Maintaining Expertise

DAN staff education and enrichment in 2018

DAN staff members learn the importance of practicing buddy skills for safe breath-hold diving.

At DAN®, we are divers who work on behalf of divers. Among our staff are recreational, technical and even former military divers. We dive open-circuit and rebreathers, we're certified by various training organizations, and many of us are dive professionals. Just as there are numerous ways to approach the sport of diving, approaches to dive safety are manifold.

A critical aspect of our work in dive safety is possessing practical knowledge of diving in all its forms. Beyond knowing just diving, we also know the dive industry — dive operations, equipment manufacturers, safety standards and everything else that goes into the sport. We are constantly taking advantage of opportunities to increase our collective knowledge, which ultimately allows us to share what we have learned and make diving safer around the world.
Real-World Hazard Identification
One of our major accomplishments in 2018 was launching the DAN Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) program, the first such program adapted specifically for dive businesses. As we developed HIRA over the course of the year, Francois Burman, DAN's director of diving and hyperbaric safety, led several groups of staff members through the related Dive Safety Advisor (DSA) course. From cylinder fills and compressors to noise levels and liability, the course covers the breadth of safety issues that dive businesses face, gathered from real-world situations. Our staff became well-versed in identifying, evaluating and making recommendations about hazards.

Following the courses, the new DSAs visited dive shops to test what we learned, get feedback from dive business owners and make changes to the program. Through the process of learning about the common dangers dive businesses face, how to talk to the owners and how DAN can support them, we were able to refine our approach. The experience was invaluable not only for our own education but also for helping to improve safety for dive businesses — and thus their employees and customers.

While we rely on dive businesses for our own diving, rarely do we get the chance to poke around behind the scenes and find out the owners' real concerns. In-person visits to dive businesses ensure that the efforts we make at DAN — data gathering, program development and research — have meaning and impact where it matters most: where divers are.
Safe Freediving Practices
When we talk about dive safety, we include all divers — whether or not they use compressed gas. Freediving (or breath-hold diving) is growing in both popularity and visibility. Recently we have pursued research in the physiological effects of freediving, so what better way to help us understand it than to do it ourselves? As DAN has sought to improve freedivers' access to our medical and safety resources, we have an alliance with Performance Freediving International (PFI). PFI has an extensive array of training courses, so we asked them to instruct our staff in the basics.

Chris Bustad and Ryan Reed of PFI came to Durham, North Carolina, to teach their Introduction to Freediving course. During a 90-minute classroom session at DAN headquarters, more than a dozen DAN staff members learned the basics of safe recreational freediving, including breathing techniques and proper performance of static apnea. Bustad and Reed stressed the importance of direct one-on-one supervision and the role of a buddy in keeping a diver safe during breath-hold diving. The group then had an in-water session at the pool at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to practice breath holding, rescue and safety techniques. The course concluded with four breath-holds beginning at 1 minute and leading up to 2.5 minutes, which several staff members achieved.
Dive Gear

Regular visual inspection of cylinders is important to check for a variety of potential hazards. Several DAN staff are certified visual cylinder inspectors.
We want our staff to know as much as they can not only about the different ways people dive but also the gear divers use. Divers with well-maintained gear are less likely to have a failure that leads to an emergency, so it's important that DAN staff know how dive gear functions and is best maintained. Professional Scuba Inspectors/Professional Cylinder Inspectors (PSI-PCI) staff conducted three courses for us: Visual Cylinder Inspection, Oxygen Cylinder Cleaning and Valve Repair. The courses served as a refresher for some staff members and as new information for others at DAN.

We met with Mark Gresham of PSI-PCI at the Luxfer cylinder plant in Graham, North Carolina, and covered the basics of scuba cylinders, learning about cylinder materials and qualities, markings, safety concerns and inspection tools. We learned the inspection process and performed our own inspections, using our new knowledge to identify bulges and dents, thread damage and interior pitting, cracking and corrosion. Staff members who attended the session are now certified cylinder inspectors.

Denita Stowers, Luxfer's quality control manager, provided an extensive tour of their manufacturing process so we could see a cylinder go from a blank metal ingot to a finished product. The precision and accuracy of both the manufacturing and the testing process of each cylinder was impressive, as were all the details from the hand-numbering of the crown to the finishing touches. It reinforced our classroom education about cylinder composition and allowed us to see what goes into the cylinders we rely on every time we dive. During our tour, Gresham and Stowers answered our questions and gave us a thorough understanding of cylinder construction. What might appear to be a simple metal container is a rigorously engineered and manufactured object.

The Luxfer plant tour gave DAN staff the opportunity to observe the manufacturing process and rigorous quality control that compressed-gas cylinders undergo.
The experience was so valuable that we invited Gresham to DAN headquarters for two additional courses on cylinder cleaning and valve repair. A large group of staff members attended to learn about the safe use of oxygen, suitable cleaning solutions and how to inspect for and remove contaminants. With the popularity of nitrox as a breathing gas, the precise standards for the use of oxygen and the care of scuba cylinders are very important. The valve repair course provided an overview of valve types, operation, servicing and tools, and then we worked in pairs to disassemble, evaluate and reassemble a scuba valve. Seeing a valve deconstructed and knowing how it works as well as what might compromise its safety was worthwhile. Even if we never do a valve repair, knowing as much as we can about possible safety concerns is paramount to our mission.

The common thread of all these experiences is the continued education of DAN employees. The more we educate ourselves about every facet of diving, the more we learn about where to apply our resources. It is important that everyone at DAN, regardless of department or job, continues to adapt to changes in diving — whether it is new equipment, refinement of existing practices or brand new approaches to venturing underwater. We want to make every dive a safe one no matter how it's done. For us it begins with knowledge and experience, and we appreciate the partnerships that help us learn about — and experience — all that diving has to offer.

© Alert Diver — Q1 Winter 2019