June Tips from the PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management Team

In 2018 the PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management team continues to bring you tips from PADI staff in the field on how to maintain and improve safety in your professional diving activities. This month we heard from PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management Manager, Michelle Brunton.

“Taking simple, small actions can make the biggest difference in reducing risk.” Michelle Brunton

The ‘Be safe- Be seen’ type campaigns for cyclists combined with driver education and changes to driving laws has been effective in many areas at reducing the risk of cyclists being hit by traffic.

Surface Markey buoys Dive flags have been around a long time and are one of the most simple and cost effective ways to reduce risk of surface boat incidents, yet they are still not used in every location where there is boat traffic. Incidents in which boats hit a diver have tragic consequences and are devastating for everyone involved. We should have a zero tolerance for these incidents and do everything possible to reduce the risk.

The U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Resource Centre reports that from 2005 to 2013 boat-propeller strikes caused 636 injuries and 38 deaths of people engaged in water activities (boating, water skiing, swimming, snorkelling, diving, tubing, etc.); 442 of these injuries and 29 of these deaths were caused by a person being struck by a vessel.

After reviewing several incidents in which boats have hit divers the following aspects became noticeable:

WHEN: Boats can hit divers before, during and after a dive. We assume that these boat propeller incidents happen at the end of the dive when the divers ascend to the surface. But often they occur on the surface before the dive on during the dive when divers unintentionally get close to the surface.

We should be ensuring the start of the dive is smooth in terms of the descent and that divers are not placed in situations where they drift away from the marked descent line or into areas of boat movement. We should use a well-marked and clearly visible descent line where possible.

We often stress the importance of divers deploying their SMBs at the end of the dive during the safety stop to mark their location. But at the start of dives a diver has an ear problem having difficulty descending, conducting a buoyancy check, or getting more weight from the boat or shore. These situations mean the diver is on the surface possibly away from the pre-arranged descent area and possibly at higher risk of not being seen by a boat driver.

SNORKELING: We tend to think of SMBs and Flags for the use of SCUBA Divers, but what about snorkelers. How do we mark the location of snorkelers in areas of boat traffic? Some locations now require the marking of snorkelers so they are easily seen both by other boats and by the dive operation surface watch staff. So let’s ask ourselves “Does our dive store or resort supply marking buoys or surface marking devices suitable for both snorkelers and divers?

DIVER BEHAVIOUR CAN PUT THE DIVER AT RISK: Some incidents occur as a result of diver skills and behaviour. What diver behaviours could make a difference?

  • Using SMBs every dive – every time
  • Use a hand held float on dives with lots of boat traffic and/or drift dives
  • Training and practicing effective safe entry and descent skills
  • Being aware of boat traffic before the dive, at the safety stop and during ascent
  • Navigation skills – getting back to the planned exit point
  • Buoyancy skills – reducing the likelihood of unplanned surfacing during a dive
  • Know the weights you require – or if you are not sure get in the water and do buoyancy checks so that you can comfortably descend
  • Manage gas consumption – keep fit, plan the dive well in terms of depth, current and bottom time to avoid unplanned ascents due to low air situations

BOAT DRIVING BEHAVIOUR CAN PUT THE DIVER AT RISK: This one might be a bit more complex and requires some good leadership and teamwork between dive stores. Can we get together the operators in the area to talk about the management of boats at our dive sites? Can we come up with a local ‘good practice’ guideline for boat operators that will enhance safety? It might include:

  • Radio communications protocols during drop offs and pick ups
  • Establishing safe lanes where divers tend to surface
  • Agreements that all operators will use a dive flag when dives are in water
  • Agreements to reduce speeds around diving areas to even lower than local law requirements
  • Ensuring Dive professionals and other crew are vigilant on watch and letting the skipper know about DSMBs in the water and divers (especially on larger boats where the skipper cannot see everything)
  • Staggering dive entries between operators so that each boat has time to get in and out of the entry area safely

It is in all of our best interests to reduce the risk of boating incidents. Consider the whole picture and look for ways to reduce this risk:

The timing
The snorkeler
The diver behaviour
The boat behaviour

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