Safe Scuba - Safe Diver

Is scuba diving is a safe sport?

Ultimately, scuba diving is safe; however it is not without risk.

I know that’s a bit of a manufacturers answer to the question but it is the truth. In my tiny mind it’s a bit like driving a car. Cars are safe, but accidents happen.

We can attempt to prevent accidents quite simply; with proper care, attention and training.

Having said that, I have numerous friends and family members who believe I take my life in my hands every time my dry suit is donned. Work colleagues consider me an “Adrenaline Junkie,” or “Crazy Andy.”

Perhaps I don’t get referred to as “Crazy Andy,” I just fancy being called that, but you get the picture.

Wifebuddy’s family, on the other hand, feel quite differently. Kerri explained to her 72 year old mum she may be considering cave diving; her mum responded; “That’s nice dear.” When we completed the TDI deco course and proclaimed our diving would take us to the darkened depths of 45m, this “sounded lovely.”

Everything was grand until Kerri’s dad translated metres into feet. Since that revelation we have been duly informed not to tell Kerri’s mum any further diving stories.

I don’t consider myself an unsafe diver, but I have done unsafe things whilst scuba diving, and there is always room for improvement. So, I thought I would make a list to keep a diver safe(r) while enjoying the underwater world we crave so much.


  • It is essential that proper scuba training is conducted before going diving. I had a mate make a comment once; “I must come with you some weekend and try out this scuba thing.” I couldn’t believe someone would even consider donning scuba kit without training, but obviously they exist; and I’m friends with him.

  • Once training has been completed; that is the diving you are permitted to do. If you want to conduct deeper, decompression or overhead environment diving, then additional training with an appropriate agency must be taken. 

  • Diving with a friend that is qualified in a specific area does not mean you can follow without the certification card


Accidents happen. It’s not always someone’s fault, but more often than not there are specific elements leading up to a scuba incident.

I read a lot about diving, including accidents and near-misses other divers have encountered. (see RESOURCES below.) I’m not a sadist, honest, but am curious as to how accidents occur; and more importantly, if I recognise any factors involved in MY diving.

I think this is beneficial as it allows me to learn from others mistakes, and increase my awareness of how accidents develop. Learn from your mistakes is the key I guess.

Ego is a big thing. I am aware I have an ego, but I strive to ignore its rather fabulous head when it makes an appearance. Being ‘too cool’ to call a dive could be the last thing you never do.


There are numerous aspects of equipment that should be adhered to when ensuring diver safety.

  • Maintenance: All scuba gear requires professional maintenance at specific intervals. Refer to manuals with every piece of kit you get. There is no excuse; the internet and local scuba shops can provide any diver with service requirements for most brands. 

  • Care: Look after your kit. Rinsing is an important thing if you dive in salt water. I had salt crystals ruin my power inflator; it stuck in the “inflate” position at 20m. It wasn’t a pleasant experience; I dealt with it at the time, but it could have been avoided if I had taken more care when rinsing my kit.

  • Pre-dive checks: Kerri had a mouthpiece come off her primary regulator, at depth, on a dark, poor viz dive. The situation escalated from a wet breath, to mask flood, to loss of bouyancy and poor buddy skills on my part. Ultimately Kerri switched to her octopus and thumbed the dive. We managed to launch an smb and conduct a safe ascent.

    In hindsight Kerri should have checked her mouthpiece more thoroughly before the dive 

  • Familiarity: I’m a big fan of the GUE approach to kit configuration as all diving is based upon a simple and constant kit arrangement. Of course, this isn't essential for safe diving, but there are aspects that shouldn't be ignored. Every diver should ensure they know where all their gear is located, and should keep everything in the same place so muscle memory kicks in if it is needed in an emergency. 


Once dive training is completed divers tend to walk off with the cert card and never return to the skills they spent so long mastering.

I know divers who spend hours on end rehearsing skills and scenarios; “I did a shut down today with no mask, one fin, no regulator whilst fighting a lion.

This of course is admirable, and not without merit, but not everyone can afford the time, gas or possess conditions for such drills.

Kevin Gurr made a recommendation in his book "Technical Diving from the Bottom Up" of practicing at least one skill on every dive. I think this is a fantastic approach and Wifebuddy and I adhere to this on every dive.

After a long break from diving, all basic skills should be given the ‘once over’ in a safe environment or swimming pool, prior to giant striding off a boat.


This is another crucial part of diving. Breakdowns in communication have led to many scuba incidents that could have been so easily avoided had one party said something…anything.

  • The Buddy Check: This fundamental element of diving is one of the first things I was taught during my PADI open water course, as are most divers. For some reason fewer and fewer divers seem to conduct them?

    Recently I was on a dive boat of 12 divers and didn’t see one single check. It was a recreational dive, which some divers see as an excuse not to do their checks; however, upon a little research I discovered the maximum depth of the site was 55m. The mind boggles.

  • Hand signals: Make sure you confirm all hand signals before taking the dive. On a boat dive I was given an insta-buddy who used different signals to those I was taught. Once underwater this proved to be a little confusing, but could have been dangerous. 

  • Plan the dive – Dive the Plan: Decide what mission of the dive is, then go and do it. With a plan in mind, stress levels are kept to a minimum as everyone knows what’s what. If a buddy does something not in the plan, it may be an indication there is a problem. 

  • Call The Dive: Any diver can call the dive at any time. Better to be on the boat wishing you were in the water, than in the water wishing you were in the boat. ‘Nuff said. 


