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SCUBA diving

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Guideline review date: 28 October 2021

​This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA planner must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations.​

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template.

​Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in a SCUBA diving activity during daylight hours as an activity to support curriculum delivery. SCUBA diving is any swimming activity below the water surface using compressed air with self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. SCUBA diving may occur in a swimming pool or in locations other than swimming pools (e.g. SCUBA diving​ introductory dives occur in a swimming pool; resort dives, entry-level dives and/or advanced dives in open water).​

If night dives are required for certification purposes, a separate risk assessment must be completed. 

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than one CARA guideline (e.g. power boating​ while SCUBA diving​) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

For activities conducted at a non-Department of Education venue, and/or when engaging external expertise (e.g. charter company), request written risk ​​assessment advice detailing safety management systems​,​ vessel registration, safety and communications equipment and crew qualifications and attach it to this CARA record.

For activities conducted off-site, schools must comply with the school excursions and international school study tours​ procedure.​

High risk: SCUBA diving undertaken in a swimming pool.
Extreme risk: SCUBA diving undertaken in locations other than swimming pools​.

Activity requirements

​If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

All risk levels

​​Refere​nce to Recre​​​at​​ional diving, recreational technical diving and snorkelling—​code of practice 2018​ is required when planning this activity.

The dive supervisor must adhere to the requirements of the Recre​​​at​​​ional diving, recreational technical diving and snorkelling—​code of practice 2018​, Guidelines for managing risks in recreational water​ and Diving and snorkelling laws—standard operational practice 2017​.

Depth of dive to be advised by the dive supervisor/dive instructor as per their certification and considering student experience, skill ability and/or level, and other variables including weather and location.

Queensland Government zoning and designated areas​ must be consulted for restricted areas.

Permits and permissions are required to be obtained as necessary (e.g. Australian ​​​​Government marine park p​​ermits and activities​, Great ​​Barrie​​r Reef Marine Park Authority​).

Prior consultation is required with local authority (e.g. lifeguard service, marine park managers) for local advice, emergency support mechanisms and additional supervision requirements to ensure participant and public safety.

Participants must adhere to all rules and advice communicated by local lifeguard service, facility operator/owner and any safety signage at the facility/location.

Participants must not dive alone. Certified and qualified divers must dive with a buddy.​ 

Open wound management must occur before, during and after the activity. Consult Infection control guidelines and Queensland Health’s exclusion periods for infectious conditions​ poster for first aid and hygienic practices.

Confirmation of student water safety and swimming competence is required prior to participation. The process is determined by the school and must consider the specific aquatic environments in which the activity will take place.  Consult the sequence of competency ​water safety and swimming education program​ for support in determining age-appropriate suitability and consider student self-rescue skills in the specific aquatic environment.​

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Supervision

Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

Note: Lifeguard services are not considered as supervisors of the activity.

Specific roles for supervisors must include recovery, emergency and general supervision roles. All adult supervisors must be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity including the ability to: 

  • recover a participant from the water
  • operate signalling devices needed in a duress situation, including marine radio and flares must be readily identifiable

For activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety during the activity, consultation with parents is required prior to allocating supervision to determine the impact of students’ medical condition or disability on safety during the activity.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students’ ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs. The Recreational diving, recreational technical diving and snorkelling—code of practice 2018 must be consulted for regulations regarding guides and lookouts.

Before the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record
  • must assess weather conditions, and obtain accurate information on tides, depths, currents and other expected water conditions (if applicable) prior to undertaking the activity, inspecting the intended location in order to identify variable risks, hazards and potential dangers.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable and all students in sight of at least one adult at all times
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise
  • must suspend the activity if the conditions become unfavourable (e.g. poor visibility, extreme temperatures, thunderstorms).

At no time, should students be relied upon to recover a person in difficulty.

In addition to the above, for high risk level activities:

In addition to the above, for extreme risk level activities:

  • Minimum of three adult supervisors to perform the roles of:

Supervisor qualification

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority—blue cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

At least one adult supervisor is required to demonstrate capacity to perform an appropriate rescue procedure including using appropriate rescue aids.

The following adult supervisors are required:

Facilities and equipment

The qualified adult supervisor of the activity, in consultation with the principal, determines the requirements for facilities and equipment appropriate to the local context.

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken to ensure safe participation and that safety rules and procedures can be followed. Undertake a reconnaissance of new or infrequently used locations to ascertain suitability. Consider depth of water, tidal flow, currents, visibility, underwater vegetation (e.g. coral), marine life (e.g. stonefish, blue-ring octopus, crocodiles, sharks, eels), and debris. Obtain advice from lifeguards, local authority or other relevant authority (e.g. Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing) about waterway conditions (e.g. contaminants such as blue-green algae) and other potential hazards (e.g. rips, tides, currents, submerged rocks, water temperature, depth conditions).

Diving area of an appropriate depth, considering student age and ability, must be clearly defined. Consult the water safety and swimming education program for guidance at each year/band level. Navigational markers must be appropriate for use in the context of the activity and local laws or regulations (e.g. dive flags, rope floats, anchored buoys linked with ropes).

Participants must wear personal protective equipment as relevant for the location and conditions (e.g. sunscreen, high visibility stinger suit, enclosed footwear with thick soles where dangers such as stonefish may be present). Consider using the same colour fins or masks, or attaching coloured ribbons/high-visibility wrist bands for medically at-risk students (e.g. asthma, anaphylaxis) if appropriate.

