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Close Calls: Never Underestimate the Power of the Ocean.

Jonathan Dekhtiar, an experienced recreational diver, who recently went tech, recounts a close call on what ended up being a solo night dive at an unfamiliar surgy cove, when his dive buddy decided to pass on the dive. What could go wrong?



By Jonathan Dekhtiar. Header image courtesy of Valerie Saidman.

This “close-call” happened recently—around April 2022—and I believe it conveys a perspective not discussed enough in dive training in general. I’m talking about environmental dangers. Most of us know they are a risk and, for many of us, that reality dwells in the back of our minds. But, we don’t always pay attention to them unless they become a clear and present danger. 

Environmental risks pose a unique challenge to divers, and indeed, most of these dangers easily fall into the category of “unknown unknowns.” And, it’s difficult to know about the risk of a specific environment if you’ve not experienced diving in that environment before. Let’s take a simple example. Just because you have significant experience shore diving in Northern California, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your knowledge and experience will translate to shore diving in Bonaire. Will it be helpful? Most likely. And one could argue that these situations are still fairly close, but what about the diver who attempts shore diving for the first time after thousands of boat dives? I hope it’s common sense that adventuring yourself in a new dive site without local knowledge might lead you into some unforeseen and unexpected perils. In this report, we will explore what might happen if the data you collected prior to the dive is insufficient. 

In a way, this misadventure can be defined as an “environmental danger”—unlike technical problems, many of which can be mitigated by proper equipment care, proper training, an effective equipment configuration, staying sharp on your skills, discussing some potential friction points on the surface like gas switch procedure or cave navigation procedures, and making sure the whole team aligns before the dive. On the other hand, environmental dangers are “fuzzier” and are prone to misevaluation because either you have misread the environment or you are overconfident in your abilities.

A Little Background

Before getting into the details of my recent learning experience, I will start with a little bit of personal background. I have been a certified diver for close to 15 years. I started my technical diving career in 2020 with TDI (cave, stage cave, deco procedures), and I will be taking GUE Tech 1 in a few months. I lived in Northern California for about three years, close to Monterey, with probably more than 200 local shore dives completed. I can honestly say I feel comfortable diving in the area at any dive spot. I don’t believe I am capable of absolutely anything, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t appreciably more experienced than the average recreational diver heading to Monterey every weekend.

After the dive in question, I had planned to sell my pickup truck and leave California, so it would be one of my last opportunities to dive in the area for a long time, especially given the upcoming weeks’ weather forecast (which didn’t look good). I am perhaps not blameless for committing to the objective in spite of weather conditions, but I’m pretty sure that some of you are also guilty of squeezing in a last dive before leaving a place you love, or pushing yourself to see that wreck, tunnel, or cave on your bucket list. I would be dishonest if I said that it was possible to make a total abstraction of “our objective of the day.” However, sometimes stories like the one I’m about to tell you are a reminder that the most important objective is to be able to do the next dive. That means we must try our very best to judge the other aspects of the dive fairly and not focus solely on the objective of the dive.

At that time, I knew the weather would deteriorate over the evening. Consequently, what that meant was that we needed to be efficient on the surface. In other words, we had to hurry if we didn’t want the weather to turn south on us. I will mention that rushing is never a good thing, though what I meant here by “efficient” was something along the lines of not losing hours in pre-dive discussions, as I’m accustomed to doing. 

  • Halcyon Sidemount
  • Fourth Element

Earlier that day, a few friends and I were making a few dives all around the bay, and they all reported that there was a strong surge, but nothing truly out of the ordinary or dangerous. Unfortunately, however, my dive partner of the day let me know that she wanted to pass on that dive. She was still cold from her previous dive that day and didn’t want to get back in the water for a night dive. While I would have preferred to dive with a teammate, I unfortunately find myself solo diving fairly often, most of the time because finding a teammate is not always easy, and its even harder to find someone willing to be a good teammate and work as a team. [Ed. note: GUE does not condone solo diving] So all things considered, it wasn’t at all a red flag in my mind.

Taking The Plunge

In checking the water, the conditions seemed decent—a bit agitated but totally manageable. I set my gear up, kitted up, got in the water, and had a wonderful 45-minute dive with a max depth of 12 m/40 ft on double LP85s (clearly, available gas was not going to be an issue). I didn’t want to push the limits; I had my nice dive, I was happy to have been able to enjoy this breathtaking place one more time, so I thought it was time to call the dive. So where is the drama you will ask? Oh yee of little faith! You really thought that heading back to the shore would be that easy?

