While many persons remain active in diving throughout the year, many do not. Generally the active divers maintain competency with their skills. However, those persons who opt not to dive regularly, or who do not have the opportunity to dive regularly because of their geographic location or by virtue of some other reason may have their skill levels degrade significantly. This is one of the prime reasons that diver requalification has been discussed as vigorously as it has been this past year.
The extreme examples of infrequent diving activity are the persons who, once certified, only dive during their vacations. This may occur annually, or even less frequently. Our members in the resort diving areas see the highest percentage of these sporadic divers. While there are many possible approaches to mitigate the possible consequences of such infrequent activity, this month's Forum revolved about the suggestion made by Bret Gilliam (NAUI 3234L), Director of Diving Operation and Aquatic Activity for Ocean Quest International, a dive/cruise operation.
He posed the question of allowing instructors and dive operators to immediately appropriate certification cards of persons whose diving skills had degraded to the point that they were hazards to both themselves and their buddies. No definition for "obviously incompetent or unable" divers was proposed, nor did he recommend that this was the best manner in which to approach the problem. His thought was that this is one possible manner in which we might be able to increase the quality of the divers in resort settings, a problem he deals with daily in his diving operations.
While relatively few responses are included in this column, the membership was unanimously opposed to this concept. The issue of due process was of concern, as was the potential problem with arbitrary revocation of certification cards. Many members compared this type of activity with those likely to be found in "police states," where individual rights are repressed.
The most common alternative given was to take the name of the diver's instructor, reporting that to the Branch Manager or Headquarters. Then, if an instructor's name appeared an inordinate number of times he/she could be contacted regarding the quality of instruction. However, this recommendation disregards the time lag between instruction and the diving activity, where information that the diver may have been taught has been forgotten due to no fault of the instructor involved.
The problem of sporadic divers with degrading skill levels is an issue which will not disappear in the coming years, and will need further discussion before an acceptable solution is attained. Your input to this issue in the form of responses to this column, participation in roundtables with industry leaders at conferences like ICUE and DEMA, and suggestions made to headquarters staff and the Board of Directors will assist this process.
QUESTION: "Should an instructor/dive operator be permitted to confiscate a C-card on the spot for obviously incompetent/unable divers? Why/why not?"
A. I personally do not think an instructor can pull a person's certification card. The individual paid for training which led to his being issued a certification card by an instructor who, by so doing, indicated that in his opinion the individual had met all necessary requirements set forth by the issuing agency. If the person is a poor diver it should be documented to the ethics committee of the certifying agency for action against the instructor.
--James R. Stewart, NAUI A-88; La Jolla, CA (Diving Officer for Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the National Science Foundation. Has extensive research diving and instruction experience worldwide. Member, NAUI Board of Advisors, Recipient of the Leonard Greenstone Award, NOGI Award, and other awards. Has written diving safety guidelines for a wide variety of governmental and private institutions.)
A. NO!! This might go over in Russia, but it is definitely not for the United States. It would be like giving your driving instructor from high school the ability to take your drivers license away for speeding. Our responsibility as instructors is to train SCUBA divers and issue certification cards if all requirements and met AND the student has the proper attitude to be a safe diver. Although it is difficult to withhold a certification card from a student who you know will abuse the privilege of certification, it is not impossible. This is the time to do it, not after they receive their card.
A good student could develop bad habits after certification. If they were properly trained this is less likely. If a diver continues to show dangerous diving practices after certification I believe NAUI should be able to "pull their card" but only in the same manner an instructor can loose his/her instructor card. This would be accomplished through an ethic committee and jury of his/her peers. But, then again, when was the last time you heard of a NAUI Instructor getting their card pulled? Lord knows there are a few bad apples in that barrel.
--Hank Tonnemacher, NAUI 4286; St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (President of Seven Seas Limited, a diving instructional and underwater videography company. As a Professional Educator has taught both privately and managed a number of resort diving operations. Has taught all levels up to and including ITCs. Past Dive Officer for Hydrolab, an underwater scientific habitat which was based at West Indies Laboratory.)
A. No way. This would be like a police officer confiscating your drivers license for an alleged traffic violation. The obvious objective is to prevent an accident if incompetent or unsafe activities are observed. On a boat trip, for example, the divemaster simply suspends a divers activities if they are demonstrating unsafe diving practices. If he or she makes a big deal out of it, make it clear what the rules are. If they cannot abide by them, they are not welcomed back. A list of "offenders" could be kept.
