Scuba diving preparation and precautions

Preparation for the dive

The purpose planning for a dive is to ensure that divers do not go beyond their comfort zone or skill level, or the safe capacity of their equipment which includes scuba gas planning to ensure that the amount of breathing gas to be carried is sufficient to allow for any reasonably foreseeable circumstances. Before starting a dive both the diver and their buddy do equipment checks to ensure everything is in good working order and available. Recreational divers are responsible for planning their own dives, unless in training when the instructor is responsible. Dive masters may provide useful information and suggestions to assist the divers, but are generally not responsible for the details unless specifically employed to do so.

Standard diving procedures

Water entry and descent procedures are carried out first to enter the water without injury or loss of/damage to equipment. These procedures also cover how to descend at the right place, time, and speed; while providing the necessary breathing gas and without losing contact with the other divers in the group.

Equalization of pressure in gas spaces to avoid barotraumas. The expansion or compression of enclosed air spaces may cause discomfort or injury while diving. Critically, the lungs are susceptible to over-expansion and subsequent collapse if a diver holds their breath while ascending: during training divers are taught to never hold their breath while diving. Ear clearing is another critical equalization procedure, usually requiring conscious intervention by the diver.

Mask and regulator clearing may be needed to ensure the ability to see and breathe in case of flooding. This can easily happen and is not considered an emergency.

Buoyancy control and diver trim require frequent adjustment (particularly during depth changes) to ensure safe and convenient underwater mobility during the dive.

Buddy checks, breathing gas monitoring, and decompression status monitoring are carried out to ensure that the dive plan is followed and that members of the group are safe and available to help each other in an emergency.

Ascent, decompression and surfacing are examined to ensure that dissolved gases are safely released, that barotraumas of ascent are avoided, and that it is safe to surface.

Water exit procedures are monitored to leave the water again without injury, loss of, or damage to equipment.

Underwater communication are practiced as divers cannot talk underwater unless they are wearing a full-face mask and electronic communications equipment, but they can communicate basic and emergency information using hand signals, light signals, and rope signals, and more complex messages can be written on waterproof slates.

Decompressions Precautions

Inert gas components of the diver’s breathing gas accumulate in the tissues during exposure to elevated pressure during a dive, and must be eliminated during the ascent to avoid the formation of symptomatic bubbles in tissues where the concentration is too high for the gas to remain in solution. This process is called decompression, and occurs on all scuba divers. Most recreational and professional scuba divers avoid obligatory decompression stops by following a dive profile which only requires a limited rate of ascent for decompression, but will commonly also do an optional short shallow decompression stop known as a safety stop to further reduce risk before surfacing.

Buddy, team or solo diving Precautions

Buddy and team diving procedures are associated to recreational scuba diver who gets into difficulty underwater is in the presence of a similarly equipped person who understands and can render assistance. Divers are trained to assist in those emergencies specified in the training standards for their certification, and are required to demonstrate competence in a set of prescribed buddy assist skills. The fundamentals of buddy/team safety are centered on diver communication, redundancy of gear and breathing gas by sharing with the buddy, and the added situational perspective of another diver.

Solo divers take responsibility for their own safety and compensate for the absence of a buddy with skill, vigilance and appropriate equipment. As buddy or team divers are properly equipped solo divers rely on the redundancy of critical articles of dive gear which may include at least two independent supplies of breathing gas and ensuring that there is always enough available to safely terminate the dive if any one supply fails.

Emergency procedures

The most urgent underwater emergencies usually involve a compromised breathing gas supply. Divers are trained in procedures for donating and receiving breathing gas from each other in an emergency, and may carry an independent alternative air source if they do not choose to rely on a buddy.  Divers may need to make an emergency ascent in the event of a loss of breathing gas which cannot be managed at depth.

 In the case entrapment the inability to navigate out of an enclosed space can usually be avoided by staying out of enclosed space and when the objective of the dive includes penetration of enclosed spaces, taking precautions such as the use of lights and guidelines, for which specialized training is provided in the standard procedures. While the most common form of physical entrapment is getting snagged on ropes, lines or nets, and use of a cutting implement is the standard method of dealing with the problem. The risk of entanglement can be reduced by careful configuration of equipment to minimize those parts which can easily be snagged, and allow easier disentanglement.

Guide on Depth range Scuba diving

The depth range applicable to scuba diving depends on the application and training. The major worldwide recreational diver certification agencies consider 130 feet (40 m) to be the limit for recreational diving.

