Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dangers of 'holiday' SCUBA lessons

Holidaymakers, it seems who are tempted to take SCUBA (self contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving lessons could be risking death or serious injury. Novices have been misled by being able to secure "advanced diver" status after as few as nine dives.

Many divers become over-confident and some oganisations abroad did not even check for medical problems. People have a few dives and think they are advanced divers because they are told so, but are unprepared for the very real dangers they might come across.

Just because they have a piece of paper saying they are advanced does not make them so.

Three recent deaths highlight the problem: one who qulified on a two-week holiday on Kos in Greece two years before, died in June last year by surfacing too quickly off Plymouth.

He failed to declare a string of medical conditions and felt unwell before the dive.

How much diving had been done between these two periods?

A 65 year old novice died when resurfacing too quickly after running short of air at a depth of 69ft. Experienced divers keep an eye on air levels.

Another died after mixing up air tanks. He had completed a wreck-diving course two weeks before.

Can you imagine a parachutist not checking his own equipment before jumping?

This is tragic enough, but all three had been drinking the night before they died and no criticism of their training was made.

Due to commercial reasons the number of dives required to gain qualifications has declined in recent years. The sport is self-regulated so no standardised training happens. The quality of training is not about the time spent in the water, but how a diver copes.

Advanced does not mean a standard to demonstrate capability of expedition leadership, but only the second level (of five). Properly trained divers are made fully aware of what their capabilities should be.

Be aware that qualifications gained abroad are not necessarily relevant for diving in English waters as there are completely different conditons of currents, swells and poor visibility.

Cross-check companion's equipment prior to a dive.

Don't cheat on medical conditions by not revealing them. Especially to just get onto a course.

Research the company that is offering to teach you. Ensure they do the relevant medical checks and question you about your experience.

Never drink (heavily) the night before a dive.

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