Team Safety Article – always a good reminder
Every operation has its own set of unique demands and safety precautions, none-the-less there are common precautions pertaining to all operations. When called out the team should notify all related organizations that the Dive Team is activated. This would be organizations such as the EMS, Police, Fire Department, and Coast Guard (as needed). When operating in a port, notify the Coast Guard and let them make contact with the Port Authority.
Be sure that the gear you have is adequate for the operation. This would mean that if the water temperature requires dry suits then the team should have dry suits. When doing lift operations make sure lifting equipment is adequate for the lift. Accidents occur when divers enter the water ill-equipped, the same as ill-trained.
Whenever possible the team should have an EMS unit stand by while dive operations are in progress, even during training.
At every dive site there needs to be a set of dive tables. Its best to get a set of the large teaching tables. These large tables are easier to read at night, and when in a hurry.
When the dive team will be operating at depths that may lead to decompression sickness then every member of the team should know how to get a victim to a chamber. Many areas do not have 24 hours access to an emergency chamber. If this is the case, then a procedure should be made to handel this situation should it ever arise. It is recommended that the injured diver be transported to the nearest emergency room for evaluation with one of the team members going along. Once at the hospital the team member can call the Divers Alert Network (DAN) for consultation with the attending physician. This should be done as described in the section on pressure related accidents.
Insure that the Divemaster has a pad of paper or other device for recording the time of every diver entering the water, psi in his tank when entering, time exiting, psi in tank when exiting, maximum depth attained, and any safety stops performed. A good way to keep this information is to make up a large plastic board that has all the information headings permanently painted on it. When needed for a dive operation, the Divemaster can then write in all information with a grease pencil. This also helps in rain, or heavy fog where writing on paper may be hindered, grease pencils will write underwater, and are easier to erase than lead pencils.
At the briefing before the first dive insure that every member of the team understands the entire operation. They must know the entire scheme of maneuver. Many Team Leaders talk at the members and not to them, when this occurs the operation fails to run smoothly. Remember the success of any operation is dependant on all members working together towards a common goal.
Before starting a dive, the team should have an idea of the depth of the water, and any currents they will be working in. This is best done by preplanning and having a boat with a depth recorder pass over the area. Charts also can give an idea of depth. If the Team has dove the area before, then they will know what depth and bottom condition to expect.
Practice Diver Safety By Always:
On all dives the Team should set a maximum depth, and divers should go no deeper.
When picking divers, or the technique to be used, be sure that everyone has been trained in the technique and equipment. An actual scene is not the place for new divers to try out for the dive team, and theory has no place but in training.
Never dive anyone you suspect of suffering from cold, flu, or ear trouble. If you question the physical state of any diver, put him on a surface support team.
When repetitive dives are necessary make certain that the divers can safely dive to the depth. Rotating divers can lengthen surface intervals.
Inspect all equipment at the site to ensure that it is in employable condition. Ascertain how much air is in reserve, or how many spare tanks do you have.
Instruct every diver not to cut any lines, or wires underwater until they have made certain of their function.
When selecting a spot to anchor a vessel for dive operations insure that it is in a position that will minimize the effort of the divers.
Remember to fly all signals that underwater operations are in progress and your vessel is unable to maneuver. This means having dive flags and lights on board indicating such. Do not cause an accident by conducting a night boat dive without ”diver down” lights. Have all your equipment for signaling ready and available. This includes dive flags, lights, flares, signal flags, horns, and whistles. Make sure it is within reach when needed, and use it where it is needed.
When working inside a wreck of any type, or cavern, a diver must be at the entry point to tend safety lines of any diver inside.
No diver should ever enter an area that does not have direct access to the surface without a safety line and stand-by diver
In all operations the depth of the diver and his condition, especially fatigue, will determine bottom time. Remember that cold water, hard work, and fatigue increases the chance of a diver contracting decompression sickness, even when the diver is within the no-decompression limit.
Non-diving personnel should watch for divers surfacing, and any signs of trouble. Signs of trouble include a diver surfacing alone or at the wrong place. A diver grasping at the air or ripping off his mask on surfacing. A diver not returning the ”OK” signal. Be sure the surface teams know this. Surface personnel need to keep in mind that after a dive the divers are fatigued. Exits can be dangerous, and entering a boat may take more than one attempt. Help each other any way possible.
Never drop SCUBA tanks, or permit them to roll about hitting each other. When not in use close all valves, even when the regulator is attached. Once the regulator is removed replace the valve cover cap. Never tamper with the safety plugs on any valve. Protect tanks from anything that would cut or damage the tanks exterior. In cold weather, if the valves ice over do not pour hot water over them, it may set off the relief plug. Any water that is not frozen will normally thaw the valve.
Safety in rescue work is very important. All divers must follow the rules of safe diving. Use the buddy system, even though it can inhibit a diver’s mobility. Well matched divers find no difficulty in cooperating with each other. The buddy system is a point of controversy with many experienced divers stating a buddy hurts more than they help. Many times the buddy system has failed as evidenced by recorded tragedies. But these are in the sport diving world where buddies do not train and work together. Competition within a buddy team and lack of adequate pre-dive checks contribute to the failures. Many times a slow inexperienced diver is teamed with a fast swimming experienced diver in the hope that the experienced diver will watch for the inexperienced. Instead the experienced diver just gets fed up with the slower diver and leaves him. Buddies do not compete they cooperate. If a diver is boasting about how little air he uses or how deep he has been, question him. Ask if he is skip breathing and if he knows the dangers of it. As far as depth ask if he accomplished the planned goals of the deep dive and if all safety equipment was properly set. Never reward a boastful diver and never dive with one. Instill in all divers safety, not rewards for stupid acts.
Part of diver safety is the buddy check prior to water entry. This will insure properly functioning gear and all items are secure and properly placed. All divers should go through a check on every dive regardless of how routine it is.
Diving operations should not be done under extreme environmental conditions or whenever the safety of the divers may be in question. The divers should be protected at all times from extremes in temperature and pollution. Remember that safety is the job of every diver. If you are corrected about an unsafe act or told about something you forgot do not get defensive, take it for what it is, a friendly reminder and problem prevention.