Sadly, within the first four months of 2018, there have been at least three fatalities of divers/snorkellers caused by collision injuries from boat propellers; one each in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. It is likely that there are additional incidents, as many injuries often go unreported.
These figures are of great concern to DAN and should be of concern to all divers. We felt it was timely to revitalise a safety campaign that focuses on creating awareness of propeller safety.
Propeller injuries are unfortunately far too common in diving accident reports despite often being preventable. Many propeller incidents occur in remote locations where the medical facilities available to treat injuries sustained may be insufficient, and the licencing and regulating of boat drivers may be poorly enforced or does not exist. This is not to say that countries like Australia and New Zealand are immune to such incidents; reporting simply highlights a greater occurrence in other countries of the Asia-Pacific.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES OF PROPELLER INCIDENTS?
Having reviewed reported incidents from the past 10 years, there seems to be four main causes:
1. Boat operators unaware of divers in the area coupled with insufficient lookout for the conditions.
2. Boat operators attempting to move the boat while divers were nearby in the water.
Divers/snorkellers surfacing in the path of boat traffic, failing to use a flag or buoy, or undertaking diving activities in an area frequented by boats.
4. Divers being pushed into boat
propellers by waves or currents.
These indicate the need for a twopronged approach to increase the safety of divers/snorkellers in relation to propellers:
1. Working with divers/snorkellers to increase their awareness of strategies to avoid propeller incidents, such as:
• the use of clearly visible dive flags; • the use of diver’s floatlines
• being vigilant in avoiding areas
with known boat traffic;
• avoiding surfacing or swimming at the stern of the boat without the crew’s knowledge;
• ensuring divers follow crew instructions when attempting to board the vessel.
Reminding boat operators that they need to be diver aware, by:
• having an adequate vantage point
to see divers who are underwater; • recognising the different types of dive flags (and light signals at night), which indicate divers are in the vicinity;
• being aware of the laws and regulations regarding exclusion zones and speed limits that surround “Diver Below” warnings, if any. In the absence of regulations, care and slow speeds are still required;
• ensuring they do not have the propellers engaged while performing pick-ups; and receiving confirmation that all divers are clear of the propellers prior to re-engaging.
If divers and boat operators work together, propeller injuries and deaths can be reduced, even eliminated.