Scuba Diving

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Scuba diving is an underwater swimming activity involving the use of self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA).

School scuba diving activities generally can be classified into two types:

  • an introductory scuba activity with training in the use of scuba equipment in a pool, basic scuba theory and, possibly, an introductory dive in open water
  • scuba training towards the achievement of a recognised scuba diver qualification.

These guidelines apply to the type of introductory scuba activity described in the first dot point above.

Any scuba diving beyond an introductory activity, or where students are working toward scuba qualifications, must be conducted according to the Australian Standard AS 4005.1 Training and Certification of Recreational Divers.

Definitions

Type 1 Venue — Type 1 venues include municipal and commercial swimming pools, as well as shallow, calm, confined swimming areas at natural venues such as lakes, dams and non-surf beaches.  A shallow, natural-water venue is defined as a venue where the maximum depth of the water is no greater than shoulder height for any of the students involved in the activity.  The water in type 1 venues is clear.

Type 2 Venue — Type 2 venues include deep and/or flowing water at non-surf beaches, lakes, channels, rivers and dams.  The water in type 2 venues is clear.  Water turbidity, temperature and submerged objects should also be assessed.

Type 3 Venue — Type 3 venues include all beaches with direct access to ocean waters, any beach exposed to ocean swell, and any beach or lake that is exposed to currents, strong winds or large waves.  Type 3 venues also include type 1 and 2 venues where the water is not clear.

Note: If environmental conditions change, a type 1 venue may change to a type 2 or 3 venue. Likewise, type 2 or 3 venues may also change with environmental conditions. 

Environment

Water environments

A wide range of environmental factors need to be considered when planning scuba diving activities.  These include the location, size and turbidity of the body of water; the strength of tides and currents; the presence and power of waves; and the temperature of the water.

When preparing for scuba activities, staff should consider ways to minimise the environmental impact of the activity.  Further information is available at Environment.

Location

Due to the unique nature of each location, the teacher responsible for the activity should specifically assess the suitability of the location before the excursion.

The choice of location will largely determine the educational opportunities and constraints, and the range of environmental hazards and difficulties that must be managed.

It is important to have recent and thorough knowledge of the location when planning the activity.  When assessing the suitability of a location for the activity, consider:

  • the educational objectives of the excursion
  • the mode and distance of travel
  • available shelter for students and staff from the weather
  • the possibility of intrusion into the school group by uninvited members of the public or other groups
  • proximity to medical expertise
  • venue access — especially for emergency services such as a helicopter in extreme weather conditions.

Contact with relevant authorities and/or local organisations should be made in order to access current information and determine any access and permit requirements.

These authorities may include:

Staff need to be aware that severe weather conditions may develop before or during the proposed activity and should be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate the activity at any time.

Scuba activities can be conducted in type 1, 2 or 3 venues.  Please refer to the definitions section of these guidelines for a description of type 1, 2 and 3 venues.

Communication

The communication strategy should enable staff to receive weather forecasts and warnings, communicate with the school, and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency.

  • Choose communication equipment based on current communication technology and the location of the activity.
  • Develop a communication strategy for the group during the activity which enables communication with outside parties, including the school and emergency services.
  • Be aware of the limitations of the communication strategy.
Weather

Check the weather forecast for the location in the days leading up to the activity and on the day the activity commences.  If activities extend overnight, access weather forecasts and warnings daily and monitor and assess the weather throughout.

Weather conditions can change rapidly.  Monitor and assess the weather throughout the activity and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at any time.

Weather warning telephone services

  • Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings on 1300 659 217
  • Full State Telephone Weather Service on 1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
  • Coastal Waters Telephone Service on 1900 969 930 (call charge applies)
  • Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

The above telephone numbers may be useful to have available during the excursion.

Web links

Transportation

The transportation of groups to and from activity locations must be carefully considered and planned. See: Excursion support – transport

Activity

Student skills

To participate in introductory scuba training in a pool, students must be able to demonstrate the ability to submerge and resurface confidently without scuba equipment.

