As diving instructors, we have a duty of care to the students we take into the water. We are the experts, and therefore we need to be prepared to make decisions on behalf of our students as well as on behalf of ourselves, taking into consideration their current skill levels and general comfort.
PADI standards provide a fundamental structure within which instructors can operate. For example, the student to instructor ratios represent the maximum number of participants an instructor could take in ideal conditions – instructors can then use this to work back to an appropriate ratio for their personal environment, experience and students.
Ensuring students have appropriate equipment is another example of good risk management. Consider whether their thermal protection is appropriate for the water temperature anticipated at your prospective dive site. Also consider their likely air consumption – students who are nervous will breathe air far more rapidly than an experienced instructor. Even in relatively shallow water, an Open Water Diver course student or Discover Scuba Diving participant may go through their air very quickly. Consider how often you will need to monitor their air supplies, taking the prevailing water conditions into account.
Sometimes the most mundane factors can be overlooked, however a thorough briefing and debriefing after each dive, along with a clear plan for how your dive will be executed, can be very important in the event of an incident underwater. In some parts of the world, a certified assistant is required by law, but in other areas the instructor is responsible for determining whether they wish to take an assistant with them. Consider your supervision of the divers at all levels, and how you will handle a large group if one of them has a problem.
PADI standards also help to enforce good risk management practices from the very start of a diver’s experience. The Statement of Risks and Liability / Liability Release & Assumption of Risk form outlines the risks inherent in scuba diving activities to your students so that they are suitably informed. Similarly, the Medical Statement is used to help screen out divers with possible medical contraindications to diving. This screening is a crucial risk management tool, and failure to use the relevant medical statement – or failure to act appropriately upon the answers from a medical statement by ensuring that written approval is obtained from a physician prior to any in-water activities if there are any “Yes” answers on the medical questionnaire – represents a serious risk to your students as well as compromising your own legal position in the event of an incident.
Adhering to standards and always being safety conscious when supervising others is your best approach to minimise the likelihood of an unfortunate incident from occurring, and ensure you provide your students with the best possible training experience.