This was a solo night dive at a site I had dived only once before when conditions were surgy. So, nothing totally crazy, but far from perfect. When I began my underwater swim back to shore, I rapidly realized that something was wrong, I was getting in shallow waters way too fast. I thought that maybe I was passing by a reef, as we often see in Northern California, which can make the depth shallower by 3-6m/10-20 ft. But it kept getting shallower. At one point, I decided that it would be safer to ascend in order to orient myself; however, once I broke the surface, my surroundings were completely black, and I had no idea whether I came from the left, the center, or the right. I was able to distinguish that I was very close to the shore, so I decided to swim ahead of me to the shore line and most likely would have to walk back to my truck. 

Kelp magnificence. Photo courtesy of Ryan Beck.

Unfortunately, with the surroundings so dark, I was not able to determine that many large rocks were right ahead of me. In addition, the so-called “shore” in front of me was basically the bottom of a cliff. By the time I realized where I was, it was too late. The waves and current were way too strong to fight them. Waves were crashing me into large rocks, and I was genuinely frightened that one wave would hurdle me onto a rock head first, and that I would lose consciousness and drown. To add to the stress, the waves tended to add an incredible amount of air bubbles in the water, giving me zero chance to see anything even if it had been right in front of my face. Spoiler alert: zero viz cave training is not useful for these situations.

In this kind of situation, the one thing that I believed would keep me alive was TO KEEP MENTAL CONTROL at all costs. Panic was not an option. My strategy was very simple—taking problems one by one, from the most imminent danger to the least concerning, and addressing them the best I could. If there was anything that saved me that day, it was this instinctive reaction to be methodical and to not give panic a chance to take hold in my psyche. Looking back on that moment, it reminds me of an accident story reported by Mike Young at the Blue Hole near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, where Shane Thompson, his dive partner, tragically passed away. Mike said, “I’m not gonna do anything, I’m not making a single move unless there’s a purpose.” This phrase now resonates with me more than ever before. I really believe that this attitude was able to get me out of trouble.

My first reaction was to dump my wing and drysuit in a desperate attempt to regain depth; since waves are stronger on the surface, deeper is safer. I simultaneously turned 180 degrees “feet first” in the direction of the rocks. First, in an attempt to swim away, but primarily to provide a shield for my head; if one part of my body had to crash on these rocks I chose my legs over my head. I finally managed to grab one of the rocks, which allowed me to “pull and glide” (not much of a glide, to be honest) myself out of the danger zone. After maybe one or two minutes that felt like an eternity, I finally managed to get out of that zone and reach the rocky shore. The waves literally washed me on the 1 m/3 ft large rocks all over the beach, which allowed me to finally hold onto something stable and take a breath.

Beached and Breathing

Having a heavy cold-water configuration in steel doubles, standing back up was a real struggle. Once I was able to finally stand up and look around me, I realized that I had managed to get myself onto one of these rocky beaches where there was no walking access (e.g. stairs) in or out and that getting out of that place would probably be complicated to say the least. Without any urgency anymore, I found a rock to sit on and evaluate my options: I couldn’t walk along the shore to get back to where the dive started. I was balancing abandoning my gear, trying to find a way out by foot, and coming back later for it, or trying to carry my gear on my back a little, which could be useful in case I had to swim to connect two beaches (which to be fair, was not really an option in my mind. I would have probably slept on a rock to avoid getting back in the water). By chance, I managed to find a way to hike my way out by hopping from rock to rock which led to the coastal walk path about 3-4.5 m/10-15 ft above the beach. After a few minutes of very careful hiking with a drysuit and twinset (you should try, it’s a fun activity), I was back on safe ground, and I started walking back to the parking lot with the weight of my twinset, as well as shame and stupidity resting on my shoulders.

Otter Cove. Photo courtesy of Ryan Beck.

That being said, nothing bad happened. I didn’t hurt myself at all, my drysuit was still water-tight (don’t ask me how), and I didn’t lose any equipment. So, how exactly did I end up in this situation? Obviously, being “objective oriented” didn’t help and might have influenced my judgment of the weather conditions. One could argue that having a dive buddy would have been safer, but the reality is that it could very well have led to even more trouble. Any rescue attempt would have clearly put the two of us in danger, breaking the first rule of rescue: “Don’t put yourself at risk.” I undoubtedly didn’t know enough about the dive site and managed to get myself into a dangerous zone that I didn’t know existed. And, last but not least, I clearly had no appreciation for the conditions, and I underestimated how fast the conditions on the surface would change.

