Safety precautions when diving

You must have already read that a 37-year-old doctor dies in diving accident in Malaysia last Saturday. We don't know the details of the accident yet. Whether he was a doctor or not, I think it's terribly sad that a leisure trip ended in death.

In the past year, there had been many cases of deaths from sports. Let this not stop us from doing sports, but serve as a reminder to take safety precautions at all times.

Other than diving, I participate in other extreme sports such as rock climbing and go-karting. (Some people argue that diving is not an extreme sport). If you have ever taken a course for any type of sports, you would realise that a large part of the course would be dedicated to safety precautions, how to minimise injuries and how to react in case of emergencies. There is no way to cover every possible type of emergency because a completely new situation may present itself, so the best bet is to remain calm and think before reacting. Anybody can breathe air from a regulator/airtank and climb a rock wall but the most important thing is to stay alive. Here are a few incidents I've heard about / experienced, which are not found in the course book.

Incident 1:
My friend was on a dive boat after a night dive. She saw a diver from another dive group/boat reaching the surface. In the dim light she could see that he did not have his regulator (to help him breath) in his mouth or a mask on his face. But there was blood all over his face and body. She knew he needed help. She wanted to scream for help but no sound came out of her lungs. She later found out that he guy had hit the boat propeller while surfacing and was close to being dead when the reached the surface. None of the boatmen wanted to bring him back to shore on their boats because of his state. The guy was a beginner diver. The dive school conducted a crash course for beginners to get their basic and advanced diver certifications back-to-back. Some dive schools take too many students - all beginners. They can't keep an eye on all students and accidents happen.
Lesson 1: Don't attempt a crash course. Don't be overly concerned about how many certificates you have. Check the number of students taking the course together. It's usually cheaper if there are more students. Opt to pay a bit more to be put in a class with fewer students. For me, it was one-to-one instruction for my basic course and it was one instructor to two students for advanced course.

Incident 2: Everyone went back to the shore, leaving a pair of divers out at sea. The dive master miscounted and nobody realised that 2 people were missing. The pair was floating in the sea for 3 hours till they got picked up by another boat at about 6pm.
Lesson 2: This is the dive master's fault. But divers should make their presence known by chatting with the other divers so that if they are gone, at least somebody would notice. Bring a bag or something and put it in the boat so that it's obvious that someone did not claim their belongings. Divers should stay close to the group. People can get swept away by currents. Sometimes I swim a little too close but it's better than being lost!

Incident 3: My dive buddy was low on air. He signalled to the dive master who signalled to him to surface. My buddy surfaced alone. I was not aware of it. This is very dangerous. There could be a passing boat that knocks into him. And he should never be left alone.
Lesson 3: Some dive masters don't care. Refuse to do as they say if you think they are wrong.

Incident 4: My friend's buddy accidentally turned off her air because he was not sure which way to turn the knob. My friend went out of air in the water.
Lesson 4: If you're not sure, ask for help. If you can't remember how to assemble your equipment, ask for your. You don't want to kill someone or yourself.

Incident 5: A group of divers were being attacked by a trigger fish (you don't want to get bitten!). One instructor was trying to fight it off while the others were supposed to swim away and escape but one student came close and tried to take pictures!
Lesson 5: WTH! Don't be stupid! A picture is not worth endangering 2 lives!

Incident 6: A diver pulls the mask of another diver or pulls out the regulator out of the other diver's mouth.
Lesson 6: Don't play play. Some people panic easily. Many divers admit that they are afraid of water and drowning. If anybody does this to me, he'd better make sure I drown and die because if I make to it back to the boat alive, I'll kill him!

Don't be too afraid to dive though. The way Singaporeans drive, diving is alot safer than crossing the road.


David said...


Very good post. I am not a diver, though I have dived with an experienced instructor present twice.

Training, getting ones dive certifications are vital to staying safe.

As is never diving alone along with knowing proper hand signals u/w, and the signs of a diver in distrss.

Good advice that all the divers reading your site should appreciate!


Lix2 said...

Hi Kym

I have a diving friend passed away in P. Aur earlier this month too :(

It's kind of creepy to think about facing death when u are some over 10m underwater. I am thinking of selling off my wetsuit and stuff... are you interested??

Anonymous said...

Hi Yu kym,

Very good case studies for all to learn. I was swept by undercurrent before and know how helpless I felt then. Better b safe then sorry... Nonetheless, I rank diving a safe sports, at least safer than sky diving.


Yu-Kym said...

Lix2, I'm very sorry to hear about your friend.
I focus more on happy thoughts and remind myself that I have air, so there's no good reason to die! I won't be buying any gear though. I don't like carrying them around :)

JC, were you alone and how did you manage to escape? Somehow the currents are always strong when I dive.

Fielder said...

I have been procrastinating in getting a spare air tank by spare air.
I just came back from Tioman for a fishing trip. I thought I can slot in for a night dive but it is not available that time. I went snorkelling at Salang Jetty at night and it is fun. I hope I have some kaki's to follow me next time.

Btw Kym, can i join you for diving next time?


jon said...

Nice log on diving. Happened to come across your blog after searching for ana in GI Joe (what are the chances!)

Good blog. I love diving too. Just came back from thailand on a fantastic liveonboard. You should try it when you have the time too!

Bless you,

Yu-Kym said...

Shaf, sorry but I usually go alone.

Jon, welcome to my blog. Did you dive at Similan?

Jon said...

hey yups, similan islands ! The dives are pretty fantastic, but not as good as before the tsunami, according to my russian friend whom I met onboard. :(
before tsunami: 10/10
now: 3/10

wish I took it up earlier. do you dive often, kym?

Yu-Kym said...

How long before the tsunami did your friend dive there?
I heard from some dive instructors at Phuket that they think the dive sites are as good as before the tsunami, with some becoming even better.
I would try to dive at least once every 6 months. I enjoy diving but am not mad it. I am not the sort who would do 4 or 5 dives a day 4 days in a row. I would dive if there are good dive sites in places that I travel to.