 Professional scuba diving usually limits the allowed planned decompression depending on the code of practice, operational directives, or statutory restrictions. Depth limits depend on the jurisdiction, and maximum depths allowed range from 30 metres (100 ft) to more than 50 metres (160 ft), depending on the breathing gas used and the availability of a decompression chamber nearby or on site.

Scuba diving preparation and precautions

Scuba diving is classed as a dangerous sport. which is all the more reason to follow good safety tips for scuba diving. You can minimise these risks by following our 10 top safety tips for scuba diving.

The top 10 safety tips for scuba diving include:

  1. Never hold your breath.
  2. Never without a buddy.
  3. Ascend slowly from every dive.
  4. Perform a safety stop at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet).
  5. Plan your dive and dive the plan.
  6. Know your limits and dive within your limitations.
  7. Check your air contents gauge regularly.
  8. Always dive with an alternative air source or octopus.
  9. Always perform the ABC buddy check before your dive.
  10. Only dive if you’re fit to dive.

The best way to do more diving is to book yourself on a scuba diving liveaboard. You can check the latest and best deals on liveaboards using the following window:

Please don’t leave before you watch the video in this article! After you’ve got your answer about safety tips for scuba diving, you may like to watch the video on this article too. I almost don’t want to spoil the end of the video, so all I will say is it involves a carcass, many sharks and a single grouper…you may be surprised at what happens, I certainly was!

But also as an aside, in this article about where to find great white sharks, you may be as surprised as I was to discover some of the places where you find great white sharks! Place number 6 is the one that surprised me the most, but if you live in the States, you may be more surprised at places two, three and four.

Is scuba diving dangerous?

Ironically, as I’m writing this article the presenter on BBC Radio 2 is talking about parachute jumping. Why is this important you might ask when you’re reading an article about safety tips for scuba diving?

A good question. Well a short while back I wrote an article about is scuba diving more dangerous than skydiving. It actually turns out that scuba diving is more dangerous than skydiving. In fact the odds of dying whilst scuba diving are nearly three times that of skydiving.

Don’t let this worry you if you’re new to scuba diving. I’m not looking to put you off diving, but instead this article is to highlight the dangers and to keep you safe by giving you the safety rules to follow.

That’s why I’ve chosen to write another article about safe diving practices. A while back I wrote a comprehensive article with 26 rules for safe scuba diving.

What I’ve done in this article is to focus on the most important 10 safety tips for scuba diving, beginning with the main 3 rules of scuba diving.

Plus I’ve created the above top ten safety tips image shown above, which you could download and laminate for a reminder. This is especially true for beginner scuba divers.

Have you heard about the ‘Scuba Diving Lizard‘? Take a read of this article about a lizard that can breathe underwater from a scuba-tank like bubble…I was fascinated when I read this!

Top three safety tips for scuba diving

Safety tips for scuba diving begins with the top 3 rules of scuba diving. These include:

  1. Never hold your breath: Breathe continuously while scuba diving.
  2. Never dive without a buddy: Always dive using the buddy system and never dive alone.
  3. Ascend slowly use safety stops: Always perform a safety stop at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet) at the end of all dives.

The 3 rules of scuba diving explained in more detail.

3 rules of scuba diving

Follow these top 3 rules of scuba diving and you’ll be safe:

Scuba diving preparation and precautions

1. Top safety tip is to never hold your breath and breathe continuously while scuba diving

One of the most important safety tips for scuba diving is to never hold your breath. Holding your breath can cause serious damage to your lungs as a result of lung over-expansion.

Please take a read of this article about Boyle’s law scuba diving. This article explains what happens to your air spaces when you dive. Which in this case is the air inside your lungs, which contract during descent and expand during ascent.

This is the number one rule I would drum into my students when I taught scuba diving, which was to breathe continuously.

Holding your breath when you change depth can result in an over-expansion of your lungs. This can happen even with the smallest of depth change. Especially at shallower depths when the changes in pressure are greater as you ascend.

An over-expansion of your lungs can result in extremely serious consequences. Even death. The symptoms include pain, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, and can lead to unconsciousness.

If this happens to a diver in your group give them oxygen and call the emergency services immediately.

Pro diver tip: You will be safe so long as you breath continuously, especially on your ascent at the end of a dive.

Scuba diving preparation and precautions

2. Top safety tip for scuba diving is never dive without a buddy and never dive alone

One of the top safety tips for scuba diving is never dive without a buddy. The diving buddy system is there to protect both divers in case or equipment failure or an emergency. Always, remember you are in a foreign environment in which you cannot breathe without a working aqualung. If this fails you have your buddy as a back up

As a diving instructor I taught the buddy system. BSAC training is built around teaching beginner scuba divers in buddy pairs. The buddy system is ingrained at an early stage with BSAC training. The same is true of the PADI diver training. PADI divers are also taught the buddy system too.

