Each month the PADI Asia Pacific Quality Management team continues to bring you tips on how to maintain and improve safety in your professional diving activities. This month we heard from Quality Management Consultant Rebecca Wastall.
The Environment & Risk Management
“We are blessed with a career that puts us in contact with the ocean – and the ocean demands our respect. Treat her with respect and she will give you a lifetime of adventures, but underestimate her at your peril. Remember: be prudent in your decision making, put your students’ safety above your ego and – if in doubt – stay out.”- Richard Somerset, PADI.
Many of us entered careers as PADI Dive professionals because we love the ocean and its inhabitants.
The famous Jacques Cousteau once said…….
“The sea once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever”
It is true, which is why with the support of Project AWARE we strive to maintain this environment, but do we give it the respect it deserves from a risk management perspective?
The environments people dive in vary all over the world. A diver trained in one environment may not be comfortable in another until they have had some experience and learned the techniques specific to that environment. A diver that is confident in warm clear waters may need extra assistance to adapt to a cold water environment with poor visibility. How many of us check our diver’s history, even if they are simply on a guided dive? Do we ask to see our customers log books? Are we asking the right questions to determine the risks our divers might have. Do we identify who may be susceptible to the risks that are present?
We should consider all of these factors every time we dive. Take a few minutes to mentally review the environment on each diving day and applying that to our customers training and experience levels. Ways we can evaluate the match of student ability to environment include environmental checks (looking or even getting in the water to check on current and visibility), and checking student qualifications and logbooks. The fact is every day is different. Don’t get complacent with the environment assuming it will be the same every time we dive. Set the example for others and consider the risks, pass that message on and create a culture of safety.
Financial pressures of running a dive centre combined with the changing environmental conditions we face mean you could be risking a bad dive to pay the bills. Do you at times feel forced to put finances first? The knock on effect maybe you get a bad review or a complaint but ultimately you need to ask are you risking customer’s safety.
Sometimes we hear of cases of concerned divers and instructors who feel they have been forced to dive in poor environmental conditions or make a poor judgement call which has led to an incident. So who takes responsibility for calling a dive off? Who determines if the dive site is suitable for a diver? Ultimately if an incident occurs the liability is likely to rest with the individual member who was supervising the dive. You would not be able to say “but my boss told me it would be fine”. With our training comes the responsibility to make good judgements. We know the risks – now make the call.
While uncommon there is potential risk to divers from interactions with marine organisms. The most common of these is when a diver brushes up against or lands on a marine invertebrate through poor buoyancy control techniques. We should provide thorough briefings describing what aquatic animals divers come across and ensure they know not to touch organisms, to be careful in the sand and not to sit on the coral. This may seem obvious to many of us but there have been situations where instructors are missing this important part of their briefings. So what is the best solution? Again think about the level of risk. Being gentle with the approach, informing your students about the wildlife in the area is an important part of your briefing. So instead of telling someone ‘the titan triggerfish will attack you’, say ‘this is a fish we respect when nesting and give him the distance he needs to protect his young’. Instead of saying ‘don’t kneel in the sand as you may find yourself with a barb in your knee’, say ‘look closely when in the sand as delicate creatures live there and we want to maintain their habitat’. Don’t shy away from the risks but address them carefully and appropriately to the level of risk they pose. This way you are educating about marine life as well as helping divers to minimise the risks.
Let’s work together with our customers to preserve and enjoy the aquatic environment – after all it is a privilege to be able to explore its depths.
Rebecca Wastall | Quality Management Consultant, PADI Asia Pacific.