Though, aside from extraordinary luck, which I definitely had that day, I believe that this mindset of keeping mental control at all costs and attacking problems one by one really made the difference and allowed me to transform what could have been a tragedy into a learning moment and a fun story. Clearly, if there was one thing I did right that very day, it was that. And it once again highlighted the importance of not panicking and not abandoning hope. As long as you can fight, you haven’t lost.

Post Analysis

The problem with this type of incident is that, by essence, they are multi-factorials: 10% solo diving, 10% dark environment, 15% not wanting to miss my last dive, 30% poor knowledge of the dive site, and 35% poor assessment of the weather (if the percentages really mean anything, to be honest). It’s very hard to pinpoint exactly the cause of this series of events. And consequently, it’s hard to predict any corrective action. I can absolutely tell you that I drastically raised the bar for what I would consider “acceptable weather conditions;” though, one could argue that it’s an abstract concept. Exactly what are “acceptable weather conditions”? How do you even read a maritime weather report? As technically inclined divers, we tend to focus on technical skills and procedures, buoyancy control, streamlining, team efficiency, and navigation. Unfortunately, the decision as to whether the conditions are diveable or not often falls to the dive boat crew. And this tends to make many (most?) of us environmentally-risk-unaware. 

  • Halcyon Sidemount
  • Fourth Element

At the end of the day, I changed my perspective. The question is not anymore: “Is this dive doable?” but rather, “Will this dive be enjoyable?” I’m not so much interested to know if the dive will be humanly possible if it means having to fight the surge and waves on the way in, on the way out, or even during the dive. Most of the time, conditions will be arguably acceptable, though it might not be a relaxing experience. And, I came to realize that I’m not so much interested in playing on the edge and trying to make it work at all costs. Some will quote a different sort of “rule of three.” If three or more unplanned things (e.g. regulator issue, or any problem really) occur at any time before the dive, call the dive even if you fix it. Which to me sounds a little like “diving astrology,” to be fair (and it’s not a compliment). Though if it makes divers feel better, I’m totally for it, as we often say, “You can never call the dive too early, only too late”.

When I started to share this story, many told me about similar stories of their own that led them to stop solo diving in the ocean (though they were sometimes more comfortable in caves as they consider the conditions to be more stable, which might not be true everywhere).

I will conclude this article by asking you whether you know about the environmental risks of your regular dive sites. What steps do you take to assess a new environment or new dive site? What could we change in dive training to make divers more “environmental-conditions-aware?” Maybe teaching students how to read a weather report or a wave model chart. 

The author peering off into the darkness. Photo courtesy of Marcelin Nebenhaus.

I hope this story will help you to better judge some situations you might encounter in your dive life. I hope this will also spark some discussions with your teammates and maybe lead you to check a weather report on the morning of each dive. 

By all means, dive safely.

Dive Deeper:

InDEPTH: Close Calls: I Ripped My Drysuit a Kilometer Back In The Cave by Fan Ping

InDEPTH: Surviving an Uncontrolled Ascent by Maureen Roberts

InDEPTH: The Dumbest Thing I’ve Done Diving by Kyle Bourland


Divesoft Talks: Close Calls and the important lessons learned

Order your copy of the book CLOSE CALLS by Strais Kas

Jonathan Dekhtiar is a 31-year-old Frenchman living in Miami, FL, an artificial intelligence engineer on the dry days, and an avid technical and cave diver on the weekends. Fascinated by the blue world since his teen years, he has lived in many countries to explore and discover the hidden gems under the water line. Instagram: @TheScubaPanda

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Diving Safety

Does The Sport Diving Community Learn from Accidents?

Do we learn from accidents as a diving culture and, as a result, take the actions, where needed, to improve divers’ safety? Though we might like to think that’s the case, the reality is more complicated as human factors coach Gareth Lock explains in some detail. Lock offers a broad six-point plan to help the community boost its learning chops. We gave him an A for effort. See what you think.




by Gareth Lock

Learning is the ability to observe and reflect on previous actions and behaviours, and then modify or change future behaviours or actions to either get a different result or to reinforce the current behaviours. It can be single-loop, whereby we only focus on the immediate actions and change those, e.g., provide metrics for buoyancy control during a training course, or double-loop where the underlying assumptions are questioned, e.g., are we teaching instructors how to teach buoyancy and trim correctly? The latter has a great impact but takes more time, and more importantly, requires a different perspective. Culture is the ‘way things are done around here’ and is made up of many different elements as shown in this image from Rob Long. Learning culture is a subset of a wider safety culture.

