Wednesday, August 23, 2006

PADI Response to August 11 blog: "Expert Warns That Scuba Crash Courses Are Putting Lives at Risk"

We have received the following request from PADI to publish a response to our posting of an article about "scuba crash courses". We are delighted to do so and hope that this lays this to rest. Here is the letter in toto. In order to understand this fully, we suggest that you follow the link to the original posting and read the article.

Dear Ern,

We would like to post a response to your 11 August Blog; would you be so kind as to consider including our comments, listed below, on your site archives for this date?

Best regards,
___________________________________

Heather Tremblay
Assistant to the President
___________________________________

PADI Worldwide
The Way the World Learns to Dive®
30151 Tomas
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688
USA
Direct:949 858 7234 x2270
Main: 800 729 7234
Fax: 949 267-1265

Visit PADI: padi.com

Ref: Your item dated August 11, 2006 -

Expert Warns That Scuba Crash Courses Are Putting Lives at Risk

I would like to comment on some of the quotes listed in this article attributed to Dr Bryson. I work in PADI’s office in the UK and am very familiar with the diving scene here. I was one of the individuals quoted in the Guardian News article.

To clarify some points of fact that are, at best, unclear in the article: on the 8th August 2006 a Plymouth Coroner commenced a series of Inquests into four separate diving fatalities that had occurred on the south coast of England during the previous year. Of the four men who tragically died, two were trained by PADI. Both of these accidents occurred during non-training dives.

Dr Bryson from the Plymouth based Diving Disease Research Centre (DDRC) appeared at one of these four inquests where he made some comments about training that were widely reported in the British press at the time. Unfortunately, some of the media coverage was slanted so that it appeared that the quality of PADI training was being brought into question in all these investigations. In fact, (although his final report is yet to be published) the Coroner did not make any negative comments about PADI courses in any of the Inquests.

Dr Bryson has been reported as voicing some personal opinions that are controversial and need addressing with facts rather than emotion.

Dr Bryson states: “PADI have brought that reduction in training down and they claim they have done it with valid data and that there are very, very few problems. Other UK-based diving groups which had longer training regimes have had to come into line.” If this statement is true then one would expect there would have been a significant increase in diving accidents in the UK since PADI started to train large numbers of divers there. In fact this is not the case as the following data indicate.

PADI was little known in the UK prior to 1990, training less than 5,000 Britons a year. During the ten year period of 1980-1989, the average number of recreational diving fatalities per year was 12.1 in the UK1. This was a period when there were significantly less divers than in recent years; for example, the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC), the main training provider at the time, had 34,861 members in 1985; by 1995 they had 52,364.1

From 1990 onwards, PADI training increased in popularity dramatically, and to date PADI has trained over 400,000 Britons as divers. During the last ten years the average number of recreational diving fatalities per year1 has been 17.8. This compares to the 12.1 average in 1989-89, yet the number of divers has risen dramatically, for example it is estimated that there are 699,257 active divers in the UK today,2 far more than in 1985 when the BSAC’s membership of 34,861 made up the bulk of the UK diver population. In proportional terms, the number of fatal accidents has decreased during a time when the number of divers trained by PADI has increased.

Dr Bryson is further quoted as making two comments concerning what he describes as advanced divers: “People want to be advanced divers. They want that certificate and they are willing to pay for it. We have people presently in diving who feel they are advanced but have no experience whatsoever. The diving community needs to be totally re-educated.” And: “I do not believe that someone with eight dives should be classified as an advanced diver. That is madness, end of conversation.”

Dr Bryson is misinformed. Firstly, there is no PADI course named “Advanced Diver”; the nearest title is PADI Advanced Open Water Diver. Secondly, to attain that qualification, a diver must have made at least five confined water divers and nine open water dives. It is probable that Dr Bryson’s mental image of an “advanced diver” is coloured by long experience with the BSAC’s training syllabus. This does include an Advanced Diver qualification, a level that requires at least some sixty dives experience and which aims to qualify a diver to be able to organise groups of divers; a much more similar level to a PADI Divemaster in fact.

The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver in contrast, is designed to allow an Open Water Diver to increase their experience in a controlled way, literally to advance their open water diver skills so that they can begin to broaden their experience. This interpretation of the word ‘advanced’ is well understood in the rest of the recreational diving world. The objectives and limitations of the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course are also clearly explained to the divers themselves.

Even from a cursory reading of the original news story it is clear that there were factors that contributed to the accidents that were unrelated to whether or not the divers held an ‘advanced’ qualification. Fortunately, the Coroner noted these and restricted his findings to the hard facts available to him.

It is relevant to note that subsequently, Dr Bryson’s parent organisation, the DDRC, issued the following position statement:

“DDRC is an independent charity, which provides support and advice to members of all recreational diving agencies at every level of experience.

DDRC believes that where training guidelines, in particular the guidance on diving in different environments and conditions, and medical recommendations are followed diving is a pursuit that can be carried out and enjoyed safely in the UK. The underwater environment and its potential hazards must be respected. DDRC acknowledges the overall high quality of training provided in the UK but feels that divers must recognise their own limitations and gain experience safely in accordance with their training agency guidelines. It is well recognised that a series of small events before and during a dive can accumulate and result in a serious incident. DDRC recommends that all divers follow the procedures taught in their training before, during and after every dive.

Divers have a responsibility to themselves and their dive buddy to honestly and truthfully consider their personal fitness to dive before every single dive and seek advice if they are uncertain. Those guiding or teaching divers must have the confidence to express reservations or abort a dive if they have any doubts regarding the ability or fitness of a diver for the planned dive.

DDRC continues to provide medical advice to divers who contact us and will answer each question to the best of our ability and knowledge.”


In summary, it is unfortunate that Dr Bryson has made a number of emotive comments that are not supported by facts. It is pleasing however to see that the DDRC have clarified their position in responsible terms.

I apologise for the length of this comment but hope that you may be able to include it on your site.

Sincerely,

Mark Caney
Vice President, Training, Education and Memberships
PADI International Ltd
UK

cc: Dr. Drew Richardson
President & Chief Operating Officer
PADI Worldwide

References:

1. British Sub Aqua Club Incident Reports, 1980-2005
2. Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s National Watersports Omnibus Report, June 2005