Be Aware: The perils of scuba diving

1 July 2010 By Janine Ketterer

Like any physical activity, there are risks associated with scuba diving. However, they can be combated with proper education and precaution. As crew on a vessel that offers scuba diving, you are responsible for the safety of the owners or guests in your dive party. Here’s a refresher on what to look out for to keep everyone in your dive party safe and swimming.

Decompression illness (DCI) is a commonly known diving ailment and is made up of two parts: Decompression sickness (DCS) and arterial gas embolism (AGE).

DCS occurs when gas bubbles form in body tissue. Typically, this is the result of a diver ascending too quickly.

Signs include:

· Rash

· Paralysis

· Trouble urinating

· Confusion, out of character behavior

· Memory loss

· Tremors/staggering

· Unconsciousness

Symptoms are:

· Fatigue

· Itchy skin

· Joint/muscle pain

· Dizziness

· Numbness

· Shortness of breath

AGE occurs when bubbles form in a diver’s blood and can be the result of barotraumas, when the pressure inside the body and the pressure of the fluid outside causes damage to body tissue.

The signs of AGE are:

· Blood frothing from the mouth or nose

· Paralysis

· Convulsions

· Unconsciousness

Symptoms of AGE include:

· Dizziness

· Blurry vision

· Decreased sensation

· Disorientation

· Chest pain

If a diver suffers from DCI, first someone must administer first aid, then s/he needs to be put in a hyperbaric chamber. Be sure you and the divers in your party know their limits. If you feel a diver in your group is pushing too hard, step, or swim, in.

When scuba diving at depth, usually around 65 feet and deeper, nitrogen narcosis or rapture of the deep – caused by the narcotic effect of breathing in gases while in deep water – could affect the divers in your party. The real danger here is that divers may put themselves in harm’s way.

Keep an eye for:

· Erratic behavior

· Confusion

· Lack of judgment

· Tiredness

· Memory loss

· Hallucinations

If you notice strange, erratic behavior from one of the members of your dive group, help them ascend to shallower waters, at a slow pace, in order to reverse the effects.

Remember that when you and the guests or owners are diving, you are invading other species’ habitats – and they are not always happy about it. Be aware of the life forms in the area that you are diving. If there are any poisonous or deadly sea creatures, be sure the guests or owners are aware of what they look like and how to avoid them.

Crew must also be sure they keep tabs on weather patterns and make sure dive flags are up and visible to ensure there are no incidents when coming back up to the surface. Websites like Diver’s Alert Network can help keep crew on top of diving incidents, foul weather, etc. in various areas throughout the world.

Diving is an exceptional sport and, as compared to other activities, is relatively safe. However, if something goes wrong, there is potential for the situation to quickly spiral out of control. As they say, the best offense is a good defense and being properly prepared will ensure guests are aware, equipped and happily scuba diving.