by Sean Harrison:
In a previous life when I did not have as much at stake, an opinion that did not make my parents very happy, I road motorcycles… any kind of motorcycle. After a number of years of riding used motorcycles, I decided it was time to buy my very own, brand new, road bike. While picking out my bike and looking at all the other goodies that could go along with it (can’t have a brand new bike and a bunch of old accessories) I looked at the helmet display. Up until this point I thought a helmet was good for keeping the big bugs and rain drops from hitting my face, just hearing the splat on my face-shield was proof enough they would hurt. Near the display I saw a sign which had a very powerful message from a company named Shoei and it read, “If you have a five dollar head, wear a five dollar helmet”. Now, even in my early 20’s, that message struck home. In pretty much every course I have taught in the past 20 plus years, I have found a way to use this line. Not very hard really, helmets are a safety device; dive gear is life support… close enough. The point is, when it comes to your life or the life of a loved one, don’t take the cheap route.
For the past 15 years a big part, and not the best part, of my job has been reviewing and analyzing diving accidents and fatalities. These reports span the globe, and cover all ages, genders, and disciplines of diving. Two unfortunate themes are reoccurring: basic skill failure and cutting corners on servicing.
Basic skill failure transcends all levels of diving from the basic open water diver to the best trained diving professional. This is a problem that boggles my mind because there is an unlimited amount of resources out there to prevent this from happening. A term was recently coined “Normalization of Deviance” and it is very fitting for what I have seen in diving. In short, and this is a very abridged interpretation, there is a correct way of doing something, but if you deviate from that correct way and nothing goes wrong, you find yourself continually deviating. This, in time, is going to catch up with you. Basic skills should be practiced on every dive, and at bare minimum a refresher should be conducted every year for divers not diving regularly. You may be asking – what kind of basic skills are you talking about? I am referring to: turning on a cylinder, removing a weight system, monitoring your gauges. Sound basic? They are, and taught in every open water course, but have seriously injured many and claimed the lives of even more.
Going cheap on servicing is another one that gets me. Most equipment can be serviced for less than $200 per year; the more sophisticated the equipment, the higher the cost. This is of particular interest when it comes to rebreathers. I have at this point, lost count of the number of accidents that have involved out of date cells, and scrubber canisters with expended scrubber materials. I am grouping scrubber medium in with servicing since it is an expendable item that needs to be “serviced”. O2 cells can be, and must be (by most manufacturers) replaced every year, for around $300.00.
So what are we talking about here? Depending on what type of equipment you are diving and how actively you are diving, $200 – $700 per year. Is your life worth less than that? I don’t think so and neither do your loved ones. The really sad part here is that you won’t realize the cost and the value until it’s too late. No, diving is not an inexpensive sport but it pays itself back many-fold by the places you go, the people you meet, and things you get to see that few others have or will. Just the therapeutic value alone is worth thousands!