The Implications of Missing Skills

This month we look at the implications of removing skills when teaching PADI courses. The consequences may be greater than you think!

Let’s look at a couple of incidents that highlight the importance of teaching the performance requirements of each course in the proper sequence.  

Emergency Weight Drop skill

In the PADI Open Water Course students must demonstrate mastery of the emergency weight drop skill (Page 56, PADI Instructor Manual). The standard requires:

“During any dive, in either confined or open water, at the surface in water too deep in which to stand, with a deflated BCD, have student divers use the weight system’s quick release, to pull clear and drop sufficient weight to become positively buoyant.”


During a PADI Open Water course an instructor failed to teach a group of six students the PADI Emergency Weight Drop Skill. The students were all certified as PADI Open Water Divers. Subsequently, the group continued to dive together as certified divers. On one particular dive one of the students BCD’s failed to inflate on the surface. Unable to stay afloat, he panicked and started kicking and flailing his arms. Despite trying to orally inflate the BCD he couldn’t get enough air into it and he was struggling to keep his head afloat. As a result of using all this energy and inhaling some water he became unconscious and subsequently drowned on the surface. During the investigation it became apparent that he had not been taught the emergency weight belt drop skill which could have potentially saved his life. The family of the victim sued the instructor and won their claim for contributory negligence and damages. The failure to teach this skill was found to be one of the causes of his death.

Watermanship: Swim/Snorkel and Swim/Float

For our second incident we concern ourselves with Watermanship Skills from the PADI Open Water Course. Page 53 of the PADI Open Water Manual describes the requirements for the waterskills assessment as below:

 “Before Open Water Dive 2, have student divers demonstrate that they can comfortably maintain themselves in water too deep in which to stand by completing a 10-minute swim/float without using any swim aids.

At some point before certification, have students complete a 200 metre/yard continuous surface swim or a 300 metre/yard swim with mask, fins and snorkel.”


During this incident the instructor decided to allow his four Open Water student to complete a modified 200m swim. He allowed his students to simply pull themselves around a boat by a rope attached to the side of the boat and not actually swim at all. He certified them as PADI Open Water Divers. Two of the students decided to continue with their PADI Advanced Open Water Course at another dive centre. This centre failed to undertake a pre-assessment of the students and started the PADI Advanced Open Water with the Deep Dive. During the dive one of the students got into difficulties in a current. He was swept away from the group. After a search his body was found on the bottom and he was late pronounced dead. The cause of his death was listed as ‘drowning’.  His partner told authorities that neither she nor he could swim and neither had ever met the watermanship performance requirements during their Open Water course.

Whilst many factors contributed to his death, the PADI Open Water Instructor was found to be negligent in their failure to assess watermanship during the PADI Open Water Course.

These examples shows us how important it is to teach all of the skills in each PADI programme. Each skill is in the course for a reason. What may appear to be a minor infringement to some people can have serious consequences later. From a moral perspective we have a responsibility to teach people the skills in each course so that they may be able to conduct dives of that type in a similar environment in a comfortable manner. This is not just about us and our needs. It is about holding a position of responsibility to ensure that each diver you certify is capable of undertaking the dive level and type that you have certified them for.

When an instructor takes it upon themselves to decide what skills will and won’t be completed in a course they expose themselves to liability. Remember the question to ask yourself is “would reasonably prudent dive instructor conduct the programme or course in the same way?” If the answer is no then your ability to defend a legal claim may be remote. Your ability to provide a reasonable answer to family and friends asking how this could have happened is lessened.

Sometimes people make decisions like this due to poor weather, time constraints or pressure from customers to get finished before mastering the skills. There is no justification for modifying courses or failing to teach the required standards. Breaches of this nature are considered very serious and can lead to punitive action being taken against the instructor and/or the store.

As PADI members we strive collectively to maintain our high standards thus protecting ourselves, the diving public and the PADI brand. If the PADI brand is damaged so is our ability to attract customers and grow our careers. Protecting the standards is in everyone’s best interests.

