A Simple Thought Experiment


Before I leave the whole issue of diver safety and specifically fatalities associated with closed-circuit rebreathers, I’d like to pose a question to you.

I promise to move on to something less somber after this, but please send me your thoughts via comments below or in an email.

Anyway, here’s the scoop.

When it comes to policing who gets to dive a rebreather, every CCR manufacturer seems to use similar tactics. In short, they will not sell a functional CCR unit to John Doe Diver without verification that he has successfully completed a certification program on the unit sometime recently.

If John Diver has purchased the CCR so that he can participate in a course and earn that certification, most manufacturers will either ship his unit directly to the instructor who will be running the course, or will ship the machine to John Diver but missing a vital part (like the scrubber head) rendering it non-functional. The missing part will be sent to the instructor.

This has been common practice for years, and to an extent, prevents untrained, uncertified divers taking their brand-new toy for a potentially disastrous trial run.

So the question is this: What happens if John Diver completes his CCR course and fails?

What if John is so incompetent, so out of sync with the whole concept of CCR diving, that his instructor has to wash him out of the program? In other words, John does not just need a little more coaching; he is so bad in the water on a CCR that it looks likely he may NEVER get it.

The equation is: John plus CCR equals accident.

What does the instructor do with the CCR? Send it back to the manufacturer on behalf of John asking for a refund or does she hold on to it until John tightens up his act and earns a pass sometime in the distant future?

What happens if John signs on with another instructor who teaches to less stringent standards? The original instructor HAS to release the machine at some point doesn’t she? After all, John Diver paid for it. But she believes that the second instructor may turn a blind-eye to John’s poor skills.

Put yourself in John’s place, and his instructor; let me know what you think!

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11 thoughts on “A Simple Thought Experiment

  1. Pingback: Borneo Diving » Diving, Survivor, Layang, Borneo, City, Defeated » Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Resource Centre

  2. I like to think in analogies. Although not exactly the same, I need a driver’s license to drive a car. I can own a car and I can sell a car without a license but to drive it I need a license. When I went to driver’s school, the school provided the car and the instructor trained me. When I went to get my license, an independent examiner tested me.

    Could we have the same thing with rebreathers? I should be able to take the class without purchasing the rebreather. If I pass the class, I get a license for using the rebreather. This also allows me to purchase the rebreather.

    If I take the class from Instructor#1 and he fails me. He believes I’ll never get it and sends me packing. I find Instructor#2 and give him a try. Instructor#1 doesn’t need to know about Instructor#2. After I failed with Instructor#1, he send the rebreather back to the factory to be serviced and await the next student. If Instructor#2 turns a blind eye to my poor skills and certifies me, that is for he and I to deal with should something go wrong.

    This could also be used as a marketing tool. You want to buy a rebreather. Rebreather#1 requires you to purchase the rebreather and training. If you fail the training you never get your rebreather or you get a partial refund (e.g. 20% restocking fee) but never the full amount. You buy rebreather#2 and they say you pay for the training. If you pass the training you get to purchase the rebreather. If you fail the training, you are only out the money for the training. I’d seriously consider rebreather#2 over rebreather#1 just because there is a chance I’ll fail the training.

    • The problem with Darrell’s analogy is that there are police out there that check to see if you are licensed to drive and if you are not then there is some sort of penalty to pay (fine, jail etc). There is no such policing in diving. So do we need scuba police??? Don;t know if that is the right answer either.

      • Bill, you are focusing on the wrong thing. No analogy is perfect. In the case of rebreathers right now, the instructor is the ‘scuba police’. They are sent the rebreather or a critical part of the rebreather to the certifying instructor. Until you pass the training, you don’t get YOUR rebreather. What I am suggesting from the analogy is not to add an independent authority to police scuba diving but change the current model.

        Rather that purchase a rebreather and training as one package, purchase the training first. If you pass the training you become licensed to purchase the rebreather. If you fail the training, you can take it again, find a different instructor or just pass on using a rebreather.

  3. Why not make students rent a unit for the course and be able to apply the rental fee towards purchase IF they pass? Personally and subjectively I think a CCR student should have at least 250 dives in varying environments in addition to Advanced EANx before being allowed in a CCR course.

    • Bill: the option to rent is part of the normal procedures for many instructors; however, it is NOT the norm… at least to this date… far more often CCR students purchase a unit.

    • One problem I can see with this model is, what happens if the student fails, tries again, fails, tries again and passes. They rented the CCR three times. Do they get all three rentals credited towards the purchase of the unit? Do they get the passing rental as credit towards the purchase of the unit?

  4. Pingback: A Simple Thought Experiment...

  5. Steve, this is EXACTLY why I won’t ever be a rebreather instructor. There’s huge conflict of interest between the sale and the training. You’ll notice that almost every rebreather instructor either sells them or takes a commission from a store for helping sell them. In a weird way the policy that you mention has had exectly the opposite effect from what people expected.

    • Hey Andrew:
      I do not have an issue with instructors selling units (folks who understand these things better than I, tell me here in North America this practice can open a can of liability worms… just one reason I don’t do it), but I do believe there are better models out there that can be followed.

  6. Actually, why do we think we need to train people to sucess so they can purchase a rebreather ?
    I know this is not universal, even in the USA, but I can go down to the local gun store and buy anything they sell, worst case I have to wait three days to pick it up. No one has verified whether or not I will shoot myself, others, both, whatever. How about a boat ? No problem buying one and steaming it away with absolutely no training, maybe full speed into a dock. Experimental aircraft, same thing. Attempting dives to 1000 Feet ? I heard some guy named Sheck tried that. Let’s not even talk about mountain climbing.
    At least in the USA, the goal has always been to allow people to do whatever they want as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. Unfortunately, this concept has eroded over the past 50 years or so, but at least some vestiges of it remain.

    So, back to rebreathers. I’m OK with making the new owner take the class. If they pass, great. if they fail, they get a disclaimer stating that they are likely to kill themselves with the unit and it is advised they do not dive the unit until such time as they pass. This protects the manufacturer. But it’s up to them. They take complete delivery of the unit after the class, pass or fail, and do whatever they want. Which fits in, at least in the USA, with the concept of individual freedom.

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