An example always helps to explain any point. Which in this case involved my buddy’s first stage exploding underwater.

In case you’re wondering what happens when a first stage bursts underwater; it’s one huge mass of bubbles. In fact, I couldn’t see my buddy through the mass of white bubbles that engulfed him when it happened.

More Reading: How do I get a dive buddy? (5 easy ways to find a dive buddy)

My instinct was to rush to his rescue. I offered him my alternative air supply or octopus. I then turned his own air supply off to stop the bubbles. We then ascended safely to the surface together.

Had he been diving alone the outcome may have been different.

Whether he could have got to the surface before his air ran out is questionable. He may have done if he’d rushed to the surface. But as you will learn or already know, scuba divers must ascend slowly to avoid decompression sickness.

Statistics from DAN, BSAC and DAN Australia show that in 86 percent of scuba diving fatalities the diver was alone when they died.

Pro diver tip: Always dive in buddy pairs so that if anything goes wrong either your equipment or with your buddy’s diving equipment you are more likely to return to the surface safely.

Scuba diving preparation and precautions

3. Safe diving involves ascending slowly from every dive

Safe scuba diving means you should use your dive computer to control your ascent to a slow ascent rate on every dive, no matter how deep the dive. Every dive is a decompression dive, which means your body needs to time to decompress slowly from whatever depth you’ve dived to.

Dive computers have a built-in ascent rate monitor to keep your ascent-rate within safe parameters until you reach the surface. A slow ascent will prevent decompression sickness and prevent you from over expanding your lungs.

Combined research into diving fatalities from the Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) in the U.S. and Australia and BSAC in the U.K. showed that an uncontrolled ascent was the triggering factor in 26 percent of the diver fatalities analysed.

If you don’t have a dive computer (or if it fails) follow the following guidelines:

  1. Use your buddy’s dive computer for a safe ascent if they have one.
  2. Follow a safe ascent alongside the dive master if you are diving in a group.
  3. Follow behind your smallest regulator exhaust bubbles to the surface. These are the bubbles that are the size of champagne bubbles.

Pro diver tip: Always leave the bottom with plenty of reserve air. This should be enough air to allow for your slow ascent.

Further 7 rules or safety tips for scuba diving

In addition to the above three safety tips for scuba diving, the following seven rules are also important and should be followed each time you scuba dive.

4. Safe scuba diving includes doing safety stops at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet)

In addition to a slow ascent you should always do a safety stop at 5-6 metres (16-20 feet) at the end of every dive. By doing a safety stop you allow extra time for excess nitrogen to escape your body.

Your safety stop forces you to slow your ascent even more and further reduces the risk of getting the bends or decompression sickness (DCS).

5. Safe diving is about planning the dive and dive the plan

Safe diving include planning your dives. Your dive may be planned for you, especially if you’re on an organised dive trip. But whichever is the case you should always follow the plan. Always attend and pay attention to the diver briefing if you haven’t planned the dive.

The most basic rules of planning the dive and dive the plan includes an agreement about a maximum depth and dive-time before the dive. Knowing this before the dive is as much for you as it is for the skipper on the boat.

It’s when you start to deviate from the plan that things can go wrong and you may put you and your buddy at risk.

Agree on your emergency lost-diver procedures. This includes what to do in the situation if you become separated from your buddy. Always surface immediately after a quick search for your buddy. Never continue with your dive if you are separated from your dive buddy.

More Reading: What should you and your buddy do if separated during a dive?

Also agree on hand signals before you dive. An important example of where confusion could arise with diver hand signals is the signal used for a half-full tank of air. For example, in Asia and the Caribbean they use the same signal for half-full tank of air as divers in Africa use to signal the end of the dive.

6. Knowing your limits and dive within your limitations means you will be scuba diving safely

Depth limits are set for a reason and it’s important to follow the rules and dive within your limits for your own safety and the safety of your buddy.

I always advise divers to take things slowly. This is particularly important for beginner scuba divers coming up through the ranks.

Take your time to build your experience. Don’t rush to dive deep or to to drift dive without having built up your experience with the more straight forward shallow dives.

Build your experience (at least 20 dives) before you take further certifications to enable you to dive deeper and to take part in more adventurous situations.

Never be afraid to refuse a dive. Never be uncomfortable when you go down on a dive, as this may put you and your buddy in danger.