Current medical information on students must be obtained.  For pool training, the standard Departmental medical information form can be used, together with a medical information form designed specifically for scuba diving. See Medical History – Introductory Scuba Experience Only (doc - 280.5kb)

If the introductory scuba experience is not in a pool and is in water that is more than chest deep and/or includes a dive, a medical information form designed specifically for scuba diving must be completed. See: Medical History – Introductory Scuba Experience Only (doc - 280.5kb)

Where students with one or more of the following medical conditions want to participate in an introductory scuba experience, they may do so if they have obtained, within the previous three months, a certificate of diving fitness from a medical practitioner certified in diving medicine:

  • chronic ear infection
  • perforated eardrum
  • epilepsy, seizures or blackouts
  • chronic bronchitis
  • severe asthma
  • heart or lung conditions.

For scuba diving beyond the introductory experience, all students must have obtained, within the previous three months, a certificate of diving fitness from a medical practitioner certified in diving medicine.

Where there may be doubt about a student’s fitness to scuba dive because of a temporary illness, such as a cold, flu or hay fever, a certificate from a medical practitioner may be requested.

Before a scuba activity in open water, students must demonstrate that they can (without using a mask, fins, snorkel or flotation equipment):

  • competently swim 200 metres on the surface of the water using a recognised stroke
  • float and/or tread water for ten minutes.

Scuba diving is recommended for students of at least 15 years of age. Students should have the physical strength to carry the equipment, the ability to follow complex instructions and the maturity and responsibility to understand and implement the necessary safety procedures. Scuba diving is not recommended for primary school students.

As a component of every diving session (these skills will be learnt in the first session), students must be able to demonstrate the following skills:

  • ability to clear and replace the face mask
  • ability to clear and replace the regulator
  • ability to achieve positive buoyancy while on the surface.

Before students can proceed to open water situations beyond the introductory scuba experience, they must be deemed by a qualified scuba instructor to have demonstrated the required ‘standard’ of theory and pool training.  To progress to more advanced dives, students must hold, or be training for, the appropriate scuba qualification for that level of diving.

Records should be kept of students’ prerequisite abilities. See: Documentation of Participant Preparation, Pre-requisite Skills/Knowledge​ ​ (doc - 139kb)

A student safety briefing must be held at the scuba diving venue and include such information as:

  • establishing the boundaries of the scuba diving and the out-of-water waiting area
  • defining and explaining the response plan for any accident or other emergency that might occur.

The psychological preparation of students is as important as the physical preparation, especially for students who are anxious about the activity. Under no circumstances should students be pressured by staff or peers to participate beyond their readiness.

Equipment and clothing

Equipment, whether hired, borrowed or owned by the school or students, must be in a safe condition and suitable for the activity.

First aid kits

First Aid kits appropriate to the location and level of training must be carried.

Clothing

Clothing is the individual’s primary protection against severe and variable weather conditions.

Clothing lists need to be appropriate for the activity, environment and season.

Before and after scuba diving, students need to protect themselves from the sun (e.g. a shirt and hat), and cold and wet weather (e.g. a towel and change of clothing, including a jumper, long pants and jacket) as appropriate for the season and location.

Sun protection clothing should be readily available to students when they leave the water.

To protect against sunburn use broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body, applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. See: Sun Exposure

Students who own sunglasses should be encouraged to bring and wear them when required.

Identification

Staff and students must be easily identifiable.

Staff must determine the most suitable identification system based on an assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken, and the age and number of students.

Buoyancy vests

Buoyancy vests should be an appropriate size.

Fins

Fins should be properly fitted and match the dive conditions.

Mask and snorkel

Masks must fully enclose the diver’s nose with tempered glass, be in excellent condition and seal properly. Snorkels must be attached or attachable to the mask and in excellent condition.

Tanks and regulators

Tanks carrying compressed air must have a current test stamp indicating that the tank has passed a hydrostatic test within the previous 12 months as per Australian Standard AS 2030.

Only single hose regulators are to be used.  Each regulator set should have a primary and second (octopus) demand valve. A contents gauge, depth and timing device should also be attached.

Weight belts

Weight belts should have a quick release buckle system.

Wetsuits

In open water, ocean dive wetsuits are required and their thickness must match the local conditions. Wetsuits must be worn by all participants.

People

Staff

Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the activity.  All staff members must be endorsed by the school council.

All staff members must comply with current Departmental police check requirements or the Working with Children Check.

A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department or the school council must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity.

Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the instructor, the teacher responsible for the activity must understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted. This teacher must confer with the designated instructor about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility. If this teacher is not the designated instructor he/she is to act on the advice of the designated instructor on technical safety issues.

Any staff member with a known medical condition that might compromise the group’s risk management plan should make accompanying staff aware of this condition. Issues of confidentiality and privacy will apply to any such disclosure.

Experience and qualifications

Staff involved in the planning and conduct of the activity should have sufficient knowledge and experience of the activity and its environment to operate in all foreseeable conditions.

The designated scuba instructor(s) must have:

  • a current scuba instructor certificate from a recognised certifying organisation
  • a current qualification in the administration of oxygen
  • current experience and knowledge of the dive site.

Other staff, if diving with the group, must be qualified divers and be able to demonstrate competency and recent experience in scuba diving.

Where a powerboat is used to accompany divers, the boat and driver must comply with Victorian maritime safety regulations, see: Transport Safety Victoria - Maritime Safety

Documentation of Staff Qualifications and Experience (Word - 132Kb) can be used to document staff qualifications/experience of accompanying staff member(s).

Where an external contractor is chosen to run all or part of this activity, the guidelines for the use of External providers should be followed.

Supervision

Effective supervision is the critical factor in managing risk in the outdoors.

A minimum of two staff members must be present for each activity. One staff member is to have responsibility for instruction in the activity and the other is to assist the instructor.

The following table shows the minimum staff-to-student ratios that must be used for scuba diving.

ActivityInstructors requiredStudent numbers
Type 1 venue21-12
Open water (type 2 or 3 venues) – introductory dive21-4

It may be necessary to increase the number of staff allocated based on:

  • age, maturity, gender and physical characteristics* of students
  • ability and experience of students
  • needs of individuals
  • dynamics of the student group
  • experience, qualifications and skills of staff
  • location of the activity
  • anticipated conditions at the location.

*For example, if a group includes any physically large students, supervising staff must have the required training and qualifications to undertake any necessary rescue and the required physical attributes.

Reasons for increasing staff allocations must be documented.

Any staff in excess of the minimum ratio who are out of the water (supervisory staff in the boat) need not have scuba diving qualifications, but must have the swimming, lifesaving and CPR ability to assist in an emergency.

Any adults learning to scuba dive must be included with the students for the purpose of staff–student ratios.

The teacher in charge is responsible for the supervision strategy, which must be endorsed by the school council as part of the excursion approval process. Staff members should supervise students according to that strategy.

Staff members must:

  • know the group of students
  • be aware of their supervision responsibilities at all times
  • identify boundaries and communicate them clearly
  • make decisions consciously, actively and based on sound information
  • consider the size of the group
  • consult with other supervising staff about the supervision strategy.
Overnight excursions

If the excursion has an overnight component, the Overnight camping guidelines may be relevant.

Informed consent

The school must receive consent from parents or guardians before their child may participate in adventure activities.

Informed consent should be based on an understanding of:

  • the educational purpose of the activity
  • the nature and details of the activity and the foreseeable risks involved
  • the supervision strategy
  • a 24-hour school contact number
  • other information deemed relevant by the school, parents or guardians.

Informed consent must be given in writing and signed by parents or guardians.

First aid

At least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current (within 3 years) level two first aid qualification, a current (within 12 months) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification and have a first aid kit applicable to the level of training.

Staff members must carefully consider the nature and location of the excursion as well as the medical history of the students, to determine the level of first aid training required by staff.  For example, if any student in the group has a history of anaphylaxis and may require the use of an epi-pen, appropriately trained staff must be present. See: Excursion Support - First aid

Common risks

School staff must refer to the Risk Management section of this website which explains how to prepare a risk register.  Risks and possible controls are also explained.

The list below identifies some risks in scuba activities.  Identifying risk is only one aspect of the risk assessment process.  An activity-specific risk management plan must be completed which takes into account the specific conditions and unique participants of the activity.

Scuba diving specific risks
Sample risksSample controls

A student or staff member suffers a dive related illness.

Before the diving activity, staff will collect and review student medical forms and the completed scuba diving medical proformas.  Where uncertainty exists, additional expert advice will be sought.

At the start of each dive, instructors will conduct a dive skills check of participants.

