13 January 2006

New Zealand Underwater Association to introduce new scuba diving guidelines

New scuba diving safety guidelines are to be introduced New Zealand to try to reduce the number of deaths.

A diver recently drowned in the Marlborough Sounds, taking the 2005 to five, and experts say most could have been prevented.

The activity is one of New Zealand's most popular past times but it kills on average six people per year.

"The coroners report from the past five years show over half of the people haven't been following the safe diving practise standards," says Lynn Taylor, president of the New Zealand Underwater Association.

The organisation has been working hard throughout 2005 to introduce new safety guidelines which will include an emphasis on encouraging more regular medical tests, particularly for older divers.

Alan Muir, executive director of Water Safety New Zealand, has been helping to produce the recommendations.

"I would say a lot of guys just see diving as an exercise and primarily just put on their gear - they've done it for a long time, they really don't check themselves over too well, from a health point of view or a fitness point of view," says Muir.

But experts in the field say it's not just diver's health that needs more attention and equipment neglect is also responsible for many diving accidents.

Dave Drane, owner of diving specialists Splash Gordon, says looking after your own gear is what will keep you alive under the water.

"You wouldn't buy a second hand parachute...you know for your own gear, you're best to get your gear serviced annually," says Drane.

But there are fears the new guidelines may get a cold reception.

"You've got a lot of guys out there now who have been diving for a long time and to ask them to go along and get a medical certificate to go diving, a recreational activity, it's like asking a hunter to get a medical before he goes hunting," says diving instructor Jeff Vincent.

And while it may be a good idea, it will be difficult to police.

The Underwater Association says it will distribute the new guidelines to medical centres and dive shops across the country within the next few week.

Source: www.tvnz.co.nz/view/page


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