One cylinder shut down due to a malfunctioning regulator and now my other regulator had started to malfunction, I realised that the situation was now extremely serious and the next decisions would be the most important of my life. As I drifted there at thirty eight meters, unlikely to successfully survive a dash to the surface I took a deep breath trying not to choke on the seawater as it came into my mouth, I focused on the task at hand and dismantled my switched off regulator and signalled to my buddy to put up a surface marker.
We all have to make decisions, the regulations force us to make decisions for the protection of our customers ourselves and our jurisdictions. We demonstrate this by risk assessments, an exercise that can be seen as pointless and only for the sake of the regulations. By engaging with the assessment process and thoroughly reviewing and demonstrating the potential areas of risk that we face we are able to understand, minimise and hopefully withstand potential events that may and will occur. It goes without saying that any risk assessment needs to be monitored and assessed regularly as environments and situations change, it also allows us to be more alert and able to detect and deal with new or unknown risks and risk areas as and when they arise.
I knew my focus was narrowing and it had become darker, my fingers replaced the membrane in the regulator and I screwed it together, I moved to the valve of my cylinder and slowly turned on the air, nothing happened and no air escaped. Slowly pressing down I purged the regulator it worked, thank God, and I put it in my mouth and tasted the sweet air. By no means was this a fix, more a patch as within seconds it started to leak again. I looked up to be greeted by two huge eyes of my dive buddy who had just released the surface marker, with a smile I signalled it was time to depart to the surface and I put my fingers round the line attached to the surface marker as we began our leisurely ascent.
At eighteen meters the patch was failing, at seventeen meters the regulator was finished and I put in to my mouth the other semi working regulator and felt air and cool salt water, at sixteen meters I could see the sun shimmering and new that the odds of them both working to a lifesaving capacity to the surface was not in my favour, it was time to change the plan to meet the situation and I signalled to my buddy. At fifteen meters with my buddy’s emergency octopus and air filling my lungs we gently continued our ascent to the surface. At the surface we were both smiling and greeted by our safety boat.
We had addressed the known risks by our planning and checks pre dive, during the dive we had calmly and successfully dealt with a worst case scenario, assessing the situation and assigning tasks to create a better situation. The ascent had been undertaken in a control manner avoiding the potential of the bends and though it had required a change to meet the situation we had accomplished the task successfully. The risk had morphed but we had successfully dealt with the new and unknown risk due to good training, assessment and management.
Risk assessments are not pointless or just for regulators or governing bodies to review and assess but are vital. Life and business is about risk, just make sure that you have realised and assessed them initially and then periodically, fate has a nasty habit of striking when you least expect it as history and the present time shows us, make sure you can survive.
When things go wrong review, understand, remediate and enhance, I know that is what I will be doing, it wont be pointless and will make me stronger.