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.