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Dive Safety: Reducing Distractions & Maintaining Focus Underwater

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Scuba Diver Safety tips
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While diving is an enjoyable and relatively safe activity, divers should never forget that it involves using life-support equipment to venture into an environment that’s not conducive to human survival.

Most dive accidents result from a series of small deviations from safe procedures, and in almost all cases, the accident could have been avoided at any point if a problem was noticed, its implications understood, and an appropriate response implemented.

Distraction

Task-loading (doing or managing too many things at once) is a common reason that a diver may become distracted. An example is attempting to hold a light and camera while navigating an overhead environment.

Strong emotions can be significant enough to impact your ability to dive safely. If you’ve recently experienced grief or trauma, for example, take time to evaluate your well-being and emotional state as objectively as possible.

Anxiety can lead to uncertainty about the nature and reality of threats as well as self-doubt about one’s capacity to handle situations. As stress increases, a diver’s ability to recognise and respond properly diminishes. In a demanding situation it is critical that a diver be able to recognise and break out of the escalating cycle of stress before it reaches the level of panic.

Discomfort

DAN medical staff typically advise against diving if experiencing any pain or discomfort. One reason for this is that pain could later be mistaken for a symptom of decompression sickness, complicating diagnosis after diving. But an even more important reason to avoid diving with pain or discomfort is that these symptoms can impair focus and awareness.
An upset stomach is not uncommon in diving settings. Seasickness affects many divers, and travel-associated disruptions to diet and schedule can also lead to queasiness. Divers should not descend unless their symptoms resolve. In fact, they should be supervised while on the surface.

Disorientation

It should go without saying that diving and intoxication do not mix. There’s too much information to keep track of and too high a possibility of needing to make high-stakes judgement calls to risk being impaired. Remember, you’re responsible for you buddy’s safety as well as your own.

Poor sleep, jet lag, and hangovers all have the potential to affect mental acuity. These are not uncommon among travelling divers, so be sure to consider how they might affect you.

Some prescription (and even over-the-counter) medications have side-effects that could make diving less safe. Warnings against using a drug while operating heavy machinery, for example, might also apply to diving. For this reason, doctors trained in dive medicine recommend against diving when taking a new medication for the first time. For a prescription medication taken daily, 30 days is recommended to ensure the dosage is correct and to reveal any side-effects. At least one doctor should be aware of all medications an individual is taking to minimise the risk of drug interactions. A diver should not dive if experiencing any side effects that could cause distraction or decreased awareness if they occur underwater.

Keep in mind that any irritation, uncertainty, or trouble you’re experiencing on the surface is likely to become a bigger problem underwater, so stay out of the water until you’re confident your focus, awareness, judgement, and ability to manage additional stressors is back up to 100 percent.

Dan World


This article was originally published in Scuba Diver ANZ #53.

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