In order to qualify as an open water scuba diver you need to be able to pass a medical clearance, and complete both theoretical and practical exams. Add to this the fact that modern equipment is both reliable and high tech, and you have all the ingredients for a safe sport.
SSI alone certifies a huge number of divers every year, so one can only imagine how many qualified divers there are out there. And yet, out of those millions, every year only approximately 1000 divers worldwide need decompression therapy.
It is true that a few scuba divers do experience accidents – some of them fatal. However, most of these are due to carelessness on the part of the diver, or overconfidence.
SO HERE ARE 11 TIPS FOR ALL DIVERS TO KEEP IN MIND TO ENSURE THAT THEY ARE DIVING SAFELY.
Plan, plan, plan
You’ve heard it before and your dive instructor should have hammered this point throughout your Open Water course: Plan the Dive, and Dive the Plan. Planning a dive is vital when it comes to safety and although this is particularly important for difficult or deep dives, it still applies and should be performed on every dive that you do. Remember, it is generally a combination of small issues that can result in a major problem.
Ensure your equipment is safe to use
Check your equipment a week before you plan to dive and make sure everything has been serviced and maintained properly. Whilst your gear may look great on the outside, regular professional servicing will identify and rectify those items that are hidden from view such as salt buildup. Remember to check the batteries for your dive computer and underwater torch. When you arrive at your destination and are ready to kit up, you need to check that your equipment is working properly. If you are diving with a buddy, then check his equipment too and ask him to check all your gear as well.
Test new equipment in a controlled environment
It’s quite normal to be excited about your new purchase and the urge to just "get into it" quite strong. However, in the interests of safety it is always best to first test new equipment in controlled conditions and your best option is either a swimming pool or the local dive training ground which should be a safe and relatively calm location. You don’t want to have to struggle with new equipment on a deeper dive which not only adds to your stress levels but to those around you.
Make sure you are ready to dive
In addition to your equipment, your body needs to be ready to dive. If you are feeling unwell or otherwise unprepared to dive: listen to the messages that your body is sending you. It’s more important to miss a dive because you’re not feeling up to it, than it is to take risks. The accepted rule in technical diving is that "ANYone can call a dive for ANY reason at ANY time" and recreation / entry level diving is no exception. If you are not feeling up to it, do not be scared or intidated to speak up and sit it out. Personally, if I felt pressured by other divers to get into the water after I had decided not to dive, I would not be diving with these people in the future.
Find out about the current conditions (no pun intended!)
Before you dive you need to have an accurate assessment of the sea conditions. The surface conditions might affect the safety of boat launches, apart from anything else. The water temperature is important because that will determine what type of wetsuit to wear. Being too cold or too hot when you dive will be uncomfortable and might compromise your safety. Find out what the underwater conditions are; if there is extremely poor visibility, very strong currents, or other potentially problematic conditions then it might be safer to postpone the dive to another day.
Dive within your limits
Under no circumstances should you dive beyond your limits. If you are only qualified to dive to a certain depth, then ensure that the dive plan does not exceed that depth. This also applies to specialized diving that requires additional certification. Never attempt something like cave diving unless you are suitably qualified by completing the relevant certifications. There is no place for ego or bravado here, there is a saying in the diving world, "There are old divers and there are bold divers, but there are no old, bold divers!" Again, never feel pressured to engage in a dive that is beyond your level training or experience.
An alert diver is a safe diver
There is a reason why divers are cautioned not to drink alcohol for 24 hours before diving. You don’t want to have alcohol in your system when you dive because you need to be alert. If you are feeling hungover or very tired, it is not advisable to dive as you need to be alert and focused in order to dive safely.
Consult your gauges regularly
This might sound obvious but you’ll be surprised how many accidents occur because divers don’t adhere to this basic rule. If you are diving with a buddy, then let him know when you reach half your tank (minus your reserve pressure), and again when you reach your reserve pressure. You and your buddy should from time to time ask each other how much air the other has left.
Know the dive signals
Marine life enthusiasts often get excited about learning the signals for different species, however, the most important hand signals are those pertaining to safety. Make sure that both you and your buddy understand a comprehensive array of signals. Not being able to convey messages accurately and understand each other underwater poses a potential safety risk. And remember, when giving hand signals, slow down!
Avoid colliding with a boat
Make sure that you always carry a marker buoy with you and never assume that boats can see you! When diving from a boat plan your ascent so that it is as close to your boat as possible and in most cases this means ascending via the same method you descended, generally via an anchor line or similar. When you do your safety stop, make sure that you are at the recommended depth. If you don’t control your depth and buoyancy properly then you run the risk of doing your safety stop at propeller depth. (True story.)
Even if you are diving with a buddy or even a team, ultimately you need to take responsibility for your own safety. It is up to you to ensure that you follow everything that you have learnt about safe diving. In this way you will avoid endangering yourself, or the other divers accompanying you on the dive.