Adequate instruction will be given regarding the causes and prevention of diving-related injuries.

Instructors will offer a pre-dive briefing suitable for the group’s abilities and dive conditions.

A student or staff member suffers a near drowning or drowns.

Pre-activity planning will consider whether the planned diving session matches the maturity and abilities of the group.  Instructors will ensure students and staff have completed swim tests.

Students and staff will be appropriately weighted.  Weight belts will be fitted with a quick-release buckle.

A pre-activity briefing and training will provide the necessary skills to manage the dive conditions.

Scuba diving equipment fails while a student is submerged.

School staff will confirm scuba gear service plans are current and accurate.

Instructors will enforce a buddy check of gear prior to water entry.

The designated scuba instructor will check regulator and gauges as well as the inflating/deflating mechanism for each participant.

A student separates from the main dive group or does not return to surface at the end of a dive.

An appropriate dive site will be chosen for the activity, considering environmental factors such as the current and tide movements.

During the pre-dive briefing, instructors will define dive site boundaries, separation and recall procedures.

Each diver will have a surface marker buoy and a whistle.

A ‘look out’ will be posted on each dive.

The designated scuba instructor will have diving gear available so that he/she may enter the water if necessary.

Generic risks

Sample risks

Sample controls

A pre-existing medical condition results in injury or illness during the excursion.

Staff will collect and then review current confidential medical information for all students and staff.  Where uncertainty exists, additional information will be sought.

At least one staff member will have a minimum of a level two first aid qualification and a first aid kit, which is appropriate to the activity and the environments to be encountered.

Medical information will be carried by staff on the excursion and referred to as necessary.

At the start of the excursion, staff will ensure that there is no new illness that may have an impact on the ability of the affected student(s) or staff to participate.  Consideration will also be given as to whether that illness might spread to others in the group.

The emergency response strategy will include communication and evacuation procedures.

Staff or student fatigue results in incident and/or injury.

During the planning phase, staff will consider the skills and experience of students and staff and make sure that the activity is suitable.

The group will adopt appropriately timed rest stops.   Food and water breaks will match the activity intensity, weather conditions and the group’s abilities.

Food and water intake will be monitored during the excursion to ensure all participants are eating and drinking adequately.

Staff will monitor each student and consider strategies to support the group and individuals. This may include altered intensity and loads, changing the activity, obtaining outside support, evacuations or cancellation of the activity.

Warm or cold weather conditions lead to a temperature-related illness.

Staff will consider the skill, age, experience and maturity of students and staff when determining the activity, season and venue.

A change of clothing appropriate for the weather and season should be taken, including a towel for drying before changing.

Staff will plan and/or adjust the activity in response to foreseeable and prevailing weather conditions.

The emergency response strategy will include responses for when students and/or staff are affected by heat or cold.

A group is caught in severe weather or a thunderstorm resulting in injury.

The chosen venue, activity and season will be appropriate to the group.

Staff will obtain regular Bureau of Meteorology weather forecasts for the specific area they will be in and, if necessary, adjust the activity.

Staff will observe the weather before and during the activity and adjust the activity accordingly.

Staff will consider exposure to tree and lightning hazards.

The emergency response strategy will include possible responses should severe weather or a thunderstorm occur.

A transport accident occurs while travelling to or from the venue.

The vehicle must be appropriately insured and maintained.  Where the vehicle is a bus, it must be regularly inspected by a licensed bus tester.

Drivers will have the appropriate drivers licence and certificates for the planned journey.  Drivers will perform a daily vehicle check (see the Victorian Bus and Truck Drivers Handbook​, Chapter 4, Vehicle Checks).

In accordance with heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws (see transport), all drivers will take sufficient breaks from driving.  Drivers will also be sufficiently rested prior to driving.

Drivers will allow sufficient time for the planned journey and adjust speed to suit the driving conditions.

A student or staff member suffers a bite or sting causing illness or death.

Students and staff will have clear and relevant clothing/equipment lists, which reflect the possibility of bites or stings, and have appropriate first aid equipment.

Staff will carry current and confidential medical information for all students and staff participating in the activity.  Staff will ensure there are appropriate medications available and an emergency response strategy to support a worsening condition.

Resources

Relevant documents
External resources