Do you ask yourself the question, ‘Am I fit?’ before diving. Being fit to dive requires more than the ability to swim a couple of lengths of the pool,it means physically and medically checked as fit.
Water Safety NZ data collated since 2011 clearly demonstrates 60% of all fatalities in divers, spearfishermen, and snorkelers occur in the over 40s age group. Poor heart health and inadequate fitness is he most consistent factor in these diver deaths.
Dr Chris Sames of the Slark Hyperbaric Unit in Devonport, covered the complexity of the issue in the NZUA’s 2018 online interview Diving over 40? Why a medical check-up might save your life.
In summary, the question of dive fitness is covered by three primary considerations:
The Age Factor – A heart’s capacity to support the elevated blood output required by diving decreases with age. Maintaining a healthy heart is of the utmost importance to your safety while diving.
Prescription Medicines - Some common medications such as beta blockers or anti-arrhythmia treatments can increase cardiac risk while diving. Consult your doctor before diving and consider a prescription change if so advised.
Depth Compression – As a diver descends, the heart rate slows to conserve oxygen and the lungs compress. Older divers are well advised to be conservative with dive depths. Improving general fitness, particularly heart health with a committed cardiovascular workout programme, will enhance your ability to cope with the stresses of depth and water pressure. The same rule applies to spearfishermen.
In Dr Sames’ words, “If you’re fit, you’re less likely to get into trouble.”
The routine pre-trip check processes taught during dive courses and recreational boating qualifications, like Coastguard’s Boatmaster course, are crafted and refined to give you the best chance of averting an issue before it happens.
A simple checklist sequence is offered as follows:
Check the weather
For information on understanding weather forecasts post Understanding-the-weather
Check the boat – Is it sea-worthy?
Maritime NZ offers best-practice advice on this subject.
Check your safety gear
Check your dive gear
Read more about gear maintenance on post Gear-maintenance
Check your dive buddy
Read more about the Buddy System on post Buddy-diving
Most of us are aware of the legal requirement to fly a dive flag but good dive trip signalling starts before you leave home.Here’s a few tips to help in the worst-case scenario:
Signal the trip
Trip reports may be the most overlooked safety step a diver can take.
Signal the dive
In most cases, including spearfishing and all forms of SCUBA, signalling your dive is a mandatory legal requirement. Fines can be issued on the spot with the potential of severe liabilities resulting from an accident investigation.
Signalling devices include:
Signalling your presence helps ensure the safety of all trip participants,although personal responsibility should still prevail. Vessel skippers observing dive activity signalling are required by law to reduce speed to less than 5-knots within 200m of the signalling device.
Refer to the NZ Underwater Diver Down campaign for more information.
Numerous devices can be carried by divers to indicate their location on the surface or in distress circumstances
• Surface Marker Buoys: Various inflatable surface marker buoys can be deployed to inform boats of your ascending position,and as a clear and obvious marker of your location should tidal current or weather conditions inhibit returning to the vessel
• AIS: AIS-capable rescue devices recently entered the market, led by the McMurdo S10 Smartfind Personal AIS Beacon. Personal AIS works with any AIS-equipped vessel navigation system (increasingly common at the consumer level) to precisely locate the surfaced diver directly on the boat’s navigation screen. Viewthe McMurdo S10 on Safety at Sea’s website.
• Strobes: Strobes serve multiple purposes for divers -
NZ Underwater is the country’s recognised leading not-for-profit organisation promoting and advocating for all New Zealander’s safe and enjoyable underwater activities, in a protected marine environment.
It’s three key areas of activity are as follows:
The NZ Underwater Association works hard to support all New Zealanders access to our precious underwater resource. The best way you can help is by joining. Take a look at the benefits of joining the NZUA here.