Diving is actually a safe sport but like any sport, accidents and injuries can happen. As divers we are aware of the risks and it’s these challenges that make us enjoy it more. We get an in-depth training both on the theory and get to learn safety and use our dive equipment and practise our skills in open water. We go out into the real dive world and sometimes we enjoy our dives so much that complacency sets in and we forget some of the safety rules.
In this article, I have 5 of the best safety rules in scuba diving for new and novice divers and for the experienced divers too. Consider this as a refresher. There is also a great video for you to enjoy.
A Lesson Learned
On August 17th, in Grand Turk, during our first morning dive, I felt someone tug my arm and thinking it was my buddy I quickly turned around. It was another diver looking at me with big wide opened eyes and he grabbed my regulator pulling it out of my mouth. He was flailing his arms so much I really thought I was going to hit. He pulled his regulator out of his mouth and that’s when I realized he needed air. I immediately put my reg back in my mouth and kept him at arms distance away using my feet and grabbed the alternative regulator and shoved that into his mouth. I gave him the hand signal to relax and take some deep breaths which thankfully he started to calm down.
I forgot about my dive buddy and when I looked around for him, he had located this diver’s buddy and together the four of us made our slow ascent and safety stop and surfaced not to far from the dive boat.
The lesson learned here was the diver who needed air hadn’t been checking his air gauge and was diving too far away from his buddy. It’s so easy to get distracted when we see even the tiniest minute cute sea creature hiding amongst beautiful coral reef and forget some of our most important basic training.
Let’s get started. Best Safety Rules In Scuba Diving…
1) Do Not Put Your Hand In A Hole
“If you put your hand in a crack and you don’t get it back, that’s a Moray”, a paradie to ‘That’s Amore’ sung by Dean Martin.
Sometimes when we’re underwater, there’s always the curiosity when we see a hole hidden in amongst the lush coral reef. What’s lurking inside?
It’s always been my thought and as a general rule, you’re better to not pet, touch or feed the natural underwater wildlife especially when they have large teeth or tight pinching claws. If you get too close or frighten them, they might bite or nip you which could cause an infection.
Remember when these beautiful nocturnal creatures like eels, crabs and lobsters go into hiding, in holes and crevices, it’s because they’re resting and shy and want to stay away from people. Eels don’t have great eyesight and I’m sure that if you were to put your hand in a hole, don’t be surprised if you have it latch onto your fingers.
It’s much better to enjoy watching them and giving them the respect in their underwater world.
2) Dive Within Your Limits
Would you go on a cave dive with no technical training? Just because you have your Open Water Diver Certification doesn’t mean you’re skilled enough to do what technical divers do. Would you climb Mount Everest with no training?
Wrecks, caves, deep diving, and breathing enriched gas all require special training in skills and knowledge. Even the most experienced technical divers can experience accidents. Different hazards such as silt stirred by your fins can cause visibility challenges and disorientation, sudden darkness with overhead ceiling or accidentally diving deeper than you should are some examples. You definitely want your buoyancy and breathing controlled here.
Scuba diving is supposed to be enjoyable and sometimes peer pressure from your dive friends may try to talk you into doing diving you’re not comfortable with. Even weather can change making dive conditions physically demanding so don’t be afraid to change your plans. Never dive beyond your comfort zone, dive what you’re mentally and physically able to handle.
It’s your life! Either get the proper technical training before you expand your dive visions or say no if you’re not up to the challenge! Your life is not worth losing!
3) Never Dive Alone
Some divers want to dive alone. There are many solo divers who enjoy the solitude and want to be in their own thoughts and not have to think of their dive buddy. Some will dive on their own because they don’t have a dive buddy.
If you’re a new or novice diver, certainly, it’s advised not to dive alone and we learn this rule in our Open Water Diver Certification right from the beginning and in all of our other dive courses.
While there is no law to diving alone, I know for myself, I will alway have a dive buddy to dive with and besides, 2 heads are better than one should you ever get yourself in an emergency situation. I’m a solo traveller mainly because my friends either don’t dive or are unable to dive because of family commitments and so when I book my dives with the dive shop, dive resort or liveaboard, I’ll either partner with my tour guide if it’s just the two of us or meet someone to buddy up with and make a dive plan we can both agree on based on our dive experiences.
What if you run out of air or get tangled in some fish nets and can’t free your hands to reach for your knife?
4) Come Back With At Least 500 psi/34 Bars In Tank
The most important consideration is to ensure you come back with enough air. It’s also not just about your safety, as you also need to think of your dive buddy’s. This includes having enough air in the event you must share your tank, allow time for both of you to do slow ascents and safety stops and account for any other dive emergencies. What if you run into some unexpected current or the water temperature is colder? These will surely cause you to use more air.
If you do any deep dives, remember you and your buddy will consume more air and must allow for a longer ascent time and safety stops.
One of the rules that has always worked well for me is to save ⅓ of the air in my tank for going out and another ⅓ of the air for my return and the balance for safety considerations like the ones I mentioned above. Now, this rule doesn’t necessarily apply to drift diving because where you start from is not where you will end up… you just drift until it’s time to come up and your boat captain will see the orange inflated sausage spring up at the surface and be right there to pick you up.
Remember to check your air gauge frequently and communicate this back to your buddy, who returns the same.
5) Never Panic
This is a scenario, not an actual accident!
Once panic sets in, your heart beats faster, you focus only on the fear nothing else, your arms flail around and you start kicking faster exerting more physical energy, using more air. The only thing you can do at this moment is to stop it now! Have you ever seen someone go into stress mode, perhaps it was at work… and to calm the person down, you said, ‘relax, take a deep breath’.
You have been taught in your Open Water Diver Certification to stop, think then act by ‘relaxing and taking long deep breaths’. Did you know it’s almost impossible to panic by following this procedure?
Lot Of Other Safety Dive Rules
Now, I know there are lots of other dive rules but these are the ones I particularly wanted to touch on. We already know not to hold our breath and not to do quick ascents faster than our bubbles.
What would you like to add here? What lessons have you learned from your diving vacations? I hope you will share your stories here because we can all learn. If you have any questions or comments, it would be awesome to hear from you.
Thanks for reading!