The Value Of A Scuba Checklist

The Value Of A Scuba Checklist
Matej Kastelic

Can a dive checklist help us avoid diving accidents? Divers Alert Network believes they might!

Scuba diving is a tremendously safe activity.

When considering the number of participants in diving activities worldwide, the number of serious accidents is extremely low.

With sports such as golf, tennis, and bicycling outperforming scuba diving many times over when it comes to accidents. And even with scuba diving growing in popularity, measured by the number of participants worldwide, the total number of accidents has actually declined!

However, just because diving is a safe sport, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make it even safer, without of course removing the fun of it.

Divers Alert Network, or DAN, a non-profit organization supplying divers with dive insurance and research into diving safety, has identified procedural errors as the number two reason why serious diving accidents occur (outranked only by poor diver health).

Avoiding Procedural Error in Diving

A procedural error is defined as anytime a diver makes a mistake in any procedure that is intended to ensure safe diving. The primary safety procedures in diving include equipment assembly and buddy checks.

These are of course taught on all entry-level dive courses, and are often reiterated on any subsequent course. But just because they are taught in dive courses, doesn’t mean they stay fresh in the memory for years to come.

A dive plan is a great way to avoid procedural errors in diving – Totophotos
A dive plan is a great way to avoid procedural errors in diving – Totophotos

Mnemonic Techniques

This is why mnemonic techniques, such as the PADI acronym for the buddy check BWRAF, which stands for Buoyancy, Weights, Release, Air, Final OK.

Often remembered with mnemonics like:

  • Burgers With Relish And Fries
  • Bruce Willis Ruins All Films
  • Balinese Woman Really Are Friendly 

Share your best Mnemonic in the comments!

They are often employed to help divers remember not just to do for instance a buddy check, but also to ensure that the individual steps are adhered to.

Why a dive Checklist is still needed

A number of studies collated by DAN show that an increased focus on making sure that procedures are adhered to can reduce accidents, both in diving and in various professions where security is a priority. One tool that can make a big impact is the somewhat unpopular checklist.

Here are 5 Questions To Ask Your Dive Insta-Buddy before you go diving together.

While a dive checklists can seem like a cumbersome and bureaucratic relic, they actually serve an important purpose. While most of us are probably able to remember safety procedures for diving if we were prompted. There’s a high likelihood that at least part of them can slip our minds once we find ourselves at the dive site, perhaps early in the morning, excited about commencing the dive. A checklist remembers for us, so we don’t have to.

Checklists in diving can be used to ensure that all the steps are followed in equipment review and assembly (especially when diving with equipment that you use infrequently), the dive plan, and the backup or emergency plan.

Equipment Review and Assembly are part of the primary safety procedures in diving
Equipment Review and Assembly are part of the primary safety procedures in diving
Photo by: Douglas Greenwald

DAN studies show the effectiveness of checklists

As part of their study on the effectiveness of checklists in diving, DAN undertook a study by having two groups of divers conduct different yet typical diving activities. One group was supplied with a predive checklist created by DAN, while the other wasn’t.

The prelimenary findings seem to indicate that the amount and severity of incidents was lower for the group using checklists, but the data is currently being processed, so the conclusion aren’t final yet.

Still, the use of checklist, especially for divers who dive infrequently, or divers who are diving under circumstances that they infrequently find themselves in (such as doing ice diving activities) can be highly beneficial.

Before, it was up to every diver to create his or her own checklist, but now we’ve made a guide to the dive checklist.

Do you dive with a Dive Checklist? What’s on yours?

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