New PADI Instructors sometimes comment that they spend more time checking paperwork than they do actually diving. So why is paperwork so important?
Firstly, it informs divers of their responsibility to be honest in disclosing and evaluating their medical condition and the risks of diving – even when operators do their very best to provide an enjoyable and relatively safe experience. It also establishes the guidelines all divers are expected to follow when participating in this transformational activity. Paperwork is also used as evidence to help defend dive professionals if an incident occurs and legal action is filed, and is usually a key requirement of your professional liability insurance policy. Each form has its own unique purpose:
Liability Release / Statement of Risks – This document explains the risks of scuba diving to the participant and ensures they are aware that it is possible for something to go wrong. It’s important here to ensure that all the blanks are filled in properly before the diver signs the form. Do not alter the document after the student signs the form, and always confirm the form is signed and dated properly.
Non-agency Acknowledgment – This form explains to your customers that PADI Member businesses are not owned by PADI, that dive professionals are not employees of PADI, and that PADI does not and cannot control the day-to-day operations and decisions of your staff and your business. As with other forms, ensure all the blanks are filled in and that the form is signed and dated.
Safe Diving Practices Statement – This document is designed to inform divers of their responsibility to dive safely – not only while a student diver, but after certification as well. Again, all blanks should be completed, and the form must be signed and dated.
The Medical Statement discusses the risks of diving and asks the diver to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions. Any ‘yes’ answer requires the approval of a physician before participating in any in-water activities. Always have the diver answer a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on each line and again, sign and date the form.
Invariably, one of your divers will answer ‘yes’ to a question on the medical statement and then want to discuss it with you, or change the answer to ‘no’. If the diver chooses to change their answer, think carefully about the reasons they might do so before allowing this.
- Was it a simple oversight? If someone who is biologically male answers yes to, ‘are you pregnant or trying to become pregnant?’ it’s acceptable for the diver to change their answer. Be sure the diver initials and dates the change.
- Did the diver truly misunderstand the question? If a diver initially answers ‘yes’ there must be a reason for it. Counsel the diver to be truthful about medical issues for the benefit of their loved ones, their dive buddy, and their own health and safety. If in any doubt, they should always consult a medical professional.
It is important to schedule sufficient time at the beginning of each course for student divers to fill out the required forms and for you to check them thoroughly – ensuring student divers complete paperwork properly and accurately can be key to your legal protection in the event of an incident.