Who Checks the Checks?
Whether you follow the PADI BWRAF, or top to toe style of predive safety check, it is one of the simplest and most important skills in diving. Despite this, it is also one that easily becomes slack or even missed out all together, especially if your instructor isn't helping you go through it.
Instructor Margot running through the Buoyancy element of her BWRAF check on a PADI Open Water Course.
The idea of the predive safety check is pretty simple, to catch any problems with your equipment before getting into the water. By skipping the check, or not doing one properly, a diver can still be completely fine if they've set everything up correctly. However, they could face any number of issues, ranging from the embarrassing but non-dangerous like jumping in without your weightbelt and being unable to descend, to potentialy dangerous issues like not connecting their BCD inflator, or not having their tank turned on.
A Happy diver.
This happened to one of our divers last year during one of our dives at the Churchill Barriers. As a precursor to this story, everyone is fine and it had a happy ending, just a stressful few moments! Before the dive everyone set their kit up like usual, and before heading in the water the dive group ran through a buddy check (BWRAF) and everything seemed fine, so they headed off underwater to explore thw WW1 and WW2 wrecks at Churchill Barrier 3. The dive started without incident and everyone was happily exploring the site, getting some great photos, however as they descended deeper getting to approximately 6 metres one of the divers tried to take a breath and found they couldn't. With a buddy slightly out of reach, they made a controlled emergancy swimming ascent to the surface where they could breath without the regulator and with the help of our instructor got themselves nice and buoyant to try and work out what had happened.
A Happy Diver exploring Churchill Barrier 3
Having done the predive check, the team knew they had a full tank of air and they'd been able to inflate their BCD as well as breath from it a while so it wasn't turned off. When instructor Margot went to check the tank valve she discovered it was only partly open, giving the diver enough air at the suface and shallow water, but as the depth increased, the pressure and density increase meant that insufficient air was able to get through to the diver. During the buddy check, the diver had forgotten to look at their guage whilst breathing from the regulators so hadn't spotted the needle swing that would have been apparent. Thanks to the divers calm thinking, they didn't panic and dealt with it safely, Margot opened the tank up and after a few minutes to regain composure the dive was completed. We obviously asked the diver whether we could share this story, and they were happy for us to do so, saying that:
"it was a very valuable lesson, good one to share, very silly mistake, I watch it all the time now"
© Image Copyright of The Human Diver
Checklists are a massive part of diving safety, and there is loads of information on them out there to try and make your diving as safe as possible. This blog is to remind you of the importance of pre-dive safety checks but also to share a story which thankfully had a happy ending in the hope that other people can learn from this and avoid it happening to them. For further information on trying to reduce errors in diving you can check out the awesome Human Diver, who is joining us to run a 2 day course on the 13th and 14th of April in Orkney. We'd really recommend this course, we think it'll be a great way to improve your safety not just as a diver but also in day to day life. If you're interested in joining us then you can get more information here.
If you're want more information on the science behind why the tank being partially closed was a factor you can find more information on this awesome DAN blog.