Blog

Blog From Author

How to make diving safe for your life

Ironically, as I'm writing this article the presenter on BBC Radio 2 is talking about parachute jumping. Why is this important you might ask when you're reading an article about safety tips for scuba diving?

A good question. Well a short while back I wrote an article about is scuba diving more dangerous than skydiving. It actually turns out that scuba diving is more dangerous than skydiving. In fact the odds of dying whilst scuba diving are nearly three times that of skydiving.

Don't let this worry you if you're new to scuba diving. I'm not looking to put you off diving, but instead this article is to highlight the dangers and to keep you safe by giving you the safety rules to follow.

That's why I've chosen to write another article about safe diving practices. A while back I wrote a comprehensive article with 26 rules for safe scuba diving.

What I've done in this article is to focus on the most important 10 safety tips for scuba diving, beginning with the main 3 rules of scuba diving.

Plus I've created the above top ten safety tips image shown above, which you could download and laminate for a reminder. This is especially true for beginner scuba divers.

Safety tips for scuba diving

Safety tips for scuba diving begins with the top 3 rules of scuba diving. These include:

  1. Breathe continuously while scuba diving. Never hold your breath.
  2. Always dive using the buddy system. Never dive alone.
  3. Ascend slowly from every dive and always perform a safety stop at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet).

3 rules of scuba diving

Having given you in the first case 26 rules for safe scuba diving; then I've listed the top 10 safety tips for scuba diving in an image; I'm first going to run through the 3 rules of scuba diving.

Follow these 3 rules of scuba diving and you'll be safe:

Rule no. 1 - Breathe continuously while scuba diving. Never hold your breath

The number one rule I always drummed into my students when I used to teach scuba diving was to breathe continuously. I used to repeat this rule over and again, which was to never hold your breath when scuba diving.

This is probably one of the most important rules of scuba diving, and for a very good reason. According to Boyle’s law, the air in a diver’s lungs expands during ascent and contracts during descent.

Holding your breath when you change depth can result in an over-expansion of your lungs. This can happen even with the smallest of depth change. Especially at shallower depths when the changes in pressure are greater as you ascend.

If you get an over-expansion of your lungs, this can result in extremely serious consequences, and even death. If this happens, the symptoms include pain, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, and can lead to going unconscious.

If this happens to a diver in your group, you should give oxygen and call the emergency services immediately.

The good news for you: As long as you breath continuously, this will not be a problem for you because excess air can escape.

Rule no. 2 - Always dive using the buddy system. Never dive alone

Another lesson I taught when I was a diving instructor was to teach the buddy system. In fact BSAC training is to teach beginner scuba divers in buddy pairs. The buddy system is ingrained at an early stage with BSAC training.

To help you understand why diving in buddy pairs is such an important rule is better explained by way of an example. Having dived hundreds of times, I've found myself in many situations.

One such situation was when my buddy's first stage burst underwater.

In case you're wondering what happens when a first stage bursts underwater; it's one huge mass of bubbles. In fact, I couldn't see my buddy through the mass of white bubbles that engulfed him when it happened.

I instinctually rushed to his rescue. I offered him my alternative air supply or octopus, before turning his own air supply off to stop the bubbles. We then ascended safely to the surface together.

Had he been diving alone, the outcome may have been different.

Whether he could have got to the surface before his air ran out is questionable. He may have done if he'd rushed to the surface. But as you will learn or already know, scuba divers must ascend slowly to avoid decompression sickness.

Statistics from DAN, BSAC and DAN Australia showed that in 86 percent of scuba diving fatalities, the diver was alone when they died.

Now the good news: If you always dive in buddy pairs and should something go wrong with either your own or your buddy's diving equipment you are likely to return to the surface safely.

Rule no. 3 (which is actually rules 3 and 4) - Ascend slowly from every dive and make a safety stop at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet)

The third rule of the 3 rules for scuba diving is a combination of two of the top 10 safety tips for scuba diving. These are to ascend slowly from every dive and to make a safety stop.

This rule is linked to rule number one. Ascending slowly will not only prevent decompression sickness, but it will also prevent you from over expanding your lungs.

The best way to achieve a slow ascent is to use a dive computer. Dive computers have a built-in ascent rate monitor to keep your ascent to the surface at a safe rate.

If you don't have a dive computer (or if it fails), you are best advised to follow behind your smallest regulator exhaust bubbles to the surface. These are the ones that are the size of champagne bubbles.

In addition to a slow ascent, it's always best to perform a safety stop at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet) at the end of every dive.

In addition to a slow ascent, it's always best to perform a safety stop at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet) at the end of every dive.

Combined research into diving fatalities from the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) in the U.S. and Australia and BSAC in the U.K. showed that an uncontrolled ascent was the triggering factor in 26 percent of the diver fatalities analysed.

The good news part: If you leave the bottom with plenty of reserve air for your ascent and you ascend slowly with a three minute safety stop at 5-6 metres, you'll be safe from decompression sickness and lung over-expansion.