On the other hand, if a diver finds him/herself on a trip or in a situation where the conditions are more advanced than the diver was trained in, he may appear to be "incompetent". How many instructors will be able to discern this? What criteria should be used? Would getting caught in a current and becoming tired, and possibly requiring assistance qualify for revocation of certification? How about falling down in the surf? I can see the instructors rushing down to the shoreline ready to pull the divers card!!
We must remember that there are very few actual laws controlling diving. While we should certainly be concerned with obviously incompetent or unable divers, confiscating their C-card is not the solution. Perhaps it lies in continuing education or "requalification". Incidentally, would an instructor trainer be able to confiscate an instructor's C-Card?
--John Heine, NAUI 5924; Moss Landing, CA (Diving Safety Officer at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories of the California State University. Course-director for 3 ITC's. Past Mid-Pacific Branch manager. Serves as Secretary of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences, and is a contributing editor of Sources. Holds a masters degree in marine biology.)
A. I do not believe this would be a feasible practice for the rank and file divers. However, NAUI officials (Branch Managers for example) should have the ability to temporarily suspend an Instructor's teaching privileges for unsafe practices pending due process.
--Ronald J. Ryan, NAUI 7205L; Two Harbors, Catalina Island, CA (Supervisor, Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber. Past employee in the commercial diving industry, where his duties included mixing special gasses for diving.)
A. There are two reasons instructors should not be able to confiscate certification cards. The first is that it is unconstitutional and the diving community does not need to join in the police state/intimidation mentality that already permeates our society. Secondly divers are generally in the sport for recreation and should not have to be looking over their shoulders for some bored, neurotic instructor who wants to impress his friends and impose his/her standards on the rest of the diving community by confiscating certification cards. As an alternative may I suggest that the name of the diver's instructor be obtained and the instructor's certification card revoked, as they have failed in their duties to train the diver properly.
--Don Canestro, NAUI 5877; Santa Barbara, CA (Research diver at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Has taught extensively in university settings.)
A. NO! If instructors start behaving like cops then the divers will begin behaving like criminals and then one of the good guys just might get shot. Seriously, we need to make sure we put only the qualified students in possession of "C" cards. As instructors we need to be able to say "no, you need more training" before we just give out cards. Quality instruction should come before dollars!
--John N. Sayer, NAUI #11122; Fullerton, CA (Staff at North Orange County Regional Occupational Program. Teaches Openwater I to ITCs.)
A. This is a controversial question with a wide range of ramifications. As dive leaders we are trained to teach safe diving. But, what would be defined as obviously incompetent/unable? Would entering through surf with mask on forehead and fins around wrist be considered incompetent, even if the diver successfully makes the entry. And if a diver is proven incompetent/unable doesn't that reflect something about their training? If so, should instructors be liable their students' incompetence? Should the instructor have their teaching privileges revoked? What if this person refuses to hand over their C-card, should we physically confiscate the card?
To me it makes much more sense to have a renewable C-card, for everyone, even lifetime members. NAUI can be the owner of the card and can revoke the card holders privilege if that individual is found incompetent/unable by a peer review board. This shouldn't allow the incompetent diver's instructor to get off "scott-free". If too many of any particular instructor's students are found incompetent maybe NAUI should take action against this instructor.
--James Weston, NAUI ????; Santa Cruz?, CA (Private Professional Instructor, had taught for Fort Ord, dive stores and universities.)
A. Turning the question around for illustration purposes, should divers be able to confiscate the C-cards of obviously incompetent instructors or dive operators? Unfortunately, situations will arise when either response might be justified, however unrealistic.
Diving is, and must remain, a self-policing activity. We have no option but to rely on the good offices of independent instructors to ensure that the minimum standards for certification are met. Each member must then make a conscious effort to maintain and/or develop adequate skills to continue to dive safely and encourage and assist others to do the same. Recognizing the potential for "bad days", etc., it is inappropriate to expect instructors to make sound decisions without a full appreciation of the skills, capabilities, or background of any diver in question. With the additional risk of abuse arising from interpersonal conflicts, the idea of confiscation becomes totally inappropriate.
--Neal Pollock, NAUI 7068; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (Diving Officer for the University of British Columbia, and past President of the Canadian Association for Underwater Science. Past candidate for the NAUI Canada Board of Directors.)
A. Working at a busy Caribbean dive resort, I find this question particularly important as well as particularly difficult to answer. There are many divers who no doubt should have their cards revoked as they have absolutely no watermanship and diving skills as well as no basic knowledge or respect of diving theory. In these cases I feel like I have my hands tied behind my back and I just want to grab that card and cut it up. Unfortunately, to choose a standard as to when a card could be revoked would be nearly impossible. I have come to a sad realization that the majority of divers lack greatly in some area of basic knowledge or skill. The largest single problem being not knowing how to or simply not using the dive tables. Some cannot remove and replace their mask on the surface without problems, yet are confident that they can go unguided on a reef dive, while others can dive circles around most but do not know the difference between nitrogen narcosis and decompression sickness, nor could they name a single symptom of either. So where do you draw the line?
