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The 10 Golden Rules of Safe Scuba Diving
Because of the fact that we are a school for scuba diving, a question we are frequently asked by customers at our dive shop is ‘how can divers ensure they are as safe as possible?’ It’s not an unknown fact that this pursuit does contain some inherent risks – consequently, here are our top ten scuba diving safety rules for ensuring you stay as absolutely safe as possible. These rules for safe scuba diving and general advice should be followed at all times while you are diving.
How Dangerous is Scuba?
Just because an awareness of safety is required for scuba diving, this certainly does not mean that it’s ‘unsafe’. As long as you remain alert at all times and conscious of the fact that you are entering an environment which is not natural for humans to be in – as well as carefully adhering to the following tips for safe diving – then we’re more than confident that you won’t experience any problems. Make a careful mental note of these safety rules for diving and keep them in the forefront of your mind when enjoying this most thrilling of pursuits. There is no doubt that if you’re as avid a scuba diver as me then you will have been told at least one horror story over the years, but the following safety rules for diving are designed to ensure that there is minimal risk of your experience becoming comparably problematic. Good training in – and practice of – these rules for scuba diving mean you’ll be able to enjoy the sport we all adore with minimal risk. Thus, here are our top ten golden rules for safe scuba diving – if you follow these scuba diving safety rules you need have no serious worries when exploring the wondrous underwater landscapes of our planet.
1. Never hold your breath.
This is undoubtedly by far the most crucial of all safety rules for diving because failure to adhere could result in fatality. If you hold your breath underwater at the depths at which one scubas then the fluctuating pressure of air in your lungs can rupture the lung walls. This is called pulmonary barotrauma – in the most extreme cases this can result in air bubbles escaping into the chest cavity and then bloodstream. Air bubbles in the bloodstream can then result in arterial gas embolism, which in many cases can prove fatal. There’s no problem breathing slowly and gently, just ensure that you maintain a regular and consistent rhythm.
2. Plan your dive and find out about the current conditions.
Every dive site is unique and conditions such as weather and current can vary significantly meaning that even the most experienced divers must ensure they thoroughly do their research before even thinking about entering the water and diving to the kind of depths we’re discussing. This really is one of the top tips for safe diving because of the possible variations in so many parameters, so one must always make sure that you find out about current conditions on the morning of the day you plan to dive.
3. Verify the safety of your equipment the night before.
Pre-dive equipment safety checks are another absolute necessary if you’re to ensure you’re as absolutely safe as possible – 15% of the diving fatalities in 2016 were caused by equipment malfunctions that could have been avoided had the divers checked their scuba diving kit more rigorously before entering the water. Be sure to inflate and deflate your BCD; make sure you’re more than familiar with your emergency release belt and that you have the necessary weights with you; check your air tank is completely full and take some breathes through your regulator to ensure it’s functioning at full capacity; check all of your gear is correctly tightened and strapped; and always complete a final double-check of every facet of your kit. It’s no exaggeration so say that your life could depend on the rigour of this careful examination, so always, always make sure you’re as thorough as possible.
4. Ascend slowly and safely.
The key to a safe ascent is your safety stops. These are completely essential if one is to rise safely, because if your ascent rate is too speedy then the pressure increases as you get nearer and nearer to the surface means that the nitrogen which has been absorbed by your bloodstream when you’re diving at depths does not have the necessary time required to dissolve and, consequently, the bubbles that form on the bloodstream can result in decompression sickness. Prevention is simple – just ensure that you ascend at a rate of no more than 30 metres per minute and at fifteen feet ensure you pause for three minutes unless a lack of air or the ocean’s conditions negate the possibility of doing so.
5. Dive within your limits.
It’s so important to understand that scuba diving is a skill one develops with practice, so if you are in any doubt regarding your capabilities when considering the challenge ahead of you then there is no doubt that you should not dive. Some dives are much more challenging than others, cavern and cave dives for example, whether this is because of varying depths or aquiferous landscape, so never dive if you have the slightest inkling that it might be beyond your experience or capabilities. It’s not worth the risk – your life could be on the line so always ensure you stay within your limits regarding knowledge and fitness. Advanced dives require advanced open water certification, cave dives require technical cave diving certification, so educate yourself and gain access to deeper waters.
6. Make sure you are physically ready to dive and no alcohol the night before – you need to be alert and focused.
Before diving, take your time to consider your physical and mental well-being – if you feel off in any way then it’s not a good idea to dive. The allure of the experience might be very tempting, but there’s no point taking the risk if you’re not feeling in peak condition. If you have any kind of ailment, if you’re carrying a bug, or even if you just had too much to drink the night before, it really is advisable to wait until another day when you can be completely confident that nothing will endanger your well-being.
7. Consult your gauges regularly.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people neglect to keep checking their gauges regularly and consequently end up in trouble due to the fact that they must then make a speedy ascent. Stay in constant communication with your dive buddy regarding this key tenet of scuba-diving and let them know when your tank is half-empty, and again when you begin to employ your air reserves.
8. Rule of thirds.
The ‘rule of thirds’ means that you should use a third of your air when descending, a third when at depth and then have a third left in reserve for your ascent. If you’re caught short then one can end up in all manner of bother, so, to reiterate, always keep a close eye on your gauge and adhere to this rule as strictly as possible.
9. Never dive alone – unless properly trained.
Having a dive buddy dramatically reduces numerous risks – maintaining constant communications with them underwater will ensure you always remain conscious of your gauges, and if you get into any kind of trouble when submerged at depths then their presence will ensure you’re not without assistance. It’s crucial to remember that it’s no exaggeration to say that your dive buddy could be the difference between life and death, so if you’re diving with a group of people that you’ve not met before then take the time to ensure that you get to know them before descending and keep as good an eye on them as you would like them to keep on you. The presence of a partner dramatically reduces risk, so make sure you have one unless you are very experienced and very confident. Even then, one is advisable unless this is an impossibility.
10. Establish positive buoyancy at the surface to conserve energy.
Achieving positive buoyancy at the surface prevents drowning due to exhaustion by preserving energy – if one attempts to remain at the surface when over-weighted then you’re likely to tire yourself out and consequently be unable to deal with any problems that might arise during the following dive. Correct use of your buoyancy compensator and weight belt is key here so make sure you take the time to properly practice their application when training.
11. Bonus: never miss the chance to do a refresher course – practice and refresh your skill set frequently.
One must always remain conscious of the inherent dangers involved in scuba diving, so if you’re planning to go on a trip and it’s been a while since you last did so, take the time to refresh your skill-set with a course before departing. Best practice might not have changed, but there might be some new specifications of the equipment you’ll be employing, so seek out a refresher course to make sure you’re completely knowledgeable about any developments that might have occurred since your last experience. Even if none have occurred, a refresher course certainly won’t hurt and will ensure your existing skill set is razor sharp rather than blunt from lack of use.
What is the most important rule in scuba diving?
All of the above rules are highly important for ensuring you stay safe while enjoying the often mind-blowing experience of scuba-diving, but perhaps the most important rule which has not yet been mentioned is to never, ever dive without having been properly trained for the conditions and depth of the location.
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