Consider the use of binoculars and polarised sunglasses to improve visibility across and into the water for adult supervisors who are designated lookouts.

SCUBA equipment must be available (e.g. fins, masks, compressed air cylinders and valve, buoyancy control device fitted with a power inflator device, regulator fitted with an alternative air source/supply, submersible depth and cylinder pressure indicators, quick release system), that is correctly fitted and complies with the requirements of Recreational diving, recreational technical diving and snorkelling—code of practice 2018).

Equipment must conform to Australian Standards specifications, be properly maintained, hygienic, in good working condition, fit for purpose, correctly fitted and used as intended in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions (Departmental staff search "Australian Standards " in OnePortal).

Oral/nasal equipment must be disinfected prior to use by another person.

Equipment must be sized to match the ability and strength of students. 

A retirement schedule must be developed to replace plant and equipment by manufacturers' nominated expiry date or when significant wear causes a hazard.

Use student-owned equipment (e.g. masks), if possible, and maintain hygienic practices.

Ensure adequate drinking water, food and shade is available for the duration of the activity.

Access to waterways must be available for emergency vehicles and vessels.

If privately owned equipment is being used, Principal approval and owner consent/insurance details must be obtained prior to the activity (e.g. volunteer owned/operated vessels, oxygen tanks).

In addition to the above, for extreme risk level:

  • An oxygen system capable of providing a spontaneously breathing person with an inspired oxygen concentration of as near as possible to 100% must be available. The equipment shall also facilitate oxygen enriched artificial ventilation of a non-breathing person. The person/s administering the oxygen must hold a current qualification in the correct use of the system (e.g. HLTAID015—provide advanced resuscitation and oxygen therapy).
  • Oxygen equipment and oxygen levels are to be checked daily by a person who has received training to carry out the checks correctly. Any other maintenance of the oxygen system must be carried out by an authorised service agent.
  • Sufficient oxygen must be available to supply the injured person, considering the location of the diving site and access to medical facilities.
  • Ensure a pontoon, boat or float is in close proximity to students. 
  • No single navigation system to be relied upon. Where an electronic system (e.g. GPS) is used, have spare batteries and another position-fixing method available (e.g. chart and compass).
  • Ensure the availability of a knife, dive tool or shears if there is a chance of entanglement.


Common hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Environmental hazards
Control measures

Animal bites/diseases
Stings, poisoing, infection

Adhere to Queensland Government dangerous marine life and Surf Life Saving Queensland marine stinger safety guidelines for information on dangerous marine animals. Stings and bites by stonefish, irukandji and other dangerous marine animals can be fatal. For further information about types of poisoning and treatment available consult Queensland Poisons Information Centre or phone 13 11 26.

Marine organisms not to be handled and contact with marine creatures to be avoided.

Continually assess threat of dangerous marine animals (if appropriate to location). Immediately move the participants to a safe location if dangerous marine creatures are detected or suspected.

Environmental conditions
Weather, sun, humidity

The school’s sun safety strategy must be followed.

Follow the managing excessive heat in schools guidelines when participating in very hot or extreme heat conditions.

Entry and exit to the site to be reviewed for obstacles and hazards and suitable for the fitness and physical capabilities of the participants.

Facilities and equipment hazards
Control measures

Vessels

For extreme risk level: 

Continually assess threat of other vessels, if applicable.

Student considerations Control measures

Injury

Students aware of the location of emergency and first-aid equipment.

Physical exertion
Exhaustion and fatigue

Continually monitor students for signs of distress (e.g. fear, fatigue, exhaustion, illness, hunger, dehydration, hypothermia, difficulty breathing and hyperventilation).

Adopt system of signals to clearly communicate the need for assistance if in difficulty.

Restrict underwater swimming to short-duration activities under close supervision.

Student issues
Student numbers, Special needs, High risk behaviours, Medical conditions, Separation from the group

Students must not enter the water until instructed to do so by the dive supervisor.

Participants to work far enough apart that they are not struck by another diver kicking.

Remove accessories (e.g. jewellery, lanyards) before participating.

Ensure fingernails and hair do not pose a hazard.

Develop a procedure for students who may develop sea sickness.

Instruct participants to call or signal for assistance if a problem cannot be rectified immediately.

Implement procedures for regular head counts before, during and after activity and roll marking mechanisms for students leaving the activity.

Visibility

Have students wear easily identifiable clothing (e.g. high visibility rash vest).

Ensure staff can easily recognise those students with health support needs (in and out of the water) and are familiar with their needs.

 Disclaimer

This information is developed and distributed on this website by the State of Queensland for use by Queensland state schools only.

Use or adaptation of, or reliance on, this information by persons or organisations other than the State of Queensland is at their sole risk. All users who use, adapt or rely on this information are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency and appropriateness to their particular circumstances. The State of Queensland makes no representations, either express or implied, as to the suitability of this information to a user's particular circumstances.

To the full extent permitted by law, the State of Queensland disclaims all responsibility and liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs arising from the use or adaptation of, or reliance on, this information.

Links to external websites are for convenience only and the State of Queensland has not independently verified the information on the linked websites. It is the responsibility of users to make their own decisions about the accuracy, currency, reliability and correctness of the information at these external websites.

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Last updated 28 October 2021