Whether you dive using scuba gear or have air pumped down to you from the surface, the safety checklists divers use are similar. The equipment checks go beyond the air supply, because diving places you in the planet's most hostile environment. Everything associated with the dive, from the suit you wear to the ladder you use to leave the water, influences your safety.
A scuba diver wears a mask that encloses his nose and eyes. The rubber or composition frame of the mask supports a clear glass or polycarbonate panel that allows the diver to see. Straps go around the head to keep the mask in place. The straps must be free of tears or damage. The mask must fit tightly and the straps must allow you to tighten the mask snugly. The glass or polycarbonate “window” must be intact, free of holes, chips, cracks and distortions.
Helmet and Collar
For dives with surface-supplied air -- air from the surface is pumped down to the diver's helmet -- don the helmet collar. Ensure the collar is undamaged. Check the helmet for visible dents and check the action of the latch that secures the helmet to the collar. Connect the supply hose and check the flow of air. After you enter the water, check the hose for leaks at the helmet connection.
Use a pressure gauge to determine that the pressure inside the bottle is 3,000 psi. That’s the pressure of 90 cubic feet of air compressed 206 times to fit into a pressure vessel with a capacity that is just over one cubic foot. A scuba diver’s tank – or bottle -- is a pressure vessel, designed to contain 90 cubic feet of air. Visually inspect the exterior of the bottle for dings, dents and cracks. Inspect the valve at the top of the bottle and ensure the condition of welds on the bottle.
The regulator – the device that controls your airflow -- is a complex mechanical valve. It must work properly at all depths. Clean it after each dive, inspect it before each dive and keep it in good repair.
Ensure that the air hoses are free of cracks and wear. A worn hose will collapse when the air pressure inside is exceeded by the water pressure outside. Likewise, when the air pressure inside exceeds the water pressure– for example, when you’re coming up from the bottom – the hose will attempt to bulge at the weak points around a worn spot or a surface crack that doesn’t penetrate the hose fully. This flexing can cause the hose to blow out. Ensure all airflow controls work properly before you enter the water.
Suit and Weights
The suit you wear, whether it’s a wet suit, a dry suit, a pair of coveralls or a hot-water suit, must be in good condition. Repairs must be small and repaired in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The weight belt must be in good condition. Check the weights’ connection to the harness and be sure the belt release functions correctly. Ensure you can reach your dive knife.
The buoyancy compensator allows you to hover at a particular depth. It can help you go deeper or rise higher in accordance with your decompression plans. Ensure your BC is undamaged. Check the inflation hose and the valve on the hose to ensure the valve works correctly and does not bleed air when the BC is under pressure at the depth at which you’re working.
Whether you go scuba diving in an old set of ScubaPro fins or the latest, most powerful fins on the market that propel you at five knots, submerged, check their condition. If the blade breaks off a fin, you lose some of your mobility and nearly all your speed. Ensure the reef booties you wear under your fins aren’t torn or otherwise damaged from dancing on rocky, underwater reefs. If you're diving with surface supplied air, ensure you wear suitable boots.
Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.