6 practical reminders for scuba diving after COVID-19
Many organizations have published articles about reducing the risk of Corona infection in diving. I have collected the most important advice from leading diving industry organizations like PADI, DAN, and SSI and put together a list of 6 important reminders for scuba diving after COVID-19.
I have also created a poster that you can download and put on the wall of your diving center as a reminder for yourself and your diving staff.
How to reduce Corona infection risk in scuba diving?
1. Inform your customers and students
Many of your customers may have concerns about the infection risks while going on a diving trip. It is important to inform your customers about the real risk that they will be exposed to when scuba diving and about the steps that you have taken to reduce infection risk to customers and staff.
Ideally, you should inform your customers before they walk into your diving center. For instance, you can publish it on your website. If you have imposed certain restrictions for customers, for instance, the number of people that you can take in your minivan, it is important that your customers understand these rules and adhere to it.
For most training organizations, a medical statement is only required for diving courses. Some dive centers ask all customers to fill in and sign a medical statement. In these times, that is actually a good idea. You can use the medical statement to verify if your customers have developed signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Remember however that the majority of corona infections (about 60%) have no signs or symptoms.
You and your staff should know what to do if somebody who shows signs of COVID-19 infection walks into your dive shop. Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover at home. These people should contact their doctor but will most likely recover without medical care. People that show an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), should seek medical care immediately.
2. Social distancing
General guidelines in the service industry advise 1,5 Meters distance. In a diving business, these guidelines are not always easy to follow. The important thing here is to avoid the gathering of large groups of people. If all customers usually gather in your dive center before the dive, you need enough space to allow for social distancing. You can create an outside waiting area that has more space. If you transport your customers to and from your dive center or boat by car or bus, you may have to leave some seats empty.
On a small boat, following social distancing guidelines can be challenging. You may consider requiring customers and staff to wear masks while on the boat. I have seen restaurants and bars that have created plexiglass walls and other constructions to reduce infection risk. Using these infection blocking devices is your own choice and I guess it depends on how concerned your customers are about COVID-19 infection.
3. Wash your hands
It has already become common knowledge that proper hand hygiene reduces COVID-19 infection risk. Wash your hands regularly with antibacterial soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds, especially after touching high contact surfaces like handrails or door handles. Wash your hands before touching other people’s equipment like masks or regulators.
If no hot water is available, like on a small boat, hand sanitizer can be an alternative. It is a good idea to keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your equipment bag. Be aware that hand sanitizers can be highly flammable so don’t use them near Oxygen or a fire source.
4. Disinfect equipment
Disinfect masks, snorkels, BCD’s and regulators before another person uses them. Preferably straight after leaving the water. In general, equipment can be effectively sanitized by washing it with a 1% bleach solution or commercially available disinfectant. After disinfecting, the equipment should be thoroughly rinsed in freshwater.
Don’t spit in your mask. Use commercially available mask defog or a soapy solution.
I have seen a dive center that announced they will only rent out masks for introduction dives. All other customers have to bring their own mask or purchase one from the dive center. The same system can be considered for regulator mouthpieces. They are cheap and easily exchangeable and the clip can be re-used.
On courses, you need to reconsider the procedures for some of the skills. During the buddy check, buddies should not breathe from each other’s regulator or alternate airsource. Instead, the regulator can be purched to check if it is working. Also, avoid orally inflating your buddies BCD.
If your training agency (like PADI) teaches air sharing from a secondary regulator, make sure to assign teams for this skill so that only one student breathes from the same octopus. The instructor should not play buddy for several students.
If your agency (like SSI) teaches sharing air from the primary regulator, students can hand their primary regulator to their buddy who simulates breathing from it.
On rescue courses and first aid courses, consider how to teach rescue breathing. Avoid skin to skin contact and avoid using the same pocket mask on different ‘victims’. Remember that chlorinated water in the swimming pool is not effective for disinfecting equipment.
6. Keep a contact list
Hopefully, your efforts to reduce COVID-19 infection risk are effective. If people do get infected it is very difficult to trace it back to the source. It could be your dive center or any other place that this person has visited. In this case, it is important to help the authorities in their efforts to reduce the spreading of the virus. You should be able to provide the authorities with a list of all other customers and staff that have been in contact with the infected person and have their contact information. Most dive centers already have a system to manage bookings and logistics so a list like this is easy to produce. You may need to add some information to this system, like which students used the same classroom.
I have created an A4 size poster that shows the 6 reminders for scuba diving after COVID-19. Feel free to download the PDF and put it on the wall of your dive center or boat!