If you have any concerns about incidents or standards email us at

Teaching Status

By Quality Management Consultant Don McFadden

Being a renewed PADI Member means having access to a vast array of benefits in areas such as educational, business, marketing, risk management, product support, live and recorded seminars & webinars, and superior year round support provided by the experience PADI staff located in offices all around the globe.

But what does renewing as a PADI Member mean when looking at it from a risk management perspective?

In addition to the benefits mentioned above, when renewing as a PADI Member there is an agreement which is made. Members agree to abide by the PADI Membership Agreement and License Agreement for PADI Members, and in return PADI authorises the member to act as a PADI Member, receive membership benefits and use PADI training materials for that coming year.

When a member’s membership lapses it means PADI has not documented the member agreeing to the PADI Membership Agreement and License Agreement for PADI Members for that upcoming year, therefore the member is not permitted to act as a PADI Member.

If a PADI Instructor tries to teach a PADI course while non-renewed they run several risks to themselves as well as their students. Throughout the membership year members are updated with the latest training standard changes which are often implemented to increase safety for students. Missing out on these implemented changes can mean you are missing out on critical information which may assist you in reducing the overall risk for students. 

So where does the instructor stand if an incident occurs resulting in injury or worse to a student of a non-renewed member? The level of competence of the instructor will always be taken into account, but why risk the chance that something has changed you were unaware of? The question you must ask yourself is “would a prudent dive instructor in the same circumstances have acted in the same way?” If they would answer collectively ‘No’ then you may be failing in your duty as a competent and reasonably prudent instructor.

What happens if the instructor teaching the course is not qualified to conduct the specific PADI training? An example would be an instructor teaching a PADI speciality diving course without the appropriate training. Taking students inside a wreck during a PADI Wreck Diver Specialty dive when you do not hold the Wreck Specialty Instructor rating yourself not reasonable and prudent behaviour. In the event of an incident serious questions would be asked by the authorities and by PADI about the instructor’s competence to undertake the training. So why take the risk? Always work within your limits and never agree to conduct a programme are not qualified to teach.

What about another scenario where a Divemaster or Assistant Instructor teaches Open Water students? Divemaster and Assistant Instructors are, of course, not authorised to teach the PADI Open Water courses nor have they received the necessary training which would prepare them to conduct the course. The roles a certified assistant may take during the Open Water course are outlined in the PADI Instructor Manual on page 53:

3. Instructor conducts and directly supervises all open water dives.

Exceptions — instructor indirect supervision:

• Certified assistants supervising student divers during surface swims to and from the entry-exit point and during navigational exercises, as well as when remaining with the class when the instructor conducts a skill such as an ascent or descent with a student or student team.

• Certified assistants guiding student divers (at a ratio of 2:1) on Dives 2-4 when exploring the dive site.

• Assistant Instructors evaluating dive flexible skills at the surface in open water and conducting air pressure checks underwater.

Acting outside of these limits places the Divemaster or Assistant Instructor in a precarious position. They are acting outside of established standards and if there was to be an incident could find themselves facing serious consequences.

The member would find themselves answering questions from the Quality Management team and face some Quality Management action, possibly punitive. Why risk it? The PADI Instructor Manual is our foundation document and the minimum qualification required to teach each programme and course is clearly defined within it. Make sure before you enter the water you know you are able to conduct the programme.

If you have any questions about these topics consult your PADI Instructor Manual or get in touch with your Regional Training Consultant or Quality Management team. If you ever have any concerns please do not hesitate to get in touch with us at

10 Tips for PADI Instructors from the Quality Management Team

By Kim Ngan, Quality Management Consultant

This month we would like to share some terrific tips for new (and not so new) PADI Instructors.

