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33 Ways to Dive Safer

Three of the UK’s leading divers give their top safety tips

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1 Make sure someone on shore knows where you’re going and when you’ll be back. This could be the coastguard if everyone is on the boat, or it could be a friend or relative left behind. Charles Hood

2 Check weather and tidal conditions before heading out in a boat. CH

3 Sort out small problems as they happen, before they turn into one big problem. Richard Bull

4 Plan to have a day or two for a shakedown before going away on a big trip involving deep diving. It gets the problems sorted before the pressure is on. RB

5 The more planning you do, the safer your dive will be. Still do your homework on sites you know. Jeff Reed

6 Make sure your kit is appropriate for the diving you’re doing. A bailout option that will get you out of trouble at 18m will not tick the bailout box for a 50m dive. RB

7 If somebody else is in charge, make sure you know what the plan is. Question it if you’re not clear about anything and speak up if you’re not happy with it. RB

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8 Configure your kit the weekend before a dive trip. You’re more likely to remember everything and know where it all is than if you set your kit up at the last minute. CH

9 Remember to always plan the dive in advance and stick to it wherever possible. The old saying ‘plan the dive, dive the plan’ is extremely good advice. JR

10 Bear in mind that your exit point for a shore dive might not be the same as your entry point, especially on a falling tide. CH

 

KIT STOP

11 Have your kit serviced and don’t forget to have all the small things checked too, such as the dump valve on a drysuit. CH

12 Carry two torches and avoid using a dive torch around the house – the batteries soon die out! JR

13 Always carry a delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB) or flag, unless you’re diving in very sheltered conditions. Familiarise yourself with using a DSMB; even if you don’t need to use one on a dive, use the end of a safety stop to practice sending one up. CH

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14 Divers have a tendency to be overweighted. Check your buoyancy and weighting in shallow water with a cylinder that is approaching reserve. JR

15 Use different coloured DSMBs, one colour to signal you’re ascending and the other to signal you’re ascending and there’s a problem so you need to be picked up first. Make sure you discuss this with the boat’s skipper beforehand. JR

16 A drysuit is best for cold-water diving below 10°C. Remember heat loss from the head is significant, so consider wearing a thicker or insulated hood if you don’t have an integral unit. JR

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17 Make sure you’re visible in the water. Wear a fluorescent hood, or put tape on your BCD so you can be easily seen. CH

18 Make sure you have oxygen on the boat and that everyone knows where it is. CH

19 Don’t be a Scrooge when it comes to consumables. This applies especially to rebreather diving. Why do some divers take such a pride in squeezing an extra 45 minutes out of a canister of absorbent? Sensors give up and batteries go down. You’re already saving a fortune on gas over the open circuit trimix option, so spend a few bob on the things that wear out or get used up. RB

20 If you have a new piece of kit, first practice with it in situations where you can afford to get it wrong. RB

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21 On your own boat, make sure you have a VHF radio. Don’t rely on mobile phones. CH

22 Always carry a knife that’s well maintained, easily accessible and can cut microfilament line. Have a go at cutting microfilament line, just to find out if your knife is suitable. JR

 

GETTING WET AND MINDSET

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23 Try to use a shot- line; many accidents occur due to loss of buoyancy during the final stages of a dive resulting in DCI. With a shot-line you can stop a rapid ascent simply. JR

24 Monitor your gas; too many deaths occur due to out-of-gas situations combined with separation. JR

25 Have some creature comforts on hand after a dive. A flask of tea or hot chocolate, while wearing a hat will help you keep warm! CH

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26 In low visibility never be more than 2m from your buddy. In clear water, avoid being further than 5m apart. In an out-of-gas situation 5m is a long distance to travel. JR

27 Keep generally fit. Diving’s an aerobic sport and physically demanding, especially if something goes wrong. Do something like walk a mile everyday, or lift weights to help you with carrying your gear around. CH

28 Don’t be cajoled into diving in bad conditions. Weather can worsen while you’re under the water. JR

29 Kit up in plenty of time before the dive so you can sit still, control your breathing and visualise the dive. Go through each stage of it and contemplate the ‘What ifs’: ‘What if I can’t get back to the shot-line?’ ‘What if I lose my primary gas supply?’ and so on. Then visualise solutions to these possible problems. When you hit the water you’ll be confident, relaxed and up for a great dive. RB

30 Early on in the season, think about setting safety factors on your computer, or dive with nitrox on air tables to get more conservative dive times (but be aware of your maiximum depth). CH

31 Never be afraid to walk away from a dive. There’s a big difference between being a bit nervous about something new and knowing that you really shouldn’t be doing the dive. RB

32 Build up your depth experience in steps of, say, 5m, ideally with a more experienced buddy. JR

33 Don’t be afraid of telling people if you suspect a problem prior to or after a dive; the sooner it’s dealt with, the better. JR

 

 

THE TIPSTERS 

Charles Hood

DIVE’s former senior correspondent and resident equipment expert Charles Hood is a BSAC first class diver with 30 years diving experience. 


Jeff Reed

Jeff Reed is BSAC’s National Diving Officer and as such is responsible for diver training in the organisation. He’s a BSAC First Class diver with approximately 2,000 logged dives.

Richard Bull 

Richard Bull has worked as a diving consultant on TV shows including Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Pacific Abyss and many others. A BSAC First Class diver and Advanced Instructor, he’s instructed Sir Richard Attenborough and Lord Robert Winston!

 

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