Never Give Safety a Day Off

If you walk through almost any manufacturing facility, you’ll see safety signs plastered everywhere. “Be Alert – Don’t Get Hurt,” “Safety is No Accident,” and “Know Safety, No Accident” are just a few phrases you might see. One slogan seems particularly applicable to diving: “Complacency Kills.”

As divers, safety procedures are ingrained in us at every level of training. Pre-dive safety checks, air sharing, valve shutdown drills and emergency ascents are just a few of the safety techniques we learn. Unfortunately, over time we tend to take these procedures for granted and we get sloppy. Pre-dive buddy checks become shorter and more superficial, or worse, we skip them completely. Our pre-dive planning probably suffers as well. We don’t bother calculating the amount of gas needed. It’s quicker and easier to assume that we have enough gas. We get complacent about our dive gear. We don’t pay that much attention to it as we suit up for the dive. A minor gear mistake, like forgetting to connect the inflator hose to your BC, is only a minor inconvenience if caught at the surface. But if your buddy doesn’t catch the problem because you’re just going through the motions of a pre-dive check, it could be a real problem at depth. I’ll never forget a student showing me his computer at the end of a dive. He asked me why the computer was flashing and beeping and generally making a fuss. As it turns out, he had the gas mix set for 100% oxygen for the whole dive! Our dive was to 120′ for 30 minutes. No wonder his computer wasn’t happy. We learned several lessons on that dive: confirm computer settings at the start of the dive, know what your computer warnings look like and what they mean and if somethings seems wrong, abort the dive (don’t wait until after the dive to figure out why your computer was warning you).

As the dive season nears, I challenge all of us to reexamine our safety protocols and to rededicate ourselves to dive safety. As Larry Green, National Association for Cave Diving (NACD) Training Director told us in our cave diving class, “You need to establish sound safety protocols and then have the discipline to follow them on every single dive.” The first part is easy, but we have to work hard to have the self-discipline to follow through. We all know what to do, we just need to do it.

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Never Give Safety a Day Off

SCUBA Season Never Ends

Before you remind me that it’s February, it’s cold up north, and the local lakes and quarries are near-freezing, relax and re-read the title. I didn’t say “Dive Season Never Ends,” I said “SCUBA Season Never Ends.” Many divers in colder regions take the winter off from diving, but you can (and should) still stay active in the sport. Here are a few ideas.

Most people think of getting their scuba equipment serviced during the winter months. Then they promptly forget about it until the first warm days of spring and take their equipment in to the dive center for a spring tune up. Of course every other diver in a 50 mile radius is thinking the same thing. Avoid the rush and get those tanks and regulators in for service now. This is especially true if you’re a technical diver and have multiple tanks and regulators.

Besides the obvious equipment service like getting your regulator rebuilt and tanks inspected and/or a hydrostatic retest, there are other elements to equipment service. There are lots of minor adjustments that I think about during the course of the dive season, but never get around to doing. Changing the hose retainers on my deco bottles because the rubber is cracking, scrubbing my slate, re-spooling reels so the line is evenly packed, re-threading back plates that have worn webbing are all things I may do during the winter. Look over every piece of your equipment and see if any parts are in need of replacement or modification.

I also like to do research. During the summer, I rarely have time to do in-depth (no pun intended) research. Now that I have time, I read books about wrecks (especially those I’d like to dive), decompression theory, history, whatever strikes my fancy. I surf the net learning about new equipment, watching videos and learning whatever I can about diving. You have to be careful on the internet of course, because it’s difficult to assess the accuracy of what people put out there, but it still can be a valuable resource if used carefully.

Another good way to keep active in diving during the winter months is to go to dive shows. Here in the Great Lakes region, we have several coming up: Great Lakes Shipwreck Festival in Ann Arbor, MI, Our World Underwater in Chicago, Scubafest in Columbus, OH, and Ghost Ships Festival in Milwaukee are a few that come to mind. Shows are a great place to meet local vendors like dive shops and charter boat captains. You can also see presentations about topics ranging from how to plan a wreck dive to video of the latest wreck discovery in your area. Of course you have the added benefit of hanging around other divers and talking about diving.

Last, but certainly not least, you can use the winter months to plan your diving activities for summer 2012. (Shameless plug alert!)I would hope that your plans for this summer might include continuing your diver education. If you’re interested in furthering your scuba development by taking a specialty course, or are ready to transition into technical diving, I would appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about the courses I offer. I offer many recreational specialty diver courses like Wreck Diver, Deep Diver, Night/Limited Visibility and many more. I specialize in technical diver training including Intro to Tech, Advanced Nitrox/Deco Procedures, Helitrox Diver, Trimix Diver, Advanced Wreck Diver, Advanced Trimix Diver, and more. Visit my website and training calendar for more information. You can contact me at rick@GreatLakesTechDiving.com (End of shameless plug).

We could come up with lots more ways to feed your scuba habit over the winter months, but the point is, it doesn’t matter what you do, do something! There’s no reason to forget about scuba diving just because the calendar says it’s winter outside.

SCUBA Season Never Ends