A philosophy for divers.
(Dear Reader, “risk” and “danger” are not the same thing though they are often confused by authorities in the name of Safety. Really they just want to restrict your adventure. Many adventures are “Passive” – like taking a balloon ride where your safety depends on the integrity of the balloon and the skills of the pilot. This analysis concerns “Active” adventures where the adventurer actively participates in ensuring his/her own safety … now read on ..)
By Bob Halstead
Diving is not amusing nor frivolous. It cannot be conducted casually nor without thought and intelligence. People dive, not for “fun”, but for ADVENTURE. Pascal noted three hundred years ago that
“ALL THE TROUBLES OF PEOPLE ARE CAUSED BY ONE SINGLE THING, WHICH IS THEIR INABILITY TO STAY QUIETLY IN A ROOM”
He recognised that to seek adventure is a product of being human, but he also recognised that adventurers should anticipate “trouble”. I admit he used the word “men” instead of “people”. I changed it, not to be politically correct, but because diving is a physical activity where women are often superior to men.
As we seek adventure the trouble that should concern us is the “risk” that the adventure entails. Risk increases as soon as you close the front door and head off to the dive site, then increases even more as you get into the water and descend. The risk associated with diving changes as various physical factors change, for example risk increases with depth, if there is a current, if the water is cold and murky and so on. But increased risk does NOT necessarily imply “danger” – a lack of “safety”.
RISK IS THE POTENTIAL FOR INJURY TO OCCUR.
Risk is calculated by considering the sum effect of the various hazards encountered when diving. The diver should not be included in the risk assessment, because, as you will see, it confuses the determination of “safety” from the individual diver’s point if view. For a particular dive at a particular time the risk is thus the SAME for any diver who attempts the dive.
But the “danger” or “safety” depends on WHO is making the particular dive and how well prepared they are to overcome the risk.
This is very easy to illustrate. If we imagine a dive in shallow, clear, calm, warm conditions devoid of marine life and any other hazards we would consider this a low risk dive and “safe” for any basically qualified diver. However the SAME dive would be deadly dangerous for any “diver” who did not understand the consequences of breath holding on ascent.
I am going to clarify what is meant by “safety” and “danger” so you can understand what “Adventure” really is, but first I want to make it clear that adventure is NOT throwing yourself into a situation and seeing if you survive. That is recklessness, not adventure, and has no place in diving. There is also not much point in talking about safety AFTER the event (except to analyse mistakes). If you are about to participate in an adventure you need to be able to PREDICT that the adventure will be safe for you before embarking on it. That is the whole point of this analysis – we want to be able to say, individually, that the dive we are about to make is going to be “safe”.
BEFORE ANY AND EVERY DIVE, A DIVER SHOULD BE ABLE TO SAY:-
“THIS DIVE WILL BE SAFE FOR ME”
THIS MEANS “IT IS UNLIKELY (BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE) THAT I WILL BE INJURED ON THIS DIVE”.
A DIVE WHICH IS DANGEROUS FOR ME IS ONE WHERE “IT IS LIKELY (BUT NOT INEVITABLE) THAT I WILL BE INJURED”.
The reason we cannot predict perfect safety is twofold. First unpredictable events do occur – some people staying “safely” in their quiet rooms have had an aircraft land on their heads. Secondly PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES. Mistakes are another part of being human and no amount of rules or regulation will change this.
Now I can define adventure:-
ADVENTURE IS THE ART OF SAFELY EXPERIENCING INCREASED RISK.
Isn’t that beautiful? – We have admitted that risk is necessarily a part of adventure, although risk is not the purpose of it. The purpose may be to explore a reef or wreck, photograph marine life or a multitude of responsible activities.
For you to be able to predict that “THIS DIVE WILL BE SAFE FOR ME”
1. CONSIDER THE HAZARDS AND CALCULATE THE RISK FOR THIS PARTICULAR DIVE.
2. ASSESS YOURSELF:-
“DO I HAVE THE SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE AND EQUIPMENT NECESSARY TO OVERCOME THE RISK?”
A SAFE DIVER :- IS ONE WHOSE SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE AND EQUIPMENT ARE SUFFICIENT TO OVERCOME THE RISK FOR THE DIVES ATTEMPTED.
A DANGEROUS DIVER:- IS ONE WHOSE SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE AND EQUIPMENT ARE INSUFFICIENT TO OVERCOME THE RISK FOR THE DIVES ATTEMPTED.
