Tips for safe scuba diving

The SSI Open Water course provides us with the knowledge, skills and practical application to enjoy scuba diving safely. It also teaches us about the potential risks that come with diving and how to deal with them, but more importantly, it teaches us how to avoid them in the first place. So, here are a few tips to keep you a happy safe diver.

Let's start at the top!

1. Always Check Your Equipment

It is of the utmost importance that you maintain your equipment and keep it in perfect working condition. Servicing your gear yearly or around every 100 dives is a general rule. Don’t be lazy when it comes to checking your equipment before a dive, that's your life. If you are renting gear, make sure its the right size and check it thoroughly.

Conduct your buddy-checks thoroughly. Always. Make sure that you are familiar with the scuba gear you are using. know how to use it and make sure that it is in perfect working condition. Remember, if you or your buddies equipment malfunctions it can cause problems for both of you.

Equipment can vary slightly in different Equipment can vary slightly in different countries and dive centers, so if you are unsure about something – Always Ask! The majority of equipment-related accidents occur not because the equipment breaks but because of diver uncertainty as to how it works.

Being sufficiently prepared is the key to safe diving.countries and dive centers, so if you are unsure about something – Always Ask! The majority of equipment-related accidents occur not because the equipment breaks but because of diver uncertainty as to how it works.

Being sufficiently prepared is the key to safe diving.

2. Plan Your Dive and Use the Buddy System.

Taking the time to properly plan your dive is an important part of ensuring your safety underwater. It doesn't matter who your diving buddies are, make sure that you have agreed on a maximum time and depth before submerging.

Be aware of emergency and lost-diver procedures. These may differ slightly from location to location and depend upon the specifics of the dive. If you are diving without a guide, make sure you know how to navigate the site beforehand. Make sure you are equipped to find your way back to your exit point.

Staying with, and communicating with your buddy frequently makes diving practical, safe and of course fun! Be sure to run through and agree on signals that you will use underwater as these can differ depending on where a diver has done their training. Check everyone is OK and ask for air and No Decompression limits frequently, and this will help prevent getting caught short later in the dive.

Although several training organisations now offer solo diving certifications, diving alone remains an absolute no-no unless you are properly trained with the procedures on how to do so.

A good dive briefing should include information about how to avoid dangerous and risky situations, and emergency procedures for coping with them should they arise. With sufficient training and preparation, we can easily avoid most diving accidents.

Although the potential for incidents and accidents may seem high, scuba diving is actually a safe sport when conducted properly. As you progress through SSI Diver training, you’ll learn how to become both self-sufficient AND how to be a great dive buddy.

3.Establish Positive Buoyancy at the Surface.

As a rule, the first thing you do when entering the water or surfacing is establish positive buoyancy. Most people would think of diving accidents occurring at depth. But, in reality, 25 percent of diver fatalities occur on the surface.

Establishing positive buoyancy at the surface conserves energy, preventing exhaustion and drowning. You should establish positive buoyancy at the end of every dive. Doing so is the first step in providing assistance to a tired, panicked or unconscious diver at the surface. Inflate your BCD fully, and if necessary, drop your weights.

4. Control Your Rate of Ascent – Come Up Slowly

Making sure to ascend slowly and safely at all times will help you avoid nitrogen absorbed, creating bubbles in the bloodstream that could lead to decompression sickness. Believe me, it's unpleasant, and costly.

Ascension rate should be 8 meters (30 Feet) per minute.Those diving with a computer will often ascend even slower than this and will be warned if they are ascending too fast. Remember, Always fully deflate your BCD before starting your ascent and never, ever use your inflator button to get to the surface.

5. Never Hold Your Breathe

As every good scuba diver should know, the most important rule of scuba diving is never never never hold your breath underwater and always breathe as normal. It really is as simple as it sounds.

Depth changes of just a few feet are enough to cause lung over expansion injuries or pulmonary barotrauma. This makes holding one’s breath dangerous at all times while diving, not only when ascending. So, easy fix. Don't hold your breath and breathe normally at all times. It's just that simple.

6. Ensure You Dive Within Your Limits

Never put yourself in a situation that you are uncomfortable with. If you aren’t physically or mentally capable of a dive, say so. It’s easy to succumb to peer pressure, but only you should make the decision to dive or not.

Don’t be afraid to cancel a dive or change a location if you feel that the conditions are unsafe that day. The same dive site may be within your capabilities one day and not the next, depending on fluctuations in surface conditions, temperature and current.

Never attempt a dive that is beyond your current level of training or certification level – wreck penetrations, deep dives, diving in overhead environments and diving with enriched air all require specific skill-sets which you might not have yet.

7. Practice Your Diving Skills Regularly

Over time, divers can allow their basic skills learnt in their SSI Open Water course to lapse. It is important to keep your skills, especially those used in emergency situations, fresh. Knowing what to do if your buddy runs out of air, or, what to do if there is an equipment malfunction can mean the difference between a dive ending safely or not.

Other skills that are important in preventing accidents are, good buoyancy control and mastering mask clearing both of which could one day be the difference between calmly addressing a problem or succumbing to panic.

Other courses like stress and rescue and first responder can further help you to hone your skills. Rescue-certified or equivalent divers are not only more confident divers but are also in a position of responsibility. At any moment, they may need to perform CPR, remove a diver from the water, or give emergency oxygen. Practicing, refreshing and building your skill-set frequently will ensure that you are confident in your skills and know how to act if something goes wrong.

8. Stay Healthy, Keep Fit and be Honest on Your Medical Questionnaire

Diving is physically demanding. Despite the fact that most of our time underwater is relaxing, long surface swims, diving in a strong current, carrying scuba gear and exposure to weather all combine to make diving a strenuous activity.

Obesity, alcohol, tobacco use and tiredness all increase an individual’s susceptibility to decompression sickness. Limit your intake of substances before diving, eat well, rest and look after yourself.

Maintaining an acceptable level of personal fitness is key to diving safely. Lack of fitness leads to overexertion, which can in turn lead to faster air consumption, panic and any number of resulting accidents.

Always be honest on medical questionnaires and seek the advice of a qualified diving medical practitioner as to whether or not you can dive. 25 percent of diver deaths are caused by pre-existing diseases and ailments that should have excluded the person from diving in the first place.

Be mindful of temporary ailments to physical fitness – while a cold may not be dangerous on land, it can cause problems when underwater. Recover fully from any illness or surgery before getting back in the water.

9. Stay Safe and Have Lots of Fun!

Staying safe while diving is simple. With careful preparation, common sense and skill confidence, the potential risks are effectively minimized. Following these rules and the other guidelines of your training not only keeps you safe, but also allows you to relax and have fun. After all, why do we go diving in the first place?

Happy, safe diving scuba fans.

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