Regarding a safety culture, in 2022 I wrote a piece for InDEPTH, Can We Create A Safety Culture In Diving? Probably Not, Here’s Why,” about whether the diving industry could have a mature safety culture and concluded that it probably couldn’t happen for several reasons:

  • First, ‘safe’ means different things to different people, especially when we are operating in an inherently hazardous environment. Recreational, technical, cave, CCR and wreck diving all have different types and severities of hazards, and there are varying levels of perception and acceptance of risk. The ultimate realisation of risk, death, was only acknowledged in the last couple of years by a major training agency in their training materials. Yet it is something that can happen on ANY dive.
  • Second, given the loose training standards, multiple agencies, and instructors teaching for multiple agencies, there is a diffuse organisational influence across the industry which means it is hard to change the compliance-focus that is in place. From the outside looking in, there needs to be more evidence of leadership surrounding operational safety, as opposed to compliance-based safety e.g., ensuring that the standards are adhered to, even if the standards have conflicts or are not clear. This appears to be more acute when agencies have regional licensees who may not be active diving instructors and are focused on revenue generation and not the maintenance of skilled instructors. There is very little, if any, evidence that leadership skills, traits or behaviours are taught anywhere in the diving industry as part of the formal agency staff or professional development processes. This impacts what happens in terms of safety culture development.
  • Finally, the focus on standards and rules aligns with the lowest level of the recognised safety culture models – Pathological from Hudson. Rules and standards do not create safety. Rules facilitate the discussion around what is acceptably safe, but they rarely consider the context surrounding the activities at the sharp end, i.e., dive centres and diving instructors and how they manage their businesses. These are grey areas. There is a difference between ‘Work as Imagined’ and ‘Work as Done,’ and individual instructors and dive centre managers must both ‘complete the design’ because the manuals and guides are generic, and manage the tension between safety, financial pressures, and people (or other resources) to maintain a viable business. Fundamentally, people create safety not through the blind adherence to rules, but through developed knowledge and reflecting on their experiences, and then sharing that knowledge with others so that they, too, may learn and not have to make the same mistakes themselves.

The proceeding discussion brings us to the main topics of this article, does the diving industry have a learning culture, and what is needed to support that learning culture?

What is a learning culture?

In the context of ‘safe’ diving operations, a learning culture could be defined as “the willingness and the competence to draw the right conclusions from its safety information system, and the will to implement major reforms when their need is indicated.” (Reason, 1997). Here we have a problem! 


The industry is based around siloed operations: equipment manufacturers, training agencies, dive centres/operations, and individual instructors. Adopting a genuine learning approach means that the barriers must be broken down and conversations happen between and within the silos. This is very difficult because of the commercial pressures present. The consumer market is small, and there are many agencies and equipment manufacturers that are competing for the same divers and instructors. Also, agencies and manufacturers have competing goals. Agencies want to maximise the number of dive centres/instructors to generate revenue, and one of the ways of doing that is to maximise the number of courses available and courses that can be taught by individual instructors e.g., different types of CCR units. Manufacturers don’t want to realise the reputational risk because their equipment/CCR is involved in a fatal diving accident, but they also want to maximise their return on investment by making it available to multiple agencies and instructors. The higher-level bodies (WRSTC, RTC, and RESA) are made up of the agencies and manufacturers that will inherit the standards set, so there is a vested interest in not making too much change. Furthermore, in some cases, there is a unanimous voting requirement which means it is easy to veto something that impacts one particular agency but benefits many others.


This will be expanded in the section below relating to information systems as they are highly interdependent.

  • Fourth Element
  • Halcyon Sidemount

What safety information systems do we have in the diving community?

Training agencies each have their own quality assurance/control/management systems, with varying levels of oversight. This oversight is determined by the questions they ask, the feedback they receive, and the actions they take. These are closed systems and based around compliance with the standards set by the agency – sometimes those standards are not available to be viewed by the students during or after their class! Research has been carried out on some of this quality data, but it appears to have focused on the wrong part e.g., in 2018, a paper was published by Shreeves at al, which looked at violations outside the training environment involving 122 diving fatalities. While the data would have been available, a corresponding research project involving fatalities inside the training environment was not completed (or if it was, it wasn’t published in the academic literature).

