Ten Rules for Safe Scuba Diving

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We all know that there’s some risk involved in diving. For many of us, the challenge of preparing for and dealing with potential problems is part of the sport’s attraction.

Our entry-level dive courses teach us about the causes and outcomes of diving accidents. Every good dive briefing should include information about how to avoid dangerous situations, and emergency procedures for coping with them should they arise. With sufficient training and preparation, we can easily avoid most diving accidents. Nonetheless, every diver should have at least a basic understanding of what to do if things go wrong. Although the danger potential may seem high, diving is actually a relatively safe sport when conducted sensibly. A roundup of data from the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Japan shows that the statistical chance of fatality while diving is 2-3 per 100,000 dives. The following list of rules is by no means exhaustive, but offers basic rules to minimize the likelihood of a dive accident.

Safe Scuba Diving


hispanic young woman holding breath

1. Never hold your breath

As every good entry-level dive student knows, this is the most important rule of scuba. And for good reason — breath holding underwater can result in serious injury and even death. In accordance with Boyle’s law, the air in a diver’s lungs expands during ascent and contracts during descent. As long as the diver breathes continuously, this is not a problem because excess air can escape. But when a diver holds his breath, the air can no longer escape as it expands, and eventually, the alveoli that make up the lung walls will rupture, causing serious damage to the organ.

Injury to the lungs due to over-pressurization is known as pulmonary barotrauma. In the most extreme cases, it can cause air bubbles to escape into the chest cavity and bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these air bubbles can lead to an arterial gas embolism, which is often fatal. Depth changes of just a few feet are enough to cause lung-over expansion injuries. This makes holding one’s breath dangerous at all times while diving, not only when ascending. Avoiding pulmonary barotrauma is easy; simply continue to breathe at all times.

Scuba diver in the swimming pool.

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