Safety At Depth

Regardless of depth, there’s no such thing as an ‘easy’ dive:  once a diver recognises that fact then many of the so-called ‘accidents’ that sometimes occur in deeper technical diving become avoidable.  Rather than being, ‘events without apparent cause’, incidents are, invariably, attributable to a failure on the part of the diver to safeguard against what – in retrospect – becomes the obvious.

There’s an old adage, ‘plan your dive and dive your plan’; in that regard, the deeper the dive – and the more complex its objective – the greater the need to consider every aspect of the dive plan..

These considerations include:

DO – Plan every aspect of the dive.  Define its objectives and become accustomed to using a written check list.  Reviewing each item will help ensure that nothing is over-looked and that all members of the team understand the absolute parameters of the dive and what is expected of them. Include a contingency plan detailing missed decompression schedules as well as emergency protocols.

DO NOT – Do not rely on memory to recall details of the dive plan.  Encourage the use of an easily accessed slate, or wet-notes, to record key parameters of the dive, including turn-around times, gas switches, decompression schedules, etc.

DO – Ensure that every member of the team is suitably trained and qualified to carry out the proposed dive, e.g. deep wreck or cave penetration; that they have recent experience of the projected deepest depth, possess the necessary skill levels, and are familiar with the stated objectives of the dive.

 DO NOT – plan any dive that exceeds the experience level of the least qualified team member.

DO – Maintain a high level of physical fitness and good dietary habits.  Generally speaking, deeper technical dives rely on cumbersome, bulky and often heavy equipment items.  Apart from greater ease when handling this equipment, a high level of fitness will help increase endurance levels, improve cardio-vascular health, and assist in the faster metabolism of CO2 – an excess of which may trigger stress and lead to possible panic.  (A regular medical examination – and, for older divers, a stress test – is highly recommended before contemplating a schedule of more extreme dives.)

 DO NOT – indulge in strenuous physical exercise either before or immediately after a deep dive, especially one that involves a lengthy decompression schedule.  Always allow sufficient time for the body to regain its normal equilibrium..

 DO – Select equipment appropriate to the dive’s objective.  Ensure that it has been properly maintained and that it functions according to the manufacturers specifications.  Ensure an appropriate level of redundancy and that the back-up systems – regulators, for example – perform to the same level as the primary system. Analyse the various gasses (back-gas, travelling gas, bail-out, or decompression gas) in each cylinder and confirm the maximum operating depth (MOD) of each.  Clearly label each cylinder with this information.

 DO NOT – become obsessed with gadgets and gizmos.  Dispense with all non-essential equipment items.

 DO – Maintain a positive mental attitude.   Before the dive visualise every stage of the dive plan through to its successful conclusion.   Remember to,  “Never allow your body to take you anywhere where your brain hasn’t been some hours before.”

 DO NOT – cave in to peer-pressure and commit to carrying out a dive that causes the least trepidation or concern.  Never be afraid to say, “No!”  Everyone has the right to call a dive at any time, and for any reason, without fear of ridicule.

Deeper diving carries with it certain challenges.  It is a demanding activity, but one that – when approached in a positive and thoughtful manner – also delivers  its own rewards.


The above article – one focused on the then more readily accepted open circuit equipment – was first published in 2012


Categories: General

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