I was one of those guys that really loved doing case studies when I was in college. Looking at a situation, seeing how the people reacted to it and the outcome has always interested me. There was something to learn there. A leading scuba magazine has a feature called “Lessons for Life”. It looks at situations, how divers got into them, how they reacted and the outcome. Sadly it is often a death involved. They publish the information with the hope that the rest of us will learn. The British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) has recently published its Annual Diving Incident Report for 2014. They also encourage divers to read it and learn from it. The report covers the time frame from 1 October, 2013 to 31 September,2014. While the report focuses on diving in the UK it also reports incidents involving members of the BSAC worldwide. BSAC list their membership at 28,375 a slight decrease from the previous year. Overall the report shows an improvement in dive safety with significant fewer reports than previous years and reductions in most categories. The report includes 216 UK based incidents with 16 fatalities, Forty-nine incidents involving BSAC divers outside of the UK were reported, seven fatalities were reported in five incidents.
While death is never good to talk about, especially in conjunction with diving, there are some interesting points to discover. The number of death remained about stable. Of the 16 deaths in the UK (6 BSAC members), five were due to medical situations not related to the diving, events such as heart attacks. In an additional case, it was suspected to be a medical related death but was not proven. The average age of these divers was 60, in the last two years there were 9 medical related deaths all to divers over 50. In rough number a third of the deaths were not caused by diving. The dive may have been a factor but it was not the cause.
One death occurred in a cavern when a diver breathed toxic air while in a dry section inside the cavern. 25% of the fatalities occurred while a diver was separated from their dive buddy, no deaths of solo divers were reported. The average age of fatalities dive related was 42.
We are Getting Old
Okay maybe you are not “old” yet but the average age is going up. The fact that the average age for diving fatalities was 42 is reflected on the average scuba diver. The BSAC report has an interesting quote concerning the diving population of the UK. “In 1998 68% of the population were over 30, 30% were over 40, and slightly under 10% were over 50. Viewed in 2013 the picture is very different; 80% are over 30, 60% are over 40 and 30% are over 50. So while the average age has been slowly increasing the age distribution has been changing as well and there are now three times as many divers over 50 compared to the population 15years ago.”
I find this very distressing, not just because I am in that top 30%. We have been marketing scuba as a family sport for years and have brought the certification age down to 12 years of age. Still only 20% are under 30 and only 20% are between the age of 30 and 40. Unless there is a major growth of new young divers, in less than 10 years the majority of scuba divers will be over 50. I may have been seeing this over the last few years but never paid attention. In my local diving area the majority of the local divers are over 50 many over 60. We have a large population of retired military so I never gave it much of a thought. Visiting divers also have numerous older divers. Again I did not give it much thought because the tourist to the area are often older, we do not get much of the back packer crowd. On a recent trip to Thailand, I would estimate about half the divers were over 50. so from what I seen the average divers is getting older.
Choose Your Boat Carefully
One item that disturbed me about the report was the section on boating and surface incidents. There were 38 in the UK report plus some more in the international section. Some of these were shore divers having problems leaving the water and 24 incidents involving lost divers on the surface. I have been on a dive boat that has lost divers for considerable time and once been in open water with no dive boat in sight. So these stats bring a chill to me. In an international incident a diver died when the dive boat was unable to recover her back to the boat in rough seas. In a UK case a dive boat had to call for assistance when they lost 6 buddy teams on the surface, when diver aborted dives because of bad conditions. Another case a sail boat spotted two divers adrift, over 2 miles from their dive boat.
Read the Boat
Reading the report, I believe will help all diver keep things in the proper place. A couple of final comments, more advance divers were involved in incidents than any other level of training, and the beginning of the season had a lower percentage of incidents.
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