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Statistics for Causes of Scuba Diving Deaths
Greg - 2/26/2013 7:39 AM
Category: Health & Safety
Replies: 10

I recently read an article by DAN from their The 2010 DAN Diving Fatalities Workshop. Here are some key statistics that every scuba diver should know:

  • About half of all fatalities involved divers with 20 or fewer dives (less than 8 percent of those were students participating in training).
  • Equipment failure and marine life injuries are extremely rare.

Top 5 causes that triggered events leading to scuba diving deaths:

  1. Some sort of pre-existing disease pathology in the diver
  2. Poor buoyancy control
  3. Rapid ascent or violent water movement
  4. Gas-supply problems
  5. Equipment problems
In many cases the numbers indicate that more than one cause was present at the time of the incident.

As a result of this analysis, DAN suggests the following:

  • Follow established training guidelines.
  • Familiarize yourself with procedures for dealing with entanglement.
  • Learn to avoid uncontrolled ascents by utilizing safe diving procedures, and practice out-of-air drills in case the unavoidable occurs.
  • Never go into an overhead environment unless properly trained and equipped — not even a little ways and not even with a guide.
  • Have a sharp and functional cutting tool on every dive, and position it within easy reach.
  • Complete a skills refresher course at least once per year or more often if you lack confidence in the currency of your skills.
  • Complete only dives that are well within both your fitness and skill limitations.
And here are some suggestions from Greg:

  • Always dive with a buddy (unless you are a highly trained and well equipment solo-diver).
  • Watch your air consumption regularly and occasionally ask your dive buddy how much air they have.
  • DO NOT dive in a complicated environment until you are an experienced diver (ie: don’t go wreck or deep diving right after receiving your open water cert). I tell my students to keep it easy for their first 50 dives.
  • Ascend no faster than your smallest bubble.
  • Practice buoyancy control on every dive until you feel you’ve mastered it. Learn how to use all the buttons and pull knobs on your BC. Use the right amount of weight. Do not make drastic changes in BC air volume while underwater.
  • Get VERY comfortable having your mask off underwater. Many new divers panic when water hits their nose, so get used to having your mask off and breathing normally. I tell my students to breath IN through their regulator and OUT through their nose when their mask is off.
Greg - 2/26/2013 9:21 AM’s funny you bring this up. I was just speaking about this with another DB member. If you dive with a less experienced diver, you might end up watching them more than you do yourself or the environment. So I agree that it’s just as important to be proficient with diving solo. That way if both divers are prepared for solo diving, then that makes the dive that much safer.

On the same subject, if your dive buddy gets into trouble, do not put yourself in trouble trying to help them. You can not provide support if you become endangered yourself. So take a few seconds to think about the situation before reacting. Provide assistance, but only if you are safe first.
Greg - 2/27/2013 8:37 AM
Technology should evolve in the scuba industry to help avoid buoyancy and air supply problems.

I predict a future of BCs that provide semi-automated buoyancy control based on your body makeup and water depth. Sort of like the "lane assist" feature in some modern cars. The BC wouldn’t be fully automated, but it could help make slight adjustments to keep you steady.

And computers/regulators that manage the air supply to help prevent from low/out-of-air situations. Maybe the reg can release some nasty tasting air once you get too low, which would encourage you to finish the dive :) Or a computer that starts to vibrate erratically and doesn’t stop until you ascend. Or maybe the buddy sharing dive computers will become standard so you can see your buddy’s air also.
kc_moses76 - 2/27/2013 9:54 AM
Sadly, many dive shops do not enforce many of the text book recommendation. I dove the Vandenberg at Key West, some of the divers in my group just receive their Open Water cert a few days ago and the dive master/guide let them dive Vandenberg anyway, especially with current down at 90ft.

When I was in Malaysia, the dive master wouldn’t let me go below 18 meter when I didn’t have my Advance. Yes I was disappointed, but it made me more determine to get the Advance cert!
RichKeller - 2/27/2013 3:45 PM
I was talking to other people about this same study and could not find out if there was any indication of the types of dives these people were making. Is there any way to get a hold of the raw data that was used for the study?
Greg - 3/04/2013 7:37 AM
The Divers Alert Network conducted the study. They may release the data, you would just have to ask them. They are a non profit so chances are good that they would provide the data.
rubberchicken - 3/07/2013 12:57 AM
re buddy vs Solo : I try to teach my students "Be there doe your buddy, don’t expect them to be there for you"