As you're well aware, diving can be risky, but that's all part of the fun and excitement that comes with diving.
Entry-level courses will teach you everything you need to know about diving safety, including the common causes of accidents and what all divers should do to avoid danger in the water, as well as what to do during an emergency.
As long as you get the right training and have even just a basic understanding of what to do to avoid problems, you can prevent accidents altogether.
Taking the simple steps of educating yourself and integrating those lessons into your diving expeditions are what makes this sport safer.
In fact, according to statistics, the chance of dying during a dive is roughly 2 to 3 out of every 100,000 dives. Below are ten basic diving rules that will reduce the risk of accidents and keep your dive as fun and safe as possible.
1. Always Check Your Gear
Always thoroughly check your gear before getting into the water, and don't forget about your buddy check system too, as you'll rely on one another for safety underwater. You should know how to utilise every piece of gear, as many accidents occur when divers don't know how to use the equipment on hand.
This means knowing how to release your integrated weights and deploy a SMB. You should also be aware of where all dump valves are placed on a BCD.
If you're getting ready for an out-of-the-ordinary scuba dive, such as a night dive, have your primary torch with you, a chemical light, and a backup, and make sure they're all charged completely. If you're going on a Nitrox dive, calibrate the computer to the new air mix.
2. Plan Your Dive and Dive Your Plan
Plan your dive to make sure you'll remain safe during your trip, whether you plan on going out with a Divemaster or a buddy.
Agree on a maximum depth and time in the water before going in. Always be aware of lost-diver protocols, and emergency procedures, as they may differ a bit from one dive site to the next.
If diving without a guide know how to navigate the dive site ahead of time, and take the appropriate equipment so you can get back to the exit point safely.
Always communicate with your dive buddy to be certain you both know what hand signals you'll utilise. Hand signals can differ depending upon where a diver is from, so you want to check the tiniest details in advance.
Stick to your outlined plan as best as possible. Make sure you're checking gauges frequently during your dive, as it's very easy to lose track of the time and find yourself low on air or minutes into decompression, so always monitor your levels to be safe.
3. Never Hold Your Breath
The most important rule, when diving is to not hold your breath because doing so, may cause serious injuries. The air in your lungs will expand during ascent and contract during descent, so as long as you breathe on a continuous basis, this won't pose a problem as the excess air escapes.
When you hold your breath, air can't escape as it begins expanding. Eventually, the alveoli in the walls of your lungs rupture, causing severe damage.
Pulmonary baro-traumas are caused to the lungs as a result of over-pressurisation, and it can cause bubbles to escape into your bloodstream and chest cavity, where arterial gas embolism can occur and result in death.
Even a depth change of merely a few feet can lead to lung over-expansion. Holding your breath is dangerous at any point during your dive, not just when heading back to the surface. So continue to breathe always.
4. Only Dive Where You Feel Comfortable
Scuba diving is meant to be fun, so you shouldn't put yourself in an uncomfortable situation in which you can't mentally or physically get through a dive. Always dive within your limits, regardless of how pressured you may feel by other divers who want you to move deeper into the water when you aren't ready.
Remember, if you aren't up for the challenge, don't do it.
Never be frightened to change your location or cancel your dive altogether if you find that the conditions are unsafe. Dive sites can vary dramatically from one day to the next, especially with regards to water temperature, currents, and surface conditions.
Don't attempt diving in a site that's beyond what your qualifications call for. Deep dives, wrecks, and overhead environments, as well as diving using enriched air, all need specialized training first.
Photo Credit: bmward_2000
5. Practice Your Ascents
Always ascend slowly because if you exceed a safe limit, the nitrogen that's absorbed into your bloodstream during your dive doesn't have time to dissolve as pressure reduces towards the surface. Bubbles will accumulate in your bloodstream and could lead to decompression illness. If you maintain your rate of ascent no more quickly than 30 feet every minute, you'll be fine. A dive computer can warn you if you're going too quickly.
