Measures for safe diving culture

Straits Times Forum 4 Apr 13;

WE REFER to Ms Angela Chong's letter ("Adopt zero-tolerance approach to diving mishaps"; March 26).

The National Water Safety Council (NWSC) set up a recreational diving safety committee in January 2011 to look into enhancing recreational diving safety standards.

Following two years of deliberations and consultations with stakeholders from the diving fraternity, the committee recommended establishing an official set of standard safety guidelines for local operators and participants, and a national safety programme for recreational diving.

The Technical Reference for Recreational Diving, or TR 32, was launched on Jan 7 this year by the NWSC and the Singapore Standards Council.

The TR 32 provides dive operators with a set of consistent standards to help them address safety concerns and make appropriate decisions when conducting overseas trips.

These include ensuring that equipment is well-maintained, trainee divers are certified to be competent and fit to undertake dives, and that operators are familiar with medical and first aid procedures. The TR 32 also aims to promote participants' awareness of safety issues.

Better-informed divers will thus be able to exercise greater personal responsibility for their safety, by expecting diving operators to provide the right level of safety measures.

The Singapore Underwater Federation will be managing a DiveSafer programme, which will accredit and audit dive operators compliant with the TR guidelines.

DiveSafer, which will be launched later this month, aims to encourage consumers to seek the services of DiveSafer-accredited operators.

As more operators get accredited, consumers would also have greater assurance that their training and safety needs are met.

We hope these measures will provide a set of best practices towards safer diving, and set the foundation for a safer diving culture in Singapore.

Teo Ho Pin (Dr)
Chairman, National Water Safety Council

Song Shing Hae
President, Singapore Underwater Federation

Adopt zero-tolerance approach to diving mishaps
Straits Times Forum 26 Mar 13;

THERE have been several cases over the years of recreational scuba divers from Singapore who encountered difficulties while in the water.

The latest incident claimed the life of a university professor ("SMU professor dies during dive trip off Mersing"; March 16).

One difficulty frequently cited in diving accidents is that if the incident occurs outside Singapore waters, the Singapore authorities may not have the powers to investigate it.

Nevertheless, divers should adopt a zero-tolerance approach towards accidents, and ensure that there is better awareness of the recommended operational guidelines.

Diving instructors in Singapore, like those in most other countries, usually rely on external international agencies that prescribe training procedures and certify instructors.

Many of these agencies have headquarters in the United States, such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, National Association of Underwater Instructors and Scuba Schools International, while others are based in Europe, such as the British Sub Aqua Club in Britain.

While many countries rely on these agencies to provide licensing for teaching professionals, some countries also require individual instructors or the dive shops that employ them to take out liability insurance, which adds to operating costs.

It would be good if the Singapore Underwater Federation, which is affiliated to the Singapore Sports Council, took on a more prominent leadership role in promoting safety awareness within the scuba diving fraternity and in the investigation of accidents - wherever they occur.

Having stated guidelines is good, but there must be a will and drive to ensure that they are followed.

It would be good to promote the orientation of divers and instructors in local and neighbouring waters, spread awareness of local boating etiquette and draw lessons from accidents.

Angela Chong (Ms)