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British divers are jeopardising their safety by failing to make the Coastguard their first point of contact, according to a report by Ken Bazeley, the Maritime and Coastguard Agencies' National Diving Liaison Officer.

Reluctance on the part of divers to contact the Coastguard when an incident occurs is responsible for slowing the speed of response by the emergency services. Decompression illness was most frequent diving incident dealt with by the Coastguard, with 117 cases in 2002. Any delay in contacting the Coastguard can result in the worsening of this medical condition and give the diver less chance of surviving or recovering.

The problem is so serious that the Coastguard are planning liaison visits to clubs and popular diving spots to press home their message.

The failure to immediately administer oxygen when a diver is showing possible signs and symptoms of a bend also came in for sharp criticism from Bazeley. "On a number of occasions there has been a reluctance to administer oxygen to a casualty. Where oxygen is carried and there are symptoms of decompression sickness, oxygen should be given without delay," he said.

The final problem outlined in the report was that of divers leaving their dive boat unattended while going diving. This has led to divers becoming separated from their vessel, as well as Coastguard call-outs from members of the public who have spotted boats apparently adrift.

On a positive note, the number of diving fatalities dealth with by the Coastguard in 2002 were down to 6, compared with 19 in 2001.

Posted: 6 February 2003
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