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Changes to safety standards recommended for recreational diving industry in Queensland

Changes to safety standards recommended for recreational diving industry in Queensland
March 14, 2019

Queensland Government has recently met with representatives of The Whitsundays’ recreational diving and snorkelling industry to discuss recommended changes to diving and snorkelling safety standards.

The industry consultations on proposed changes to the Recreational Diving, Recreational Technical Diving and Snorkelling Code of Practice 2018 follows on from a recent coronial inquest into the tragic diving-related death of Bethany Farrell which recommended changes to diving and snorkelling regulations.

The inquest into the death of Farrell, 23, a British tourist who died while scuba-diving in the Whitsundays heard the lead dive instructor strayed from her normal route and took her eyes off the introductory divers, before turning back and realising one was missing.

Farrell was travelling with friends on a gap year in 2015 when she joined a diving tour with Wings Diving Adventures at Blue Pearl Bay.

The inquest heard Farrell's dive instructor Fiona McTavish chose to take an alternative route about halfway through the dive to avoid entwining with another group named New Horizon.

McTavish told the court she looked away momentarily in an attempt to get her bearings, and when she looked back Farrell was nowhere to be seen. A search and rescue operation conducted by the diving company failed to find Farrell.

The inquest heard Farrell had experienced some issues with her equipment during the training exercises, showing difficulty with her equalizer and regulator.

The inquest also heard the water's visibility on the day of Farrell's death was described by diving instructors as "terrible".

Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said the Queensland Government was determined to work with the industry to ensure diving and snorkelling was done as safely as possible, stating "we’re unpacking the coroner’s recommendations and identifying new initiatives to further improve our solid regulatory framework and respond effectively to the challenges for divers and the industry in Queensland.

“We are committed to ensuring the tragic circumstances of Bethany Farrell’s drowning are never repeated in our reef tourism industry.

“The coroner’s recommendations included changes to inexperienced diver training and assessments, assessment of the dive site and visibility conditions and instructor to diver ratios.

“It is essential that we come up with best practice methods around how basic skills are taught to inexperienced divers, instructor to diver ratios and the coordination of diving routes where multiple groups have gathered."

Industry views are also being sought on strengthening the status of the code of practice from its current status as an industry guideline to becoming a mandated minimum set of standards for operators under the recreational dive safety laws.

Minister Grace added "there are so many beautiful spots for diving and snorkelling in The Whitsundays and, indeed, right across Queensland, and these spots attract tourists and locals alike.

“Our stunning reefs and beautiful coast line make Queensland one of the busiest diving and snorkelling destinations on the planet.

"If we are to maintain our reputation as the world's best, it is vitally important that tourists who come here can dive and snorkel in the safest way possible.

"However one thing is for sure - safety cannot be compromised, whether it be in the water or on the land."

More information on recreational dive safety laws is available at worksafe.qld.gov.au

Image courtesy of Tourism Whitsunday.

Related Articles

31st May 2018 - Coroner calls for better training and safety improvements after Queensland scuba-diving deaths

7th February 2018 - New snorkelling and diving Code of Practice now in force in Queensland

7th March 2017 - Queensland to update recreational diving and snorkelling code of practice

3rd February 2017 - Another tourist dies on Great Barrier Reef excursion

21st November 2016 - Diving and snorkelling deaths spark calls for standards review

6th May 2015 - Third Great Barrier Reef scuba diving fatality in three months


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