Safety Stop: Why Do I Need To Do It?

Safety Stop: Why Do I Need To Do It?

Safety stop is mandatory for deep dives

- Ingvars Birznieks

We generally see scuba diving as a fun sports activity that we are simply passionate about.

To become a good scuba diver we need to receive professional training and then get into the water. That is true, but that is not all.

We need to always remember a few important aspects of diving, and we can never afford to forget the safety rules while indulging in this fun sport.

Safety stop is something we need to be cautious about. It is recommended at the end of each dive and mandatory for deeper dives.

Let us look at this safety rule in detail and understand it so that we can be tension free.

Know more about Safety and Actual Safety.


Decompression Sickness

We know while diving that we do not have access to free air and have to depend on compressed air.

While breathing the compressed air underwater, nitrogen gets accumulated in our blood. The nitrogen then gradually gets absorbed into the tissues as the dive continues.

As we start to ascend, nitrogen starts getting dispersed from the tissues as a result of decreasing pressure of air on the tissue.

However, ascending too fast will reduce the pressure very rapidly and nitrogen will try to get washed quickly.

Therefore, there will be a greater pressure differential which will cause nitrogen bubble formation in the tissues and blood vessels.

These nitrogen bubbles trapped in our body will result in Decompression Sickness.

Without a safety stop

Without a safety stop, divers put themselves at risk of getting decompression sickness - Credit: shalunts

The Stop

Doing a safety stop is not tough. You simply have to stop on the way up to the surface and stay at around 5 meters/15 feet for 3 minutes.

If you find it difficult to maintain the same level, then use an anchor- or bottom line to hold on to.

If you do not have a line, you might find it easier to stay at 6 meters/19 feet rather then 4-5 meters/ 15 feet. This is due to the larger changes in the pressure at the lower depth.

Remember to watch your depth gauge or dive computer to make sure you stay at the right depth, and do not accidentally pop up to the surface.

Know the First Dive Equipment You Need To Purchase

A dive group on a safety stop

A safety stop is easy to do - Credit: Annetje

When to do a Safety Stop

Although in shorter dives in shallow water we may miss the safety stop, it is highly recommended for all dives. In that way we will become accustomed to this simple safety rule.

However, when we go deeper, like 30 meters/100 feet or more, we can not give it a miss. While engaging in this kind of diving, we may need to be ready for an emergency safety stop depending on the situation.

Remember when you are doing a safety stop, it is important to maintain good buoyancy for the entire span of the stop to avoid depth changes.

Maintain buoyancy on a safety stop

A dive group trying to maintain good buoyancy on their safety stop - Credit: Rostislav Ageev

After you have completed the safety stop, you still need to rise slowly to the surface. While ascending, always maintain a speed of no more than 18 meters/60 feet per minute.

In any case, for deep dives we cannot avoid safety stops. The safety stop is rather a decompression stop which allows a more controlled off-gassing and helps immensely in avoiding any discomfort. It keeps our dive as pleasant as desired by us.

By now we should all understand the extreme important of performing a safety stop. Right? Therefore, remember to include this important act in your every dive and stay safe.


Do you always do a Safety Stop? What keeps you doing them on every dive? or What could make you skip the safety Stop?

About The Author

Torben Lonne

Torben is a top skilled PADI MSDT instructor. He has worked several years with scuba diving in Indonesia and Thailand - and dived most of his life in most of the world. He is also the co-founder and chief-editor of you can always catch him here [email protected]


  1. Dieego

    I always do a safety stop. Now a days it’s of cause told by the computer, but still I would never skip it, unless in an out of air situation. It’s perfect time for trimming buoyancy or just enjoying the water!

  2. Bruce Campbell

    My experience has been that safety stops are the most important part of the dive from a multiple dive perspective and a health point of view. I have slow ears. If I do a safety stop my ears have a chance to catch up with the rest of my body and I don’t have any problems during a dive trip. If I fail to do a safety stop then I tend to have ear problems through out the trip. My perspective is: do a safety stop. It will allow you to off gas, it will protect your ears and how bad can it be just to relax and be calm under water for 3 mintues?

    • Torben Lonne

      I’ve never heard of ears being the big reason for safety stops, but if it keeps your ears in order then better do it.
      The safety stop is a great place to practice buoyancy and (if you are lucky) spot something great in the end of the dive. And exactly how bad can it be relaxing in 3 minutes.

  3. Tony

    I thought the recommended ascent rate was 30 feet/ minutes?

    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Tony. Depends on the training agency and the table you follow. I know CMAS uses 10meters/30 feet per minutes where as PADI uses 18 meters/46 feet per minute.

  4. Ray Lane

    I purchased a Shearwater Predator, and was dismayed to find it does not have the 5 mt safety stop. I sent a message to them, and they replyed with, “Our attitude is that we are all responsible divers and don’t need to tell people what to do on an NDL dive”

    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Ray,
      Wow that was something of an answer. Well we should all be,but still nice with a reminder, safety first, in my opinion. Thanks for sharing, how do you find the computer on the other features?

  5. Ray Lane

    Large numbers and letters, very easy for us elderly, with failing eyesight to read. BUT, it is made for tech divers, as I said before, there is no safety stop, and I have tried to get people to show me how to do a Plan, but it seems to hard for everybody I asked, and they all said they use their console computer for planning, or tables. As I will probably only do Rec Diving, I am about to sell it.

  6. DavidTombs

    The safety stop is more than allowing time to off gas.It allows you to check to make sure that you have indeed not gone into deco,which should not happen unless you plan it,check kit and monitor the surface for potential risks. These further risk’s include the dreaded jet ski’s for example. You can prepare yourself for the slow ascent over the last six meters and face your buddy.

    • Torben Lonne

      HI David,
      Thank you for sharing. Yes it’s a great idea of using the safety stop to take your time for the rest of the accent.
      For the Jet skies, I think a SMB is a better choice. They are really fast so even if they are not close when you are at 5 meters they can be right above when you break the surface.

  7. Jim Olinger

    Even a perfectly planned and executed dive including a safety stop has a possibility of resulting in DCI. We always do them even on shallow dives. As mentioned before, safety stops are a great place to work on bouyancy and it’s not a bad idea to use the safety stop to practice an “out of air” emergency by sharing your octo with your buddy. It’s also a good place to practice using a SMB (they can jet up incredibly fast when you’re at depth!) Practice makes perfect!
    Plus, I’ve had a few really cool critter sightings by just hanging motionless in the water.

  8. Scott

    I always feel like a great white shark is going to appear from the depths and take me when I’m doing a safety stop :/

  9. Robert

    Is the safety stop the same time and depth if you use Nitrox Air…

    • Torben Lonne

      Hi Robert, yes it’s the same.

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