17 February 2006

UK diving incidents in 2005 highest ever recorded

Diving incidents in 2005 were the highest ever recorded, but the number of fatalities was reduced from last year, according to the BSAC's Diving Incidents Report.

Delivering the report at BSAC's Diving Officers' Conference, safety and incidents officer Brian Cumming revealed that there had been 17 fatal incidents in the UK, compared to 25 in 2004.

Of the 17 fatalities recorded between October 2004 and September 2005, two were double fatalities. Five of those who died were BSAC members.

Brian spoke out strongly against the practise of solo and trio diving, which together attributed to six of the deaths. He said trio diving often led to separation.

"Pair diving clearly saves lives," Brian said. "Four of the year's fatalities involved solo diving and to throw more light on these events I conducted a study of the database. The current database goes back to 1998 and it contains 138 fatalities, giving a total of 146 deaths. Of this total, 19 related to solo diving. This means that 13 per cent of our fatalities were solo divers and we can be sure that this is significantly higher than the fraction of dives that are conducted solo."

As well as solo and trio diving, Brian highlighted non-diving-related medical problems, deep diving, rebreather diving, equipment failure and rapid ascent as the main factors in all of 2005's deaths.

A total of 441 diving incidents were reported in the UK, the highest-ever recorded. Brian said it was not clear if the increasing trend was the result of more incidents, more diving, better data capture or a combination of these factors.

Of all diving incidents, 98 were ascent-related, the highest number ever recorded, and a 23 per cent increase on 2004 figures. Brian echoed his comments from the previous year's conference about the rising number of incidents, which 'clearly indicated' poor buoyancy technique and training.

"Incidents associated with abnormal ascents have risen dramatically," he said. "These are avoidable problems and instructors should make this a priority area for attention." Boating and surface incidents continued to decline, said Brian, adding that the 2005 figures indicated a 'levelling out' at around 90. However, he highlighted the 'worrying' number of cases where divers were struck by boats.

UK incidents involving the coastguard agency and RNLI increased slightly on last year. Praising the emergency services, Brian emphasised the importance of divers reporting incidents to the coastguard early.

He concluded that reported incidents and numbers of fatalities were in line with the trends of recent years but warned against complacency.

"As has been stated many times before, most of the incidents could have been avoided had those involved followed a few basic principles of safe diving practice," he said.

For full details of the Diving Incidents Report, see the BSAC website www.bsac.org.

Source: www.divemagazine.co.uk


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