As new divers, we were all introduced to checklists. We learnt the importance of pre-dive checks (for our BCD, weights, releases, air) and what to include when packing gear pre-dive.
Those who trained to be tech divers are fully aware of the reliance on checklists to ensure equipment is functioning correctly so that the planned dive can be completed safely and problem free.
Then, those who became diving professionals moved on to checklists for items to be included in dive briefings and emergency procedures.
Checklists are a great tool for ensuring all items for a specific task are completed; but how many divers (apart from rebreather divers) still use them?
When was the last time you saw a buddy pair go through a full pre-dive check when preparing to enter the water? When was the last time you and your buddy completed one?
Most divers start off using the checklists, but as they get more familiar and comfortable in their abilities they become complacent, and this can lead to important items, and safety procedures, being overlooked. If we are honest, at some stage we have all been guilty of this, but checklists are simple and do serve a purpose: To ensure we enjoy our dive and return safely.
Checklists play an important role at all levels of diving:
- New divers can rely on them to avoid jumping into the water without putting on their fins or turning on cylinders.
- More experienced divers can use them to avoid errors of familiarity (i.e. those errors that occur because you have done a task so many times that your brain turns off while doing it). I know I have forgotten to put on my weightbelt more often as an experienced diver than I ever did as a beginner (shhh don’t tell anyone).
- Dive leaders should follow a checklist to ensure all required elements are included in their dive briefings. Dive briefings are an important safety component of every dive – particularly for divers in new locations or where new skills are to be utilised. These briefings should, at a minimum, include the following:
- Dive site name and description – points of interest, hazards, depths, currents and facilities.
- The role the Dive Leader will play – surface support, in water assistance, how to recognise him/her.
- Entry/Exit – any specific procedures to be followed.
- Dive procedures – how the dive should be conducted, direction to head, course to follow, procedures for dealing with specific local hazards or conditions, safety stops, depth/time limits.
- Emergency procedures – method for recalling divers, what to do if recalled, diver separation, low on air, surface signalling, location of emergency equipment and who is trained to use it.
- Signal review – signalling is mostly universal but there are regional variations to some of the signals used for things such as air remaining and for identifying specific problems.
- Buddy groupings and tasks each team will be performing
- Pre-dive safety check between buddy pairs.
- The need to notify the dive supervisor if unwell post-dive
If your dive leader doesn’t cover all these items, you may be entering the water under-prepared and ill-equipped to handle the conditions of the dive or an emergency situation.
Remember, checklists are important at all levels of diving and experience and should be considered an essential safety tool.