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Proposed new dive and snorkel laws to ensure safety
The Queensland Government is proposing stronger dive and snorkelling laws to enhance Queensland's reputation as a safe diving destination.
Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick anounced last week that the Recreational Dive and Snorkelling Industry Reference Group, which reviewed safety standards in Queensland's diving industry, had made 12 recommendations to improve safety.
Minister Dick has now released the report for public comment.
The main recommendations of the report include:
• Requiring all diving and snorkelling operators to conduct at least two head-counting systems;
• Amend the code of practice to include information on how to determine the most appropriate emergency signalling equipment such as a whistle, light, flare or emergency locator beacon for unguided certified dives;
• Setting the maximum ratio of resort divers to dive instructors at 2 to 1, allowing for a 4-to-1 ratio only in good environmental conditions;
• Mandatory medicals for entry-level dive course candidates who are overweight, over 45 or have high-risk medical conditions.
Minister Dick explained "Queensland's diving industry is one of the safest in the world and these proposed changes will ensure we continue to demonstrate world's best practice."
The industry reference group was led by Member for Barron River Steve Wettenhall who added "the Reference Group has come up with some sensible and worthwhile recommendations for consideration and I would like to thank everyone who took part and provided their submissions.
"Our aim to strike the right balance for Queensland's dive and snorkelling industry - strengthening the regulations that the industry needs to continue its high safety standards while also relaxing other requirements where appropriate."
Minister Dick said he convened the reference group after several dive safety incidents during 2011.
The Minister added "the reference group was asked to look at the adequacy of the current regulatory framework for the industry.
"I am now seeking public feedback on the recommendations to gauge views on these proposed changes.
"I particularly wanted feedback on the operation of the Recreational Diving, Recreational Technical Diving and Snorkelling Code of Practice, with an analysis on how it is being implemented to determine whether further regulation is required.
"Queensland has some of the most beautiful snorkelling and diving locations in the world, including the world's largest reef system, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef.
"We want international and local visitors to have an unforgettable experience if they snorkel or dive in Queensland waters - but not for the wrong reasons."
Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators Executive Director Col McKenzie welcomed the proposed laws and said although Queensland has some of toughest diving regulations in the world, further safety improvements are still worth doing.
McKenzie explained "as an industry we would like to achieve - or get as close as possible - to 'zero' diving accidents or incident reports, and these proposed laws are a big step in the right direction."
More than 1.2 million visitors go snorkelling or scuba diving in Queensland each year, with more than a third doing so for the first time.
The closing date for feedback on the report is 31st March 2012.
For more information about the reference group's report call the WHS Infoline on 1300 369 915 or visit the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland website at www.worksafe.qld.gov.au
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