Take active role in enforcing diving safety

Straits Times Forum 10 Apr 13;

AS A recreational diver, I applaud the great work done by the National Water Safety Council and the Singapore Underwater Federation in promoting recreational diving safety over the years ("Measures for safe diving culture"; last Thursday). However, I also truly empathise with the concerns raised by Ms Angela Chong ("Adopt zero-tolerance approach to diving mishaps"; March 26).

The Technical Reference for Recreational Diving, or TR 32, is a step in the right direction - if only it could be more readily available to the public.

The TR 32 is currently available only through a singular third-party printing company, for a fee. It seems to be directed more at diving instructors and diving-related interest groups than at the novice recreational diver, the very people who would benefit most from it.

I also have my doubts about the feasibility of the DiveSafer initiative of accrediting dive operators.

If this accreditation is not internationally recognised, then it is an exercise in futility. Would it really matter to the diver whether a dive operator is DiveSafer-accredited, if it is already certified (which most are) by international training agencies such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, National Association of Underwater Instructors and Scuba Schools International?

The current recommendation from the Recreational Diving Safety Guide suggests an instructor to student ratio of 1:4-6. However, there is no similar recommendation for leisure divers.

It is not uncommon to see local dive operators taking on the mammoth task of controlling groups in excess of 20 divers with just two or three dive guides.

Enforcing a maximum instructor to diver ratio for local operators would probably be essential to ensure that adequate attention is being given to every diver.

Also, automated external defibrillator (AED) training is currently an optional module in the divemaster/instructor training course.

The use of an AED can greatly improve the outcome in any cardiopulmonary resuscitation effort. Would it perhaps be prudent to make AED training compulsory for all local divemasters and instructors, and ensure that they take along an AED for all dive trips?

Merely rolling out guidelines and offering suggestions to dive operators will not work. Regulatory bodies need to take an active role in enforcing safety, before the next diving accident happens.

Ng Yau Hong (Dr)