As the ex-head of Quality Control of a training agency, I would have been more interested in what happened inside my agency’s training operations than what occurred outside, not from a retributive perspective, but to understand how the systemic failures were occurring. I also understand that undertaking such research would mean it would be open for ‘legal discovery’, and likely lead to the organisation facing criticism if a punitive approach was taken rather than a restorative one.

Safety organisations like Divers Alert Network collect incident data, but their primary focus is on quantitative data (numbers and types of incidents), not narrative or qualitative data – it is the latter that helps learning because we can relate to it. The British Sub Aqua Club produce an annual report, but there is very limited analysis of the reported data, and there does not appear to be any attempt made to look at contributory or influential factors when categorising events. The report lists the events based on the most serious outcome and not on the factors which may have influenced or contributed to the event e.g., a serious DCI event could have been caused by rapid ascent, following an out-of-gas situation, preceded by a buddy separation, and inadequate planning. The learning is in the contributory factors, not in the outcome. In fairness, this is because the organizations do not have to undertake more detailed investigations, and because the information isn’t contained in the submitted reports.

Research from 2006 has shown that management in organisations often want quantitative data, whereas practitioners want narrative data about what happened, how it made sense, and what can be done to improve the situation. Statistical data in the diving domain regarding safety performance and the effectiveness of interventions e.g., changes to the number of fatalities or buoyancy issues is of poor quality and should not be relied upon to draw significant conclusions.

What is required to populate these systems?

There are several elements needed to support a safety information system.

  • Learning-focused ‘investigations’.
  • Competent ‘investigators’.
  • Confidential and collaborative information management and dissemination systems.
  • Social constructs that allow context-rich narratives to be told.

Learning-focused ‘investigations’. The diving industry does not have a structured or formal investigation or learning process, instead relying on law-enforcement and legal investigations. Consequently, investigations are not focused on learning, rather they are about attributing blame and non-compliance. As Sidney Dekker said, “you can learn or blame; you can’t do both”. The evidence that could be used to improve learning e.g., standards deviations, time pressures, adaptations, poor/inadequate rules, incompetence, and distractions… are the same elements of data that a prosecution would like to know about to hold people accountable. Rarely does the context come to the fore, and it is context that shapes the potential learning opportunities. “We cannot change the human condition, but we can change the conditions in which humans work.” (James Reason). Rather than asking ‘why did that happen’ or even ‘who was to blame’, we need to move to ‘how did it make sense to do what they did’. ‘Why’ asks for a justification of the status quo, ‘how’ looks at the behaviour and the context, not the individual.

Competent ‘investigators’. As there isn’t any training in the diving domain to undertake a learning-focused investigation, we shouldn’t be surprised that the investigations focus on the individual’s errant behaviour. Even those ‘investigations’ undertaken by bodies like DAN, the NSS-CDS Accident Committee or the BSAC do not involve individuals who have undertaken formal training in investigations processes or investigation tools. A comprehensive learning review is not quick, so who is going to pay for that? It is much easier to deflect the blame to an individual ‘at the sharp end’ than look further up the tree where systemic and cultural issues reside. The education process for learning-focused investigations starts with understanding human error and human factors. The Essentials class, 10-week programme, and face-to-face programmes provide this initial insight, but the uptake across the industry, at a leadership level, is almost non-existent. Four free workshops are planned for Rebreather Forum 4.0 to help address this.

Confidential information management system. Currently, no system allows the storage of context-rich diving incident data outside the law-enforcement or legal system in a manner that can be used for learning. After discussions with senior training agency staff, it appears that as little as possible is written down following an incident. When it is, it is shared with the attorney to enable the ‘attorney-client’ privilege to be invoked and protected from discovery. If internal communications occur via voice, then the potential learning is retained in the heads of those involved but will fade over time. Furthermore, if they leave that role or organisation, then the information is almost guaranteed to be lost.

  • Halcyon Sidemount
  • Fourth Element

Social Constructs: Two interdependent elements are needed to support learning: psychological safety and a “Just Culture.” With the former, the majority of modern research strongly suggests that it is the presence of psychological safety that allows organisations to develop and learn (Edmondson, 1999). Edmondson describes numerous case studies where organisational and team performance was improved because incidents, problems, and near-misses were reported. Paradoxically, the more reports of failure, the greater the learning. It was not because the teams were incompetent; they wanted to share the learning and realised that they could get better faster with rapid feedback. They also knew that they wouldn’t be punished because psychological safety is about taking an interpersonal risk without fear of retribution or reprisal – this could be speaking up, it could be challenging the status quo, it could be saying “I don’t know”, or it could be about trying something new and coming up with an unexpected outcome.

