Want to ignore the rules? Then do this…

There really are no scuba police, and here in most of North America at least, government bodies give the diving community the closest thing to a free-rein. We can, in essence, do exactly as we please. We can dive without training, ignore warning signs, flaunt best practice, exceed both whatever certification we have and the experience earned on previous outings. We are free agents. Great stuff.

But the downside is awful. A couple of days ago, I read of another stupid death — highly preventable and caused by several breakdowns in the system… that tragic alignment of holes in the safety net that which is in place to help diving “accidents” NOT happen.

What’s frustrating about many of the deaths we read about online, in diving magazines, and in diving forums, is that the people involved had been warned. At some point, either in their training or general involvement with the diving community at large, they had been told what they had planned, was foolhardy or against best practice.

But they went ahead anyway.

Just as sad is that their behavior does have the potential to change the status quo. Their silliness may create a situation where some agency or quasi-government entity starts to pay attention to our activities… and arbitrarily start to shut things down.

I am reminded of something my mate, Wayland Rhys Morgen suggested for anyone who is about to — either figuratively or actually — hand their beer to someone and say: “Here, watch this…”

The next time you intend to deviate from best practice, take a piece of note paper and divide it into two columns. Write in block letters at the top of the left-hand column: “What people usually do.” On the right, also in block letters, write: “What I am going to do instead.” Then in the appropriate column write clear, concise language an explanation of each behavior associated with your planned dive. So, these ‘behaviors’ would cover things like analyzing and labeling gas cylinders, limiting depth and duration according to your training, recent experience, and the vagaries of the environment… stuff like that. Read it back to yourself — both columns — then sign and date it. Then give it for safekeeping to someone you trust: lover, spouse, son, daughter, best buddy, favorite cowgirl. It really does not matter much to whom, just hand it over. Tell them to give it to the people or agency that leads the inquiry should something bad happen to you on your adventure.


4 thoughts on “Want to ignore the rules? Then do this…

  1. Steve, while I agree with the sentiment, authority gradient is incredibly powerful. If you are an OW or AOW diver with relatively few dives to your name and the guide/instructor takes you off the line (or does something otherwise foolhardy) then it takes a massive amount of moral courage to speak up, even if you know it is wrong.

    I spoke with my cousin who is in Australia at the moment. They were supposed to go on a shark dive with Grey Nurse sharks and then a ‘cave’ dive. I said what was the cave like as she shouldn’t be cave diving. She didn’t know any better. Fortunately the cave dive was blown out and they couldn’t go there. She is an AOW diver with about 30 dives to her name 😦 She now knows better.

    It isn’t just diving, it is everywhere. http://suzettewoodward.org/2016/03/07/being-constructively-awkward/ – for the same problem in healthcare.

    How to address this issue? Get the recreational agencies to make a massive public push for something like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDrPn56GjDg but it is unlikely to happen as money is king 😦



  2. Regrettably accidents happen, and regrettably as humans we are susceptible to making either stupid decisions, or making decisions without fully understanding the consequences. Only last year one of my students made a decision shortly after I had certified them as an OW diver. That person decided to jump straight into the AOW course, after I and others had told the individual they were not at a comfort level necessary for that training. With around 30 dives under their belt the person decided to go to another dive shop to sign up for the training, knowing full well that I wouldn’t admit them to the course. The end result was that they lost their life, not so much to the diving itself, but to a fatal heart attack as a result of the more physical activity. A very sad end that could have been avoided by their own actions. Without a fully regulated dive industry, which I don’t advocate for reasons outside of this discussion, we will continue to loose divers who believe they have the skills, when it’s clear to others they don’t. Perhaps it’s their right to make that decision should they choose to not listen to better informed persons. They are adults after all.

  3. Many dangerous sports have this problem. Inexperienced rock climbers die often because they didn’t follow established safety practices. Luckily, the government doesn’t seem to intervene when the fault lies solely on the individual and their actions don’t impact others too severely.

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