SCUBA & Snorkeling Instruction Expert Article

SCUBA and snorkeling can be reasonably safe when properly supervised and directed in accordance with the World Recreational SCUBA Training Council standards. In this article, SCUBA and snorkeling expert, Brett Galambos explores the standards and some of the typical discovery questions relevant to underwater diving investigations.

SCUBA & Snorkeling Instruction Expert Witness

SCUBA & Snorkeling Instruction Discovery Questions

Injuries and Fatalities

Learning how to SCUBA dive and snorkel is relatively safe, when students are given proper training and provided deliberate practice of skills, directed by a competent SCUBA professional. 

All divers should be aware of possible risks, such as human error, environmental conditions, hazardous marine life encounters, and equipment malfunctions and failure. The most common cause of SCUBA and snorkel injury or fatality is human error, typically related to gas management and/or contents, or poor buoyancy control. 

Regulations & Standards

Recreational SCUBA and Snorkeling is not federally regulated in the United States, unless the diver is commercially certified or operating in a scientific diving program. In those circumstances, the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) is the regulating body. 

For recreational diving, the World Recreational SCUBA Training Council (WRSTC) standards have been accepted as a minimum for training and safety. The WRSTC standards have been developed to address basic supervision requirements, dive depths, environmental factors and considerations, class curriculum, and student to professional diver ratio during open water instruction.

Discovery Topics Relevant to SCUBA & Snorkeling Instruction/Supervision

Quality instruction and supervision of SCUBA/snorkeling programs is critical for developing a new diver’s abilities, along with a deliberate focus on their own safety, as well as the safety of others with whom they intend to buddy dive. 

Below are components for evaluating the instruction and supervision of SCUBA and snorkeling:

  • Attentiveness of the Instructor to meet the needs and behaviors of the students through appropriate supervision
  • Positioning and proximity of dive professionals while practicing skills
  • Ability to intervene for redirection or to correct an unsafe situation
  • Training and qualifications of the dive professionals and instructors
  • Instructor to Student ratio along with the aquatic environment involved

Brett Scott Galambos - SCUBA & Snorkeling Expert Witness
© Brett Scott Galambos

Divers need to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to verify the safety of their equipment and resolve reasonably anticipated issues. The following topics should be explored when evaluating the adequacy of an underwater training program.

  • Setup of Equipment – Students must be taught the proper set up of their equipment, such as attaching their tank securely, how the regulator attaches to the tank in the proper configuration of their standardized hose set up and ensuring the O-ring for the regulator first stage is present and viable for use. 
  • Gas Selection and Tank Levels - Students must be trained to ensure their tank is full before each dive, the contents are the appropriate gas for their diving needs and the tank has been visually inspected and hydro tested according to industry standards.  
  • Personal Weight Systems – Students need to be familiar with proper set up of their personal weight system in case they need to release them in an emergency while on their dive. There have been instances where divers have placed their weights in pockets not designed to hold and release. Consequently, these divers cannot release their weights to ascend from an emergency and have been recovered, post-incident, fully weighted.  
  • Ability to Breath Naturally – Of critical importance is training students to breathe naturally and never hold their breath while using SCUBA. Failing to breathe and equalize properly during SCUBA is extremely dangerous and can cause an air embolism (bubble in the vascular system), decompression sickness ("the bends"), or ear barotrauma (burst eardrum).   
  • Buddy Diving – Divers must be taught the reasons for buddy diving rather than solo diving.

SCUBA / Snorkeling Expert Witness Investigations

Robson Forensic experts are prepared to utilize a multidisciplinary approach to investigate and thoroughly assess cases involving SCUBA and snorkeling incidents. A thorough investigation includes technical analysis of compliance to dive guidelines, standards, and supervision. 

Were there any potentially risky behaviors on the part of the dive professional working with students? Are preexisting medical conditions of the diver a factor? Did faulty dive equipment cause the incident?  We will examine equipment, dive procedures, and diver actions to scientifically reconstruct causation of the SCUBA diving or snorkeling incident.

For more information, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

Featured Expert

Brett Scott Galambos, SCUBA Expert & Professional Educator

Brett Scott Galambos, MSDI, M.Ed.

SCUBA Expert & Professional Educator
Brett Galambos has been involved in SCUBA diving and aquatics programs for more than three decades. He is a certified Lifeguard Instructor and SCUBA Instructor, as well as a Dive Master through… read more.


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