Friday 18 July 2008

Risk assessment - what's it all about?

Service providers are responsible for ensuring that before the start of any diving activity, a suitable generic risk assessment has been prepared. Generic risks are those that we have fore knowledge of and can therefore put control measures in place in advance of the activity. These generic risk assessments should be supplemented with an on site risk assessment immediately before the dive, detailing any previously unforeseen hazards and the special precautions or procedures necessary to reduce the risks; as well as re-evaluating those on the generic risk assessment.

Differences between a 'hazard' and a 'risk':
A hazard is anything with the potential to cause harm. A risk is defined as the liklihood that someone or something would be harmed by the hazard.

Hazards and risks should be continuously monitored during any dive or diving related activity. Dive Leaders should be prepared to put any contingency plans into place at any point during the dive.

A Risk Assessment is nothing more than a common sense approach to identifying significant hazards; who or what is likely to be affected by those hazards; the risks associated with those hazards and what measures you will take to control the risks thereby reducing the harm to anyone or anything during any dive or diver training operation, and then recording what you have done. You will need to review the assessment periodically or whenever there is significant change. The important thing to decide is whether an identified hazard is significant, and whether you can ensure the risk of harm is low or negligible before embarking on your dive.

Risk assessment is already inherent in the way divers go about organising their diving and training through careful dive preparation and planning. The consideration of risk inherent in diver training and supervised dives is already paramount in all diver training organisations' course contents, standards and procedures.
A Risk Assessment is simply a way of recording the significant hazards and what measures you will take to reduce the risk of harm on each and every dive. Don't be over complicated.

Checking for hazards is common sense. In taking action, ask yourself these two questions:

Can I get rid of the hazard altogether? If not, how can I control the risks so that harm is unlikely?

For example:

Risk of: Cold water
Hazard: Hypothermia
Risk control measures: Choose appropriate, well fitting exposure protection in good order; reduce dive time; monitor student divers carefully for early signs of cold; brief student divers on appropriate signals to indicate chill; prepare to exit water early if necessary; have warm clothing and shelter available at the site.

Diving is inherently a hazardous activity; however, the known risks are already minimised to some degree by adherence to your diver training organisations' standards and procedures, e.g. the likelihood of a diver having a mask squeeze is minimised as mask equalisation techniques are taught to all divers in the earliest stages of training. This is therefore no longer a significant hazard as the control measure is in place whilst adhering to your diver training organisations' course contents, standards and procedures.

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