  • Do you ever get a bad feeling about something? : If at any stage of the dive you don’t “feel right,” whether it is half way through a dive, the start, kitting up, or even about to step out of the car: bin it.

    It’s the same as “Call The Dive” but without any specific reason. It may be difficult to communicate, but often if something “doesn’t feel right,” it probably isn’t.

    I read an article lately about a group of recreational divers on holiday that followed the dive leader into a cave system. Cave diving requires specific equipment and skills recreational divers do not possess. Most likely, somewhere along the line, somebody knew it was a bad idea; they just decided not to be the one to ruin the party.

    Never be afraid to tell a skipper, divemaster, instructor, dive centre, or buddy they’re being a dick. 

  • Physical fitness: If a diver feels a bit sick, perhaps it’s better not to dive. I’ve been guilty of diving when not feeling well, in the end I spent the whole dive worrying about what might happen to my illness at depth, and if it would affect my NDL.

    Excessive paranoia perhaps, but I may as well not have done the dive because I didn’t enjoy it anyway. 

  • The dive isn’t over until you’re at home with a cup of tea: I recall surfacing from a dive and removing my regulator to chat to my buddy about how cool the dive went. I opened my mouth to speak and received a mouthful of salt water. Not pleasant. Choking and spluttering followed, along with another mouthful of wave, until I finally switched back on, and put the reg back in my mouth.

    I have also read stories about divers falling off ladders, dropping kit on each other, and other crazy madness. The morale of the story is to stay “switched on” until the dive is well and truly concluded. I wait until I’ve a cup of tea and a jaffa cake, then I can be bloody sure. 

  • Am I bendy?: Getting bent is every divers nightmare, after drowning perhaps. The problem with being bent is actually knowing you’re bent; and admitting it. Symptoms can appear long after a dive and shouldn’t be ignored. 


These are just a few valuable resources that I tend to keep an eye on to keep up to date with safety issues when scuba diving.

Cognitas Incident Research and Management: are working for, and with, the dive community aiming to improve diving safety by challenging current practices and encouraging a Just Culture using experience and processes from the aviation and medical industries. 

Diving Incident and Safety Resource Centre: provides a single focal point for all safety and incident matters concerning sport or recreational (not commercial) diving.

DAN: The Divers Alert Network helps divers in need, 24/7, anywhere in the world, with medical emergency assistance, and promotes diving safety through Research, Education, Products and Services. Every diver should have DAN insurance or similar.

Diver Down (Seaduction): This section of their website contains numerous tales of diving accidents. They are a compelling read and feature many lessons to be learned.

Lessons for Life (Scuba As with Seaduction, this area of the website features tales of misfortune divers have encountered. They are literally; lessons for life.

Mike Ange: Despite being the chief visionary of Seaduciton Mike also writes loads of safety books, articles and conducts seminars. It’s always worthwhile keeping an eye on his activity.

Talk to other divers: I am fully aware divers are full of shit, myself included, but occasionally you meet those that tell the truth about their diving. Learn from others experience as, and when, you can.

Dive Log: I log all my dives and can learn a lot from reading back over them. On dives where I felt uncomfortable, in hindsight I can often see the reason – overweighted, bad viz, too cold, new kit, different buddy etc. This can be another good reason to keep a regular dive log.

Forums: Despite the nonsense that tends to litter the internet forums, there are plenty of valuable posts about diver safety and awareness.


This is not the definitive list on how to be a safe diver, they are just the things that I try and adhere to. I want my diving to be fun, that’s why I learned to dive. I don’t enjoy my dive if I’m worrying about something.

I find if I stick to my rules as best I can, I don’t worry; the dive is more enjoyable, I am more aware of the dive, a better dive buddy and subsequently one step closer to being a safe diver.

Safe diving everyone!


  1. Thanks for the writeup--I especially agree about the buddy check thing. I got a bit blase about them until I was singled out from a group of divers and given a pop quiz about my buddy's gear--naturally, I struggled to pass and was extremely embarrassed! Better to be embarrassed than dead though, so now I always do 'em. Seems crazy not to, especially when they take two minutes and can spot so many common problems. Now, if only I can get my buddy to remember I've got a crotch strap, and not let me fumble around on the bottom for it...

  2. Ohhhh, that's a tough break Gavin, but a valuable lesson none the less!

    I think a lot of divers, especially newly qualified, seem to think a buddy check is a sign of inexperience. I recall Wifebuddy and I doing our checks in secret as we felt 'embarrassed' to some extent.

    Now we just batter on irrespective!

    Ah, the beauty of the crotch strap - we both use them so we're ok in that area.

    Dive safe mate.

  3. Exactly! And especially with lots of divemasters in holiday locations rolling in with whatever leftovers they pulled out of the rental bin, I think a lot of people take on that attitude as well. Anyway, obviously preaching to the choir, so yeah. And thanks, you too--finally getting to dive this weekend, been too long!

  4. Great post Andy.
    Plan the dive and dive the plan - its something that we repeat often. And start talking to our students about right at their first Open Water theory class.
    I'm going to retweet this!!


  5. Wow ! what an interesting blog with nice pictures.Thanks for sharing this information.Your information is really informative for us.
    Nice blog on scuba diving equipment .
    Keep sharing more & more..

  6. @Tara - Dive planning, no matter how small, is something we picked up pretty early on in our PADI course. As we moved towards the tech end of things, it just gets reinforced.

    Planning can prevent so many problems, especially as every diver knows what's happening, feels in control; therefore more comfortable and ultimately safer.

    Appreciate the RT!

    Thanks Tara.

    @Eric - Thanks for the link matey, heading your directions now.


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.