If you understand logic you can see that there is no such thing as a “Safe Dive” just “Safe Divers” – and of course no such thing as a “Dangerous Dive” just “Dangerous Divers”. You can also see how diving risk should “be managed” – we neutralise it with skills, knowledge and the right equipment. We do NOT remove the risk, nor lessen it – although this may be the best approach for commercial divers, or workers in a factory, but they are not seeking adventure! By the way, for sake of brevity I am including fitness and health considerations under “skills”.
DIVING IS NOT DANGEROUS
A DIVE MAY BE HIGH RISK
A DIVE MAY BE LOW RISK
THE DANGER DEPENDS ON WHO IS MAKING THE DIVE –
DOES THE DIVER HAVE THE SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE AND EQUIPMENT NECESSARY TO OVERCOME THE RISK?
IF THE DIVER DOES:-
THE DIVE IS SAFE FOR THAT DIVER
IF THE DIVER DOES NOT:-
THE DIVE IS DANGEROUS FOR THAT DIVER
This shows us how we can make divers safer. We need to concentrate our efforts on teaching divers to recognise hazards and to be able to assess the risk that the hazards present for the particular dives to be attempted. We also need to teach divers how to realistically assess their own ability to ensure that they recognise when they do have the necessary skills, knowledge and equipment – and when they do not, in which case the dive should not be attempted.
Unfortunately when some people try to make divers safer they mistakenly try to reduce or eliminate the risk. This is not contributing at all to the cause of improving diver safety – it contributes to the cause of ELIMINATING THE ADVENTURE. Please allow me to make this clear.
The mountaineering equivalent would be to instruct mountaineers to climb Mount Snowdon instead of Mount Everest. The motor racing equivalent would be to restrict speeds to 100 kph. The parachuting equivalent would be not to allow any jumps from higher than one metre …….. Have I made the point? YES all these instructions would REDUCE INJURIES but would they make the sports SAFER? The answer is NO because the sport no longer exists. Mountaineering is about climbing mountains not hills, motor racing is about going as fast as you can, and parachuting is about jumping from heights where if your parachute fails, you die.
Divers should concentrate on making themselves as safe as possible. This does not mean that they only make low risk dives – it does mean that they only attempt dives for which they have the appropriate skills, knowledge and equipment. If we do not do this we may find restrictions placed on the dives we are allowed to attempt.
HALSTEAD’S GOLDEN RULES OF DIVING:-
1. DIVING IS ADVENTURE.
2. WRITE YOUR WILL BEFORE YOU BECOME A DIVER.
3. NEVER DIVE DEEPER THAN YOUR IQ. (Imperial units – you may add half your age for every 1,000 dives made)
4. NEVER DIVE WITH PSYCHOPATHS.
5. AVOID THE WATER SURFACE WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
6. COME UP SLOW AND STOP IN SHALLOW WATER BEFORE SURFACING.
7. DO NOT RUN OUT OF BREATHING GAS, CARRY A COMPLETELY REDUNDANT UNIT.
8. REMEMBER MOST “SAFETY” DEVICES CAN CAUSE INJURY. (PARTICULARLY BC’S) SIMPLICITY IS OFTEN BEST.
9. DO NOT DIVE DANGEROUSLY. ASSESS THE HAZARDS, CALCULATE THE RISK, KNOW YOU HAVE THE HEALTH,SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE AND EQUIPMENT TO OVERCOME THE RISK.
10. KNOW YOURSELF, KNOW DIVING. THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE LONGER YOU LIVE
11. FREEDOM MEANS SOMETIMES CHOOSING NOT TO DIVE.
12. TAKE THE BLAME FOR WHATEVER HAPPENS TO YOU.
13. YOUR MOST IMPORTANT BUDDY IS THE ONE ON THE SURFACE LOOKING OUT FOR YOU, AND WHO CAN RESCUE YOU IF NEED BE.
Hi Tek diver Richard Pyle showed me how my analysis can be used to differentiate between “Brave”, “Crazy” and “Stupid” divers – “Brave” divers realise that they do not have the skills, knowledge and equipment necessary to make a dive (and thus realise that the dive about to be attempted is going to be dangerous for them) but do it anyway for a noble cause eg. to rescue someone. “Crazy” divers realise the dive about to be attempted is going to be dangerous for them but make it anyway for selfish reasons eg. to dive to depths no one has reached before. “Stupid” divers do not realise that the dive about to be attempted is going to be dangerous for them.
How do you rate yourself? Preferably none of the above, Safe Diver is the biggest compliment you can receive, and now you know that does not exclude making high risk dives.