The second requirement is a Just Culture which recognises that everyone is fallible, irrespective of experience, knowledge, and skills. This fallibility includes when rules are broken too, although sabotage and gross negligence (a legal term) are exceptions. Neither a Just Culture nor psychological safety are visible in the diving industry, although some pockets are present. To support psychological safety (proactive/prospective) and a Just Culture (reactive), there is a need for strong, demonstrable leadership:

  • Leaders who have integrity – they walk the talk.
  • Leaders who show vulnerability – talking about their own mistakes including the context and drivers; leaders who want to look at organisational issues inside their own organisation – not just point fingers at others problems.
  • Leaders who recognise that human error is only the starting point to understand something going wrong, not the end.

‘…the will to implement major reforms…’

This is probably the hardest part because learning involves change. Change is hard. It costs cognitive effort, time, and money, and this has an impact on commercial viability because of the need to generate new materials, to educate instructor trainers/instructors and divers about the change and do it in multiple languages. Unless there is a major external pressure, e.g., the insurance companies threaten to withdraw support, things are unlikely to change because there aren’t enough people dying in a single event to trigger an emotional response for change. For example, in the General Aviation sector in the US approximately 350 people die each year, but if these deaths happened in airliners, it would mean two to three crashes per year, and this would be considered unacceptable.

In 2022, more than 179 people died diving in the US. (personal communications with DAN)

The most radical changes happen when double-loop learning is applied.

NASA did not learn from the Challenger disaster because it focused on single-loop learning, and when Columbia was lost, the investigation unearthed a lack of organisational learning i.e., double-loop learning. Chapter 8 from the Columbia Accident Investigation Board provides many parallels with the diving industry. The recent changes to PADI drysuit training standards following a fatal dive on a training course provide an example of single-loop learning – fix the ‘broken instructor’ and clarify course training requirements. The double-loop learning approach would be to look at self-certification and the wider quality management across the agency/industry; however, such an approach has significant commercial disadvantages across the board.

Creating a Learning Culture

The previous paragraphs talk about many of the issues we’ve got, but how do we improve things?

  1. Move to using a language that is learning-based, not ‘knowing’-based. This video from Crista Vesel covers the topic relatively quickly. This includes not using counterfactuals (could have, should have, would have, failed to…) which are informed by hindsight bias. Fundamentally, counterfactuals tell a story that didn’t exist.
  1. Look to local rationality rather than judging others. Move from who (is to blame) and ‘why did you do that?’, to ‘how did it make sense for you to do that?’. Separate the individual from the actions/behaviours and stop applying the fundamental attribution bias where we believe the failure is due to an individual issue rather than the context.
  1. Look to break down the barriers between the silos and share information. Ultimately, the stakeholders within the diving community should be looking to create a safe diving environment. Throwing rocks and stones at each other for ‘incompetence’ is not going to help.
  1. Adopt the Five Principles of Human and Organisational Performance as outlined in this blog.
  1. Build ‘If Only…’ or something produced for the recreational market, into training programmes at the instructor trainer, instructor, and diver level. This way the culture can slowly change by telling context-rich stories that have ‘stickiness’. However, this requires a fundamental shift in terms of how stories are told and how risk is portrayed in the diving industry.
  1. Finally, recognise we are all fallible. Until we accept that all divers are fallible and are trying to do the best they can, with the knowledge they have, the money they have, the resources they have, the skills they’ve acquired, and the drivers and goals they are facing, then we are unlikely to move forward from where we are, and we’ll keep choosing the easy answer: ‘diver error’.


InDEPTH: Examining Early Technical Diving Deaths: The aquaCORPS Incident Reports (1992-1996) by Michael Menduno

InDEPTH: The Case for an Independent Investigation & Testing Laboratory by John Clarke

Gareth Lock has been involved in high-risk work since 1989. He spent 25 years in the Royal Air Force in a variety of front-line operational, research and development, and systems engineering roles which have given him a unique perspective. In 2005, he started his dive training with GUE and is now an advanced trimix diver (Tech 2) and JJ-CCR Normoxic trimix diver. In 2016, he formed The Human Diver with the goal of bringing his operational, human factors, and systems thinking to diving safety. Since then, he has trained more than 450 people face-to-face around the globe, taught nearly 2,000 people via online programmes, sold more than 4,000 copies of his book Under Pressure: Diving Deeper with Human Factors, and produced “If Only…,” a documentary about a fatal dive told through the lens of Human Factors and A Just Culture.

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