Scuba diving is a unique opportunity to disconnect and immerse yourself in a world free of distractions, except for the surrounding aquatic flora and fauna. Humans cannot breathe underwater, so diving involves some risk, which can easily be mitigated by taking the appropriate safety precautions.
Diving is very safe when you dive responsibly and follow the rules and regulations. This is why they exist, after all—to keep you healthy, whole, and ready to dive again the moment you finish your surface interval.
During your Oahu PADI Open Water Certification, you will learn all the basic skills you need to stay safe while diving. Here are some essentials every diver should keep in mind while kitting up.
Safe Scuba Diving Tips
Disclaimer: The following information is provided solely for educational purposes. On all matters related to diving safety, do not rely solely on this information. Consult your guide, divemaster or diving instructor if you have any further concerns or questions. Consult a professional for advice.
Plan Your Dive, Dive Your Plan
Every dive should have a standard set of elements: where you are going, the maximum depth, the maximum bottom time, and the air level at which you will return to your entry point or begin your ascent. Plan a safety stop and make sure you ascend with enough air, not only for you but also for your partner in case of an emergency out of air.
If you have a plan, be sure to follow it, and tell someone else where you’re diving and when you’ll return. You should also research your nearest emergency room and/or hyperbaric chamber.
Check Your Gear
Your underwater survival depends on the equipment you use. Check your gear before diving; don’t be lazy. Your buddy-check needs to be thorough; a malfunction in your equipment or your buddy’s could put both of you in a life-threatening situation.
Safety starts with being sufficiently prepared. Ensure you know how your integrated weights release and how to deploy your DSMB safely, and where all the dump valves are on your BCD. Be doubly sure you have all the appropriate equipment arrangements in place before you prepare for an unusual dive. Have you calibrated your computer to the new air mix if you’re going nitrox diving?
Never Exceed Your Limits
Training is crucial for handling different underwater environments. Learn the skills you need to penetrate a wreck, dive deep, explore a cave, or dive high in the mountains by taking diving classes, but don’t try to learn them on your own. Unless instructed by a professional instructor, never attempt a dive beyond your training, whether it’s visiting a wreck deeper than you’ve been certified to go or entering a cave system without a rigorous cave diving class.
Practice Safe Ascents
Maintaining a slow and steady ascent is almost as crucial as breathing continuously. Divers who exceed a safe ascent rate do not have time for the nitrogen in their bloodstream to dissolve back into solution as the air pressure decreases at the surface. It causes bubbles to form in the bloodstream, leading to decompression sickness.
You can avoid this by keeping your ascent speed no faster than 30 feet per minute. Those diving with a computer will get a warning if they ascend too quickly, while those diving without one should climb no faster than the size of the tiniest bubble.
A five-point ascent is easy to remember using the acronym taught to new divers: Signal, Time, Elevate, Look, Ascend (STELA). Remember to fully deflate your BCD before starting your ascent and never use your inflator button to ascend. You should always perform your 3-minute safety stop at 15 feet unless the circumstances are unsafe, such as deteriorating surface conditions or diminished air supply. It protects you from decompression sickness by providing a conservatism barrier.
Never Hold Your Breath
Holding your breath underwater can result in overexpansion, injuries and even death. The air in a diver’s lungs expands during ascent and contracts during descent, which isn’t a problem if the diver breathes continuously. However, when a diver holds his breath, the air cannot escape as it expands, and eventually, the alveoli in the lungs rupture, causing severe injury to the organ.
Despite much of our time underwater being relaxing, swimming in strong currents, carrying gear, and exposure to extreme weather make diving a physically demanding activity. Maintaining good fitness is essential for safe diving. Overexertion caused by a lack of fitness can lead to greater air consumption, panic, and any number of accidents.
The following are things you should and shouldn’t do to stay healthy:
- Don’t Drink. The risks of drinking before a dive include nitrogen narcosis, heat loss, impaired judgment, as well as a decrease in reaction time, attention span, and visual tracking.
- Don’t smoke. It’s best not to smoke 12 hours before diving. Do not smoke between dives. Smoking before diving reduces the oxygenation of tissues, affecting the body’s ability to function correctly.
- Do workout. When you dive, your body is under intense pressure. Improving your physical fitness decreases the risk of decompression sickness (DCS) through enhanced oxygen transport and circulation. Even working out 24 hours before diving will help prevent DCS.
- Do get medically assessed. Some medical conditions aren’t compatible with diving, so get yourself checked regularly to ensure you’re in good health. Even a cold or sinus infection can prevent you from diving.
Learn Dive Signals
You need another method of communication when you are underwater since talking is not an option. You can use a variety of hand signals, from directional signs to essential safety signals. Both you and the other divers must know the safety signals so you can communicate.
Bring a Buddy
Having a partner is an effective way to ensure scuba diving safety. Divers should always be able to take care of themselves, but having an extra pair of eyes and hands, as well as an additional regulator in case of an emergency, never hurts.
When you work in pairs, you can solve many underwater problems, but only if you are within sight of your diving partner.
Perfect Your Buoyancy Control
The ability to control buoyancy is essential for several reasons. Your air consumption increases, you feel less tired, and you’ll protect delicate creatures on the reef from being accidentally harmed. Furthermore, your ability to maintain your position in the water column is critical for safety so that you don’t descend too quickly or ascend too quickly. Being buoyant on the surface is also the difference between waiting for a boat to pick you up comfortably and having to struggle to save yourself from drowning.
Never Stop Learning
One of the best ways to remain safe while diving is to keep honing your skills. The more experience you have, the better you will react in an emergency.
It’s easy to stay safe while diving. Risks are minimal through careful preparation, common sense, and skill confidence. As long as you follow these rules and the other guidelines of your training, you are not only safe, but you can also relax and have fun. After all, that’s why you dive in the first place.
If you’re new to diving, the Manini Dive Company offers the PADI Open Water Certification for beginners on Oahu and Honolulu and the PADI Advanced Open Water three-day course and Rescue Diver and Dive Master courses. Contact us today for more information or book online.