Diving safety is a concept that seldom receives the depth of thought that it deserves, and has for some divers become an almost meaningless term.
For many people, of course, safety is never an issue. Taught to believe that diving is, “safe, fun and enjoyable”, they depend on divemasters and Instructors to take charge of every aspect of their dive, including assembling their equipment and acting as an underwater guide and protector.
While some folks might regard such seemingly responsible and conscientious behaviour by dive leaders as admirable, the downside is that rather than persuading the less-experienced person to take diving seriously, it only encourages them to ignore the basic principles of safety learned during training.
Even worse, it gives rise to the belief that not only is it OK to have somebody with apparently more experience think and make decisions on another’s behalf; but that safe diving practice is somehow linked to the length of time that a person has been actively engaged in diving rather than what it is they may have learned.
It’s a shallow thought process that manages to conveniently overlook the fact that while experience may be a good teacher, it’s usually preceded by poor judgement. (Those who manage to survive poor decisions will usually describe the incident as "bad luck", but as anyone who’s given any thought to the matter knows, "luck" has even less relevance to diving safety than advice like, "Always keep the number of ascents that you’ve made equal to the number of descents.")
As a complex activity, diving may never be completely safe. But with only a little thought it can be made safer. Just remember to never let your dive gear, your buddy or anyone else take you somewhere that your own brain didn’t get to at least half an hour earlier.
Diving since 1961 — with a background in military, commercial, recreational and technical diving — David Strike has dived extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific region, is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and the organiser of the biennial OZTeK Diving Conference.