If you aren’t physically or mentally capable of your planned dive, don’t do it. We can all be put under pressure to do something we don’t want to do. But in the case of scuba diving, this may put you at risk, so don’t succumb to peer pressure.

7. Safety tips for scuba diving includes checking your air contents gauge regularly

My rule of thumb for how you should check your air contents gauge is as follows:

  • 10 metres (33 feet): Check your air every 15-20 minutes.
  • 15-20 metres (49-66 feet): Check your air every 10-12 minutes.
  • 24-30 metres (80-98 feet): Check your air every 5-8 minutes.
  • 33 to 40 metres (110-130 feet): Check your air every 3-4 minutes.

Please note the about time limits are a minimum, but my assessment is based on checking at least four times per dive.

You may also like to read my article about how deep you can dive without decompression. But in particular, the section on no-stop decompression limits. When you read this article and see that your no-stop decompression limit at 30 metres is just 20 minutes, checking your air every 5 minutes is only four times on the dive.

Your air runs out much faster at deeper depths, which means if you have a problem (for example an air leak), your air supply could run out very quickly. Which is why I recommend shorter intervals for your air checks, the deeper you dive.

According to the diver fatality statistics provided by the Divers Alert Network (DAN), insufficient air supply was the leading cause of fatal emergency ascents for scuba diving deaths analysed.

Many, if not all of these incidents could easily have been avoided if the divers concerned had properly monitored their air contents gauges throughout their dive.

Pro diver Tip: Check your air contents gauge on a regular basis to make sure you never run out of air. Always return to the surface with sufficient reserve air which is a minimum of 50 BAR (725PSI) to ensure your safety. Apply the rule of thirds to air management. The rule of thirds means: You designate a third of your air for the outward journey; a third for the return journey; and the final third as a safety reserve.

8. Safe diving means you always dive with an alternative air source (octopus)

Safety tips for scuba diving includes always diving with an alternative air source as a backup air supply for your dive buddy. Diving equipment can fail underwater, which is why it’s important to have a backup air supply such as an octopus with an extra-length hose.

In the example I explained above when my buddy’s first stage blew, I was able to rescue him with my alternative air source. Had I not had tan alternative air source we would have had to share my main regulator to return to the surface safely.

A similar incident happened on a dive in Bonaire. This time my buddy was having problems with his second stage. In this case it was his first stage that wasn’t delivering air to his regulator.

Once again, I came to his rescue and gave him my octopus or alternative air supply so we could return to the surface safely.

9. Safe scuba diving means performing buddy checks before you dive

Use the ABC buddy checking system before you dive to familiarise yourself with your buddy’s equipment and them with yours. A buddy safety check also confirms your scuba equipment is in good working order before you dive.

If you find it difficult to remember the buddy check, I’ve written an article on the diving buddy check acronym. This acronym is as follows:

  • A is for air – This checks your air is switch on. It checks that your equipment is working properly and the air is good.
  • B is for buoyancy – This is to check that your buoyancy control device and air feeds are in working order. Plus it familiarises your buddy with where your air feeds and dump valves are.
  • C is for clips and releases – By running through your clips and releases, your buddy will know where things are in an emergency should this occur.

10. Scuba diving safety includes diving only if you’re fit to dive

You should only dive if you fit to do so, which includes not going diving if you have a cold or you are congested in your ears or nose. If you are in any doubt about your fitness to scuba dive consult with your doctor first.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Scuba diving can put your body under additional pressures and stress, which means diving could highlight any fitness problems you have.

According to DAN, cardiovascular events cause 20 to 30 percent of all deaths that occur while scuba diving.

Staying fit and healthy will not only keep you safe when you’re scuba diving, but it will also help you to enjoy the sport much more. The fitter you are the better you’ll be at air conservation, which means you’ll be able to dive for longer, as your air will last longer.

More Reading: What should you not do after scuba diving (11 must NOT do’s after diving)

Please don’t leave before you watch the video in this article! So before you, you may like to watch the video on this article too. I almost don’t want to spoil the end of the video, so all I will say is it involves a carcass, many sharks and a single grouper…you may be surprised at what happens, I certainly was!

Please also don’t forget to take a look at this article about where to find great white sharks, you may be as surprised as I was to discover some of the places where you find great white sharks! Place number 6 is the one that surprised me the most, but if you live in the States, you may be more surprised at places two, three and four.

I hope you enjoyed this article about safety tips for scuba diving

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or types of scuba diving (or specifically about safety tips for scuba diving), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.

Have fun and be safe!

10 Top Safety Tips For Scuba Diving (Making Scuba Safe)