Risk Management in scuba
Scuba diving, one of the most amazing sports out there. You get to explore another world. But, like anything else there are risks and as a scuba instructor you need to be fully aware of them and take every precaution that you can with risk management. Whether in an instructional class or just recreational diving there is a risk, and it is important that both the instructor, dive center and client recognize and acknowledge these risks.
As a professional Divemaster or instructor you have a responsibility towards providing your divers with a safe diving experience. During your Divemaster and especially during the PADI IDC we try to educate you, the budding professional about this and what actions you can take.
To assist with that we have now introduced an additional paperwork workshop during the PADI IDC. This follows our risk management presentation and gives the students the chance to put together their paperwork for a variety of courses.
So where to begin? Basically, risk management starts with you.
Releases and medicals as a tool
Paperwork is one of those things that every scuba professional has to deal with. You may not like it, and I can’t really think of anyone that does, but you have to do it. Before anyone sets foot in the water they must sign their forms. There are three main forms that you deal with, Liability release, safe diving practices and a medical statement. The medical is only used in general for training but the other two are for every scuba activity. The Liability release outlines the risks specific to scuba diving, the safe diving practices looks at what responsibilities a diver has and the medical is well…a medical.
All forms need to be read and filled out so that they can be read. You as a dive pro need to check the forms. Not your “secretary or assistant”, you. Because if something does happen, you are the one who is held responsible, no one else. If you can’t read, them they have to be redone. If parts have been crossed out and adjusted they need to be redone.
Any questions that come up regarding medicals you cannot answer (unless you are a dive doctor obviously)Once you are aware of any medical situation you can be help liable. Someone can easily turn around and say “but my instructor said it was fine”. If any medical concerns are brought up then they need to see a doctor and that is the final say.
Now whilst all of the forms are pretty standard you will in addition for each program, need a training record. This is the paperwork that shows exactly what skills were completed. There are training records for every course where both the instructor and the student signs, so if there is any question about skills that were completed the record is there. For all of the additional specialty programs there is one training record in the appendix section of each one, so make sure you use them.
Exams and knowledge reviews
With the majority of programs there are exams and knowledge reviews that students need to complete. As an instructor you check them over with your student to make sure they understand them. The student then signs and dates the bottom. As a prudent instructor you can go the extra mile and make sure that the student signs each question you reviewed. Then there is no doubt that they understand everything.
But what paperwork to use?
One of the most confusing and daunting things as a new instructor is paperwork. With so many different forms listed on the PADI website how do you know which form to actually use? First up you need to check your instructor manual for the course you are teaching. What is listed?
Then you need to check that you have the latest forms and they are correct for your area. There are slightly different forms depending on whether you are in Europe or Americas so check.
Once you have that print them out, have the students or divers sign them in a relaxed atmosphere (they can’t sign under duress!) and then check that they are filled out completely and legible.
Keep the forms together and make sure they are then filed away for 7 years (or more depending on your local law). The dive center can keep them, in the case of an independent instructor you will need to keep them.
If you are still unsure of what to use, check with any other instructors at the dive center and then if not helpful you can just call PADI. Easy enough right?! Remember, don’t be pressured into rushing paperwork and missing things. Be the prudent instructor and do it right.
And remember, your paperwork as a dive instructor is a representation of you as a professional. Always be a conservative and prudent dive instructor and have a long career.
If you want the extra practice with the paperwork as part of you risk management, then try a workshop like we do in our PADI Instructor program here at Go Pro.