If we have the power to randomly revoke, I am afraid that those who honestly want help may be afraid to ask as they would feel that since I forgot they are going to take my card away. We do need some power to retest, reteach, or revoke. I think that the key to this problem comes back to the age old question of recertification which is an equally difficult one to answer. I hope that some day soon we can reach a compromise such as a short knowledge review exam and a one dive skill review session rather than a mandatory course. If a diver cannot complete this successfully, then a review course be required or their card revoked. This could be a yearly requirement, or administered at any time at the discretion of an instructor. In this way we can remain fair to all and find some of the silent problem divers as well as the obvious bozos.
--Pamela Teitel, NAUI 11583; Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles (Assistant Manager and Head of Instruction for Sand Dollar Dive and Photo. Has worked full time in dive stores both in management and instruction for six years on Bonaire, and for three years before that in New York. A PADI Master Instructor who recently crossed over to NAUI.)
A. After reading Members' Forum in the July/August issue of Sources, I feel that some of the comments made by the writers who replied were very harsh in suggesting that the instructor be disciplined because of an incompetent former student.
Three factors are essential to successfully train a student--adequate course content and standards, a competent instructor, and a student with the willingness and ability to absorb the knowledge and master the necessary skills.
However, even if the student was correctly and successfully trained by a capable instructor, according to the training agency's standards, that does not guarantee that the student will continue to be an efficient, safe diver. The instructor cannot force the student to dive regularly dive or to advance their diving knowledge and education.
The instructor cannot be held responsible for the students' level of proficiency ad infinitum. The question of instructors not teaching in accordance with NAUI standards is a separate issue and should be treated as such.
--Lynda Hamilton, NAUI Z7002; St. Philip, Barbados (ACUC Instructor 137MA. Teaches privately, active as a volunteer hyperbaric chamber tender treating diving accidents, and committee member of the Barbados Branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club.)
A. Today I received a client who is certified as a NAUI diver. He is also an asthmatic and a heavy smoker. He says he was certified by obtaining a medical release. I think this would have been a wonderful opportunity to confiscate the certification card. It then could have been sent to NAUI, allowing him an opportunity to prove he is fit to dive in order to get the card back.
This may be the "Russian" way! But do we realize that the good, old American way purports to gives these types of divers the right to continue to put themselves, NAUI, their NAUI Instructors, and most importantly the dive operators at risk?!
We need at least one good leftist opinion in this column. We are seeing many instances of medical release abuse. These people should not be allowed to continue their diving activities.
--Bill Horn; Cozumel, Mexico (Owner of Aqua Safari, a NAUI Pro Facility. Has spoken at IQs and other diving conferences. Is involved in many diving safety activities on the island of Cozumel.)
NOTE: The views expressed in this column are opinions held by the individual members referenced, and are not those of NAUI or the editors of NDA News.]Questions for the next issues:
Questions for the next issues:
For the September/October issue: "Should NAUI and the other dive certification agencies take a stronger environmental stance with regards to protecting our underwater resources? Why/Why not?"
For the November/December issue: "Should the certification title Skin Diving Leader be changed to Skin Diving Instructor? Should Skin Diving Leaders, Assistant Instructors, and/or Divemasters be given the right to vote? Why/why not?"
All members are encouraged to respond. This column is for you, the membership, to develop. Answers should be kept fairly brief, preferably no more than two or three paragraphs. Responses to each question will be collated by the editor, condensed if necessary, and printed in this section. New questions may also be posed for discussion. Questions should be concise, and should stimulate a wide cross‑section of the membership. Include with your responses or questions the following information: your name, address, phone number, NAUI membership number, dive‑related employment, past diving accomplishments, and a review of your dive teaching experience. Send your materials to Jeffrey Bozanic, c/o NDA News, P.O. Box 14650, Montclair, CA 91763‑1150.
Compiled and Edited by Jeffrey Bozanic, NAUI 5334L
Sources, Jul/Aug 1990, (2:4), pp. 9-14.
NAUI Members' Forum #18
All content, images and text copright © Jeffrey Bozanic (except as noted). All rights reserved worldwide. No images or text may be copied, duplicated, modified, or redistributed in part of whole (except for printing for personal reference) without prior written consent from Jeffrey Bozanic.