If you don't have a computer, don't ascend any quicker than the smallest bubbles you exhale.
Fully deflate the BCD before you start your ascent. Don't use the inflator button to reach the surface. Plus, you should always do your 3-minute safety stop when you reach 15 feet to decrease risks of decompression illness.
6. Apply the Rule of Quarters
The rule of quarters states that all divers should use 2 quarters (1/2) of the air supply for the journey outward, another quarters for the journey back, and the last quarter as a safety reserve. Example: 200bar starting pressure, 100 bar one way, 50 bar to return and 50 bar in reserve.
Adapt this to situations that don't fall into the profile of heading out and back, such as drift dives when your entry and exit points aren't the same. Leave enough air for a slow enough ascent and your safety stop. And think of your buddy's needs too, just in case an emergency were to arise.
If you're planning a deep dive, end with more air than you would if you were in shallower waters. If you'll be diving in harsh conditions with cold temperatures and stronger currents, your air consumption will accelerate, so take this into consideration too.
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7. Keep Yourself Fit
Diving is a demanding sport, even though you may find yourself relaxing underwater during a typical dive.
Keep in mind that diving in stronger currents, longer surface swims, and the fact that you need to carry gear and be exposed to a variety of weather conditions means that you need to be physically fit enough to remain safe.
A lack of physical stamina and strength can result in overexerting yourself, which leads to quicker consumption of air, panic, and accidents.
Use of tobacco and alcohol, fatigue, and obesity can increase your risks of decompression illness. 25% of deaths are also caused by pre-existing conditions that should have kept individuals from diving at all, so always have your doctor examine you and make sure you're able to dive if you have a physical ailment of any kind, even temporary issues.
Remember that even the common cold can be more dangerous underwater.
8. Know Vital Skills
Never forget about the basic skills you acquired during your entry-level courses. First, make sure you master them, as they're vital to your safety. Performing these important techniques during an emergency could be life-saving.
Basic skills include knowing how to use a buddy's alternate air source, understanding what it takes to conduct a CESA, and being able to disconnect the pressure inflator hose during an emergency.
Preventing accidents is also key. Therefore, you should master buoyancy control to avoid uncontrolled ascents. Know how to clear your mask to avoid panic.
Generally, you want to know what to do if anything were to go wrong, regardless of the fact that rescue-certified divers may be on hand to assist those in need and even perform CPR after getting a diver out of the water.
9. Always Use the Buddy System
Even though you can get a solo diving certification, going out on your own is very dangerous and prohibited if you're not properly educated and trained. Many divers who die during expeditions decided to go out alone. When learning how to deal with emergencies, divers are taught the buddy system.
Straying too far away from your buddy or losing him or her altogether could also be a huge mistake. Remember that a buddy is truly a lifeline and a support system while under the water.
If you're paired up with a stranger, take time to get to know each other's training and experience level. Voice any concerns you have.
Use caution when comparing computers and gauges with a buddy and use the rules associated with the most conservative instrument to stay safe.
10. Use Positive Buoyancy
25% of all diving fatalities occur as a result of problems on the surface of the water. Fatigue is a big factor, especially when divers attempt to stay on the surface while they're still over-weighted. Therefore, establish positive buoyancy to conserve your energy and prevent drowning.
Do so at the end of your dive for yourself and your buddy. This is especially necessary if you or your buddy is very panicked, tired, or even unconscious. Inflate the BCD completely and don't hesitate to drop your weights if you have to.
If you use common sense and everything you learned in your scuba diving classes, you can enjoy this exciting sport safely while minimizing risks of injury and death.
By following diving safety rules, you can rest assured that you can relax and have some fun during your dive, as you'll know what to do if anything were to go wrong, and you'll know how to prevent problems before they occur.
What safe diving rules do you apply when scuba diving? Let us know in the comments below
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Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.