David C. Mulhauser is a scuba diver and travel aficionado with over 16 years of diving experience. David recognizes that the scuba diving space is currently growing, with 2.7 million Americans diving at least once in 2022 and between 6 and 9 million active divers worldwide.
Scuba diving is a generally safe hobby, but there are certainly steps that divers can take to ensure that the risks associated with the activity are minimized. Below, David Mulhauser explores a few important scuba safety tips for new divers.
1. Never Hold Your Breath
One of the most important scuba safety tips, according to experts, is to not hold your breath while you dive. David notes that following this tip is crucial because failure to do so can lead to serious injury or even death.
The reason why holding your breath while diving is so dangerous is because the fluctuating pressure of air in your lungs can rupture the lung walls, causing a condition known as pulmonary barotrauma. The trouble here is that pulmonary barotrauma can cause air bubbles to escape into the chest cavity and enter the bloodstream and cause an arterial gas embolism.
Avoiding these issues is simple — continue breathing at all times during the dive and you should be fine!
2. Plan Your Dive, Dive Your Plan
“Plan your dive, dive your plan” is one of the first lessons taught to beginner scuba divers, and for a good reason. Regardless of your level of experience, having a plan and sticking to it is an essential part of remaining safe.
Ahead of scuba diving with your partner, David C. Mulhauser recommends always discussing the specifics of your trip. Where you are heading, the maximum depth, maximum bottom time, and the air level that you will either return or begin ascent are crucial components to go over.
In addition to these factors, it is also important to have a safety stop and to make sure that you ascend with enough air for both you and your partner. Once the plan is set, stick to it!
David mentions contingencies are part of any safe dive. Tell someone where you are diving and when you are expected back, just to be sure, and even consider researching details about the nearest emergency room to your dive site and if a hyperbaric chamber is nearby.
3. Check Your Gear
A scuba diver’s survival while underwater hinges on their equipment, so it goes without saying that checking your gear to make sure that its functioning properly is key to any safe dive.
David recommends that divers check both their equipment and their buddies ahead of the dive and ensure that all parties know how to properly use each piece. It is a well known fact that many equipment related accidents occur because divers are uncertain of how they work.
There are many steps to checking your gear, and a checklist can be helpful for examining each piece of equipment. Inflate and deflate your BCD, get familiar with the emergency release belt (and check that you have your necessary weights), be sure that your air tank is full, and also breathe through your regulator to be certain that it if functioning properly. You will also want to check that all gears are tightened and strapped correctly.
Double or even triple checking each piece of your kit is an excellent way to ensure safety on even the most rigorous dives. Examine your gear like your life depends on it because it does!
4. Know Your Limits, and Do Not Exceed Them
Scuba diving is always at its safest when you do not exceed your limits. For example, you should not exceed the physiological limits that are associated with breathing compressed are at depth. This means that you should never exceed your maximum bottom time or intentionally go into decompression, as doing so can be very dangerous.
Divers, especially new divers, should also never exceed the limits of their qualifications. Those who are only certified for dives up to 60 feet/18 meters should not go deeper. Divers not qualified for night diving, overhead environments, nitrox or mixed air diving should never do dives with these factors until they have received their specialty qualifications.
On the mental side, David Mulhauser maintains that you should never go out on a dive if you feel as though it is stretching your mental limits. Divers who are feeling overwhelmed or anxious before diving should address these concerns before starting descent. If you can’t get comfortable, it is always best practice to either postpone the dive or try one that is less vigorous.
5. Use the Buddy System
Some training organizations offer solo diving certs, but diving alone is incredibly dangerous and out of the question if you are not properly trained for it. David speaks to how most emergency skills that we rely on when diving depends on a buddy’s presence. One example is that solo-divers will have very few options in an out-of-air scenario if there is no alternate air source.
Several scuba organizations have found that a disproportionate amount of diver fatalities occurred when the diver was not in the presence of a buddy. This is why many experts stress not straying too far from or losing your buddy while out on a dive.
6. Establish Positive Buoyancy Once At the Surface
Many new scuba divers are surprised to learn that up to 25% of diver fatalities occur due to problems on the surface rather than underwater. Fatigue plays a huge role in diver deaths, and being sure to prevent exhaustion is very important for staying safe after your dive has completed.
Because many issues can arise when you attempt to remain on the surface while you are over-weighted, establishing positive buoyancy is vital. Conserving energy, preventing exhaustion, and greatly reducing the risk of drowning is simple if you remember to establish positive buoyancy by lowering weights and using your buoyancy compensator correctly.
Scuba Diving Can be Safe if You Follow a Few Rules!
David C. Mulhauser knows that some people hold the misconception that scuba diving is a very dangerous, extreme sport, but the truth is that it can be very safe if you take the right precautions.
If you are interested in learning how to scuba dive, rest assured that there are many organizations out there that can teach you how to do so safely. Don’t be afraid to try!