As new divers, we were all introduced to checklists. We learnt the importance of pre-dive checks (for our BCD, weights, releases, air) and what to include when packing gear pre-dive. DAN AP General Manager Scott Jamieson talks about why pre-dive checklists remain one of the most important safety checks you should do. (Text by Scott Jamieson)
Checklists play an important role at all levels of diving:
– New divers can rely on them to avoid jumping into the water without putting on their fins or turning on cylinders.
– More experienced divers can use them to avoid errors of familiarity (i.e., those errors that occur because you have done a task so many times that your brain turns off while doing it). I know I have forgotten to put on my weightbelt more often as an experienced diver than I ever did as a beginner.
– Dive leaders should follow a checklist to ensure all required elements are included in their dive briefings. Dive briefings are an important safety component of every dive, particularly for divers in new locations or where new skills are to be utilised. These briefings should, at a minimum, include the following:
1) Dive site name and description – points of interest, hazards, depths, currents and facilities.
2) The role the Dive Leader will play – surface support, in-water assistance, and how to recognise him or her.
3) Entry/Exit – any specific procedures to be followed.
4) Dive procedures – how the dive should be conducted, direction to head, course to follow, procedures for dealing with specific local hazards or conditions, safety stops, and depth and time limits.
5) Emergency procedures – method for recalling divers, what to do if recalled, diver separation, low on air, surface signalling, location of emergency equipment and who is trained to use it.
6) Signal review – signalling is mostly universal but there are regional variations to some of the signals used for things such as air remaining and for identifying specific problems.
7) Buddy groupings and tasks each team will be performing.
8) Pre-dive safety check between buddy pairs.
9) The need to notify the dive supervisor if unwell post-dive.
If your dive leader doesn’t cover all these items, you may be entering the water under-prepared and ill-equipped to handle the conditions of the dive or an emergency situation.
Remember, checklists are important at all levels of diving and experience, and should be considered an essential safety tool.