The Public Discussion of Diving Incidents…

ImageI am glad that I get details of incidents forwarded to me so that they can be added to DISMS so that others can learn from the incident, but I am also saddened that I also get contacted people who would like to be able to share their incident but cannot. Sometimes this is because they are ashamed of what happened (they made a simple mistake which then went horribly wrong), sometimes because they were operating outside their “organisation’s” rules/best practice even though it is common place and sometimes because if they bring the communities attention to the incident, they will be shunned and rapidly run out of diving buddies – this latter situation is made even worse when the incident is a fatality and appears to be down to ‘considered’ bad practice.

However, putting incidents up without all of the detail is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it provides thought provoking discussions, other times, it can prevent people from reporting because they see inaccurate information.

I recently put up details of an incident which was relayed to me by one of the first rescuers on the scene and prompted discussion on a forum about what the possible causes were; the age old problem of lack of detail came up again and again. However, it appears that the rescuer’s details were not complete and some errors were introduced into the report. Fortunately, one of those involved in the incident contacted me to correct the details and showed that there was more to the incident than first relayed to me. Some specific parts of the incident analysis have also been updated as a result of the additional information provided. More detail is always welcome.

Last Friday I was involved in a diving incident which brought the information availability issue to the fore. My buddy and I had just finished a 35min BT dive to 51m, when my buddy had symptoms of DCI on the 6m stop, and suspected OxTox on the boat after surfacing a few minutes before. The incident was managed well and the casualty evacuated to a chamber where he made a full recovery after a single Table 62 treatment.

Being the person I am, I emailed everyone that night and asked all of those present to provide me with a ‘brain dump’ of everything they remember by the following evening as I knew that over time, details are lost, and it would also provide an interesting study item, especially if I go back in a month or so and ask for the same recall.  Whilst the major details were consistent between the seven accounts received, there were some contradictions and differences between them when it came to some of the smaller details which could be useful in determining causality.

There is always more than one side to a story and it is essential that we are able to get as much detail as possible. The problem with having one ‘story’ in the public, even if that story has been collated from a number of accounts, is that as the reviewer, how do you know which account is correct or which details should be included or removed? Divers have been known to not relate the whole story because they are trying to protect themselves, or their buddy, sometimes because either have done something ‘stupid’ but something lots of other people do too…

There are plenty of incidents based on the ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ and the diver has ‘got away with it’.  That is the nature of the sport, we take risks as soon as we get in the water. But we try to make those risk decisions with all of the information, and that comes from learning from previous mistakes (yours and others).

If you have an incident, don’t be afraid to talk about it. If you hear someone recount an incident, don’t be judgemental. You don’t have all the facts, and neither did they at the time of the incident. Hindsight bias is not 20:20, you already have an outcome to aim towards and will look to develop hypotheses to match that end-game even if the diver didn’t have that information available to them.  Simple incidents where the phrase “how could they do that..?” are rarely simple incidents…

Safe Diving 

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