Scuba Diver Australasia + Ocean Planet - - Perspectives -

As new divers, we were all in­tro­duced to check­lists. We learnt the im­por­tance of pre-dive checks (for our BCD, weights, re­leases, air) and what to in­clude when pack­ing gear pre-dive.

Those who trained to be tek divers are fully aware of the re­liance on check­lists to en­sure equip­ment is func­tion­ing cor­rectly so that the planned dive can be com­pleted safely and prob­lem-free.

Then, those who be­came div­ing pro­fes­sion­als moved on to check­lists for items to be in­cluded in dive brief­ings and emer­gency pro­ce­dures.

Check­lists are a great tool for en­sur­ing all items for a spe­cific task are com­pleted; but how many divers (apart from re­breather divers) still use them?

When was the last time you saw a buddy pair go through a full pre-dive check when pre­par­ing to en­ter the wa­ter? When was the last time you and your buddy com­pleted one?

Most divers start off us­ing the check­lists, but as they get more fa­mil­iar and com­fort­able in their abil­i­ties they be­come com­pla­cent, and this can lead to im­por­tant items, and safety pro­ce­dures, be­ing over­looked. If we are hon­est, at some stage we have all been guilty of this, but check­lists are sim­ple and do serve a pur­pose: to en­sure we en­joy our dive and re­turn safely. Check­lists play an im­por­tant role at all lev­els of div­ing:

- New divers can rely on them to avoid jump­ing into the wa­ter with­out putting on their fins or turn­ing on cylin­ders.

- More ex­pe­ri­enced divers can use them to avoid er­rors of fa­mil­iar­ity (i.e., those er­rors that oc­cur be­cause you have done a task so many times that your brain turns off while do­ing it). I know I have for­got­ten to put on my weight­belt more of­ten as an ex­pe­ri­enced diver than I ever did as a begin­ner.

- Dive lead­ers should fol­low a check­list to en­sure all re­quired el­e­ments are in­cluded in their dive brief­ings. Dive brief­ings are an im­por­tant safety com­po­nent of ev­ery dive, par­tic­u­larly for divers in new lo­ca­tions or where new skills are to be utilised. These brief­ings should, at a min­i­mum, in­clude the fol­low­ing:

1) Dive site name and de­scrip­tion - points of in­ter­est, haz­ards, depths, cur­rents and fa­cil­i­ties.

2) The role the Dive Leader will play – sur­face sup­port, in-wa­ter as­sis­tance, and how to recog­nise him or her.

3) En­try/Exit – any spe­cific pro­ce­dures to be


4) Dive pro­ce­dures – how the dive should be con­ducted, di­rec­tion to head, course to fol­low, pro­ce­dures for deal­ing with spe­cific lo­cal haz­ards or con­di­tions, safety stops, and depth and time lim­its.

5) Emer­gency pro­ce­dures – method for re­call­ing divers, what to do if re­called, diver sep­a­ra­tion, low on air, sur­face sig­nalling, lo­ca­tion of emer­gency equip­ment and who is trained to use it.

6) Sig­nal re­view – sig­nalling is mostly univer­sal but there are re­gional vari­a­tions to some of the sig­nals used for things such as air re­main­ing and for iden­ti­fy­ing spe­cific prob­lems.

7) Buddy group­ings and tasks each team will

be per­form­ing.

8) Pre-dive safety check be­tween buddy pairs. 9) The need to no­tify the dive su­per­vi­sor if

un­well post-dive.

If your dive leader doesn’t cover all these items, you may be en­ter­ing the wa­ter un­der­pre­pared and ill-equipped to han­dle the con­di­tions of the dive or an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion.

Re­mem­ber, check­lists are im­por­tant at all lev­els of div­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence, and should be con­sid­ered an es­sen­tial safety tool.

Dive safely,

Scott Jamieson,

DAN AP Gen­eral Man­ager

Part of the DAN Asia-Pa­cific team. From left: Mel, Cyn­thia, Julie, John, Heidi, Scott, Haili, Anny, Adam, Sim

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