Scuba diving safety during the Coronavirus epedemic
It is looking like the Coronavirus is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. We need to take steps to protect ourselves and the other divers around us.
Everyone’s reaction to this outbreak varies greatly. Some people will be super cautious and basically do everything possible to avoid people by staying home and not traveling. Others will carry on in life as usual, taking all recommended safety precautions along the way.
Scuba Diving always has been a social activity, part of the “fun” on a boat diving day is chatting with other divers and enjoying shared experiences during the surface interval.
Keep diving but follow these steps to protect yourself
Basic Coronavirus precautions:
Social distancing is not going to be easy on smaller boats, but it is possible to be careful and take all the “new normal” precautions such as hand washing, etc in order to minimize your risk factors
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
- Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth.
- Maintain social distance whenever possible.
- Prevent the transmission of respiratory illnesses by practicing coughing and respiratory hygiene – sneeze and cough covering your face with a tissue.
- If you ANY symptoms of a cold, flu or Coronavirus you should NOT be diving anyway.
- Stay informed and follow advice given by WHO and your health services provider.
Can I catch the Coronavirus through contact with dive gear?
Unfortunately if you share certain gear with an infected person then a transmission risk is going to be present.
You need to be particularly careful with:
- Regulator mouthpieces.
- BCD Oral Inflators.
What precautions should I take with my own dive gear?
If, like me, you are in the habit of washing everything off in clean water at the end of the day, then you need to ensure that the “high risk” items listed above are actually sanitized completely.
There are many excellent sanitizers available, use one. Salt water does not kill the virus!
Do note if you are using a bleach solution or a bleach ( sodium hypochlorite) based product, then it will turn clear silicone “yellow” if you soak for too long. Do NOT soak your dive mask overnight.
Remember to rinse everything thoroughly in clean water after you have sanitized.
During your dive day there are a few simple steps you can take:
- Your gear is yours, keep it to yourself, handle it yourself, take particular care with your mask/snorkel.
- Communal defog bucket? Communal rinse bucket? – Do you really want to take the risk of cross contamination?
- Check your own gear, your buddy is no longer allowed to check your alternate or your BCD oral inflator – do it yourself with your buddy watching.
- Your buddy’s alternate and their alternate regulator needs to be just as clean as yours if you need it.
Rental Gear precautions:
Scuba operators that rent gear are already taking extra precautions to keep gear sterilized, ask them about their cleaning procedures.
Ultimately it is your responsibility to keep yourself safe so some ideas on how to achieve this:
- If you are a vacation diver that rents absolutely everything then now is the time to purchase your own Mask / Snorkel.
- Carry your own sterilizing wipes, can be used on mouthpieces, oral inflators, masks and snorkels.
- Carry your own hand sanitizer.
- Carry your own defog solution.
- Stay away from any “communal” rinse, defog or anything else that is shared.
I know a number of divers that because of underlying health risks have for years carried their own replacement mouthpieces for rental regulators to minimize the chances of infection.
Back in February the dive operator I work with extended our normal daily cleaning routine to include an extra sterilization procedure, we also insisted on hand sterilization when boarding the boat and during briefings and emphasized the need for minimizing contact.