The Implications of Missing Skills

This month we look at the implications of removing skills when teaching PADI courses. The consequences may be greater than you think!

Let’s look at a couple of incidents that highlight the importance of teaching the performance requirements of each course in the proper sequence.  

Emergency Weight Drop skill

In the PADI Open Water Course students must demonstrate mastery of the emergency weight drop skill (Page 56, PADI Instructor Manual). The standard requires:

“During any dive, in either confined or open water, at the surface in water too deep in which to stand, with a deflated BCD, have student divers use the weight system’s quick release, to pull clear and drop sufficient weight to become positively buoyant.”

Incident

During a PADI Open Water course an instructor failed to teach a group of six students the PADI Emergency Weight Drop Skill. The students were all certified as PADI Open Water Divers. Subsequently, the group continued to dive together as certified divers. On one particular dive one of the students BCD’s failed to inflate on the surface. Unable to stay afloat, he panicked and started kicking and flailing his arms. Despite trying to orally inflate the BCD he couldn’t get enough air into it and he was struggling to keep his head afloat. As a result of using all this energy and inhaling some water he became unconscious and subsequently drowned on the surface. During the investigation it became apparent that he had not been taught the emergency weight belt drop skill which could have potentially saved his life. The family of the victim sued the instructor and won their claim for contributory negligence and damages. The failure to teach this skill was found to be one of the causes of his death.

Watermanship: Swim/Snorkel and Swim/Float

For our second incident we concern ourselves with Watermanship Skills from the PADI Open Water Course. Page 53 of the PADI Open Water Manual describes the requirements for the waterskills assessment as below:

 “Before Open Water Dive 2, have student divers demonstrate that they can comfortably maintain themselves in water too deep in which to stand by completing a 10-minute swim/float without using any swim aids.

At some point before certification, have students complete a 200 metre/yard continuous surface swim or a 300 metre/yard swim with mask, fins and snorkel.”

Incident

During this incident the instructor decided to allow his four Open Water student to complete a modified 200m swim. He allowed his students to simply pull themselves around a boat by a rope attached to the side of the boat and not actually swim at all. He certified them as PADI Open Water Divers. Two of the students decided to continue with their PADI Advanced Open Water Course at another dive centre. This centre failed to undertake a pre-assessment of the students and started the PADI Advanced Open Water with the Deep Dive. During the dive one of the students got into difficulties in a current. He was swept away from the group. After a search his body was found on the bottom and he was late pronounced dead. The cause of his death was listed as ‘drowning’.  His partner told authorities that neither she nor he could swim and neither had ever met the watermanship performance requirements during their Open Water course.

Whilst many factors contributed to his death, the PADI Open Water Instructor was found to be negligent in their failure to assess watermanship during the PADI Open Water Course.

These examples shows us how important it is to teach all of the skills in each PADI programme. Each skill is in the course for a reason. What may appear to be a minor infringement to some people can have serious consequences later. From a moral perspective we have a responsibility to teach people the skills in each course so that they may be able to conduct dives of that type in a similar environment in a comfortable manner. This is not just about us and our needs. It is about holding a position of responsibility to ensure that each diver you certify is capable of undertaking the dive level and type that you have certified them for.

When an instructor takes it upon themselves to decide what skills will and won’t be completed in a course they expose themselves to liability. Remember the question to ask yourself is “would reasonably prudent dive instructor conduct the programme or course in the same way?” If the answer is no then your ability to defend a legal claim may be remote. Your ability to provide a reasonable answer to family and friends asking how this could have happened is lessened.

Sometimes people make decisions like this due to poor weather, time constraints or pressure from customers to get finished before mastering the skills. There is no justification for modifying courses or failing to teach the required standards. Breaches of this nature are considered very serious and can lead to punitive action being taken against the instructor and/or the store.

As PADI members we strive collectively to maintain our high standards thus protecting ourselves, the diving public and the PADI brand. If the PADI brand is damaged so is our ability to attract customers and grow our careers. Protecting the standards is in everyone’s best interests.

If you have any concerns about incidents or standards email us at qa@padi.com.au.

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