Safe Ascents
ALWAYS ascend slowly and safely at all times. The best way to ensure a slow ascent is by using a marker such as your bubbles. Divers are taught when learning to scuba dive that you should never ascend faster than your smallest bubbles. Nowadays, there are all sorts of computers and equipment that you can use to ensure that you do not ascend at a rapid rate, however as well as the bubble marker, the usual rule is to not ascend faster than 30 feet per minute. Ascending too fast can result in the build up of nitrogen bubbles in the blood stream that can lead to decompression sickness, which can be deadly. Remember to completely deflate your BCD when ascending and never use your inflator button to help you ascend. Unless there are factors preventing you, always perform a safety stop at 15 feet for 3 minutes; this will help to decrease the risk of developing decompression sickness.
Never Ever Hold your Breathe
We are all taught as novice scuba divers, that holding your breath is the ultimate ‘no-no’ during a dive. Holding your breath can result in serious injuries and can even be fatal. We are taught at the very beginning about Boyle’s Law, which can relate to the lungs of a diver. When we ascend the air in our lungs expands and when we descend the air in our lungs contracts. Holding you breath whilst ascending or descending means that the excess air does not have a way of escaping and can lead to the rupture of parts of your lungs, which can be fatal. It is important to remember that holding your breath even for a few feet can result in lung-over-expansion. This is important to remember during a dive as even though the change of depth may be unrecognizable without watching your gauge, it can have a huge impact on your body. It is important to breathe continuously throughout a dive and to choose a ‘Zen’ like meditative breathing state which is where you breath in at a normal rate and breathe out slower than you breathed in.
Establish Positive Buoyancy at the Surface
Establishing positive buoyancy at the end of every dive is essential if you are to remain safe. Many statistics show that over 25% of diving fatalities occur not under the water, but on the surface. Many divers, who are over weighted, tend not to establish positive buoyancy after a dive and this can result in frantic kicking which can lead to panic and exhaustion. Not only is positive buoyancy easy, it can help to preserve your energy whilst waiting for other divers or your boat, it can also help prevent you from drowning. If you can see that your buddy is becoming exhausted on the surface, then make sure that once you have reached positive buoyancy, that you help them to achieve it too. On the surface, always inflate your BCD fully and DO NOT be afraid to drop your weight belt if you feel it is necessary.