At least once a month I give a presentation about diving safety and the need for an improved just culture in diving. The presentations are delivered to a variety of audiences including BSAC & PADI dive clubs, dive centres, diving conferences and small groups in their homes. The majority of those who I present to already understand the significance of being able to provide appropriate and adequate feedback to the community and individuals in diving to improve diving safety. In effect, the ability to go up to someone whilst they are kitting up and asking whether they have ‘got that right’ without the fear of them having a go at them, or being able to provide positive criticism after a dive about a technique or drill that didn’t go to plan, therefore enabling errors to be corrected. If that feedback is provided to a wider audience through something like DISMS then all the better. Prevention is much better than cure when it comes to life support critical events.
An instructor or instructor trainer/course director cannot teach you everything you know on a course and yet some people shun this feedback as if it is criticising their manhood (or female equivalent). Even worse, and saddening at the same time, are those divers who will continue to undertake bad practices despite being told directly that what they are doing is wrong and will likely kill them. John Chatterton wrote a very good blog article about this here in which he describes a diver who always ran out of gas and used others’ gas supplies until he died. I wrote an article last year about known medical serious problems in divers and their continuing diving. Unfortunately these ‘violations’ continue. The human body is very robust and can survive a significant amount of abuse before failing, and the equipment requires a number of failures before it final gives up, so fortunately, incidents are not that common but this means that the perceived risk is lowered – the risk is still there though.
Diving is a sport where it requires a significant amount of drive, determination and dedication, and in some cases considerable investment, to get underwater and explore the depths, and as a consequence people don’t like being told (or suggested) that what they have done is wrong or could be done better – that is just human psyche. It is also a cultural aspect of our sport. The culture that spawns from the very start where it is very difficult to fail in the first courses you undertake. Sometimes diving is not for you, no matter hard you try but you need to be told this. Sometimes instruction is not for you, no matter how hard the ‘sell’ has been made and that may be disappointing for you, especially if you had your heart set on the ‘living the dream’ marketing material that is out there. Notwithstanding this, it is good to see that the technical agencies are now taking quality control seriously and are now failing significant numbers of instructors who are arriving at Instructor Trainer courses because they do not know their stuff and/or they do not have the in-water skills required of them.
I believe that we, as a community, should be able to encourage a change in attitude to people making mistakes, providing feedback and being firm with unacceptable behaviour. As this positive attitude becomes more wide spread, then the unacceptability of certain behaviours will become more prolific too. Drink driving used to be an acceptable activity, and whilst it is illegal to drink drive, it is likely that the positive peer pressure has had a greater impact. Seat belts? Again, illegal, but is the reason that people use them all the time because it has become the norm or because the risk of a fine is still there? There will still be those who ‘have always got away with it’ like those in the articles above, and sometimes they have to be left their own way and for Darwinism to prevail.
Cultures take a long time to change and sport diving is still in its infancy, but with small steps we can move forward by changing attitudes for individuals to take more personal responsibility over their actions, and potentially those who we are diving with. If we do nothing, nothing will change and despite ‘preaching to the converted’ that is why I give the presentations I do in the hope that the message will start to permeate wider than the immediate audience.