1 – Use your PADI Cue cards

Ignoring your cue cards is a rookie’s mistake. Using a cue card does not make you less cool, but in fact it makes you look professional and well-prepared. The cue cards are made to support us to ensure we do not miss teaching any skills and we teach in the correct sequence. Further they assist us in presenting the performance requirements clearly which serves to assist us to teach the skill correctly and the student understand what they are expected to achieve.   

2 – Read your PADI Instructor manual – Don’t follow the crowd

Sometimes we question our understanding of PADI standards, don’t just listen to other instructors or follow the crowd, simply read your Instructor manual and find out the answer. The Instructor manual gives us guidance and reminds us what we should do and what we should not do. Thanks to today’s technology, we now have the PADI digital manual available in several languages so you may always find the latest version to download from the Pro Site.

3 – Read PADI’s Guide To Teaching

While the Instructor Manual lists required standards, PADI’s Guide to Teaching provides explanations, teaching techniques and suggested approaches to meet those standards. When preparing to teach a PADI course or program, particularly those you have never taught a course or don’t conduct courses on a regular basis, you will find the reminders in Guide to Teaching manual valuable in helping organize training sessions and dives. Be familiar with what information is in it will make it beneficial instructional tool and we can continue to use it throughout our teaching career.

4 – Keep a copy of Training Records

We should keep a copy of the training records, as they can play a key part in incidents and quality management situations. The training records prove the dive professional acted appropriately. Without them, it can be difficult to remember exact details of what happened. They are so important that we have will have another article later this year just about documentation. To download PADI training records go to your PADI pro account at and download the forms under the section of Training essentials.

5 – Go onto the Pro site and utilize the resources

At the early stage of our diving career the primary reason for most of us to use the Pro site is to do a dive check or certify our student using the OPC. However the site offers much more than that.  Pro Site in fact is another powerful tool where PADI members can obtain a lot of different resources. Not only just the teaching tools or the marketing tools, but also tools for personal development. For examples, you may find out the dates and location for the next Instructor Update and sign up live Member Forums, seminars and webinars. You may also find the recordings if you have missed out any webinars. Pro Site also acts as a job finding platform for those who are looking for dive jobs around the world.  Check out the Risk Management recorded webinars as well: Pro development/BOD webinars/PADI Asia Pacific webinars. You will also find the Duty of Care, Guided dive and Rush Hour risk management videos at:
Toolbox / Member / Quality Assurance – Duty of Care Resources.

6 – Have a set of digital manuals on your phone

We are in the Digital Age, most people have their own smartphone so there is no excuse not to have a set of digital manuals downloaded and be ready for your use if needed. One of the best things about your PADI digital manual is that they get updated regularly. PADI uploads the most up to the date version of the digital student manuals whenever it is available, so each time you refreshed your PADI library, the manuals in there will get automatically updated. You will be able to know what the students are reading and also have a better understanding of what they are going through.

7 – Attend LIVE member forum and Risk Management Seminars as much as possible

Have you attended any PADI live events yet? Do you know we have live Member forums and Risk Management Seminars in most region each year? Member forums bring us the Training Bulletin, a summary of the year and also what’s new in PADI. Risk Management seminars invites you to discuss trends in dive incidents and issues relevant to the safety or ourselves and our customers. These live events provide a great opportunity to meet other dive professionals and PADI staff.  It’s a great way to learn from each other!  

8 – Learn from a role model – Member of the Month and read the Undersea Journal

Wishing to find more tips and inspiration about how to become an outstanding PADI Instructor? Check out the winner of the Member of the Month on the Pro Site! It is one of the highest recognitions you can have as a PADI Instructor. The winner is selected from the extraordinary nominees from all around the globe. These PADI members are awesome role models. You may also find out more inspiring PADI members from the Undersea Journal in the section ‘Exceeding Expectations’. The UJ always features great stories of our PADI AmbassaDiver and all the articles there are written by experienced divers and PADI staff! There are plenty of places to look for great tips in leading divers and teaching great courses.

9 – Follow our E.A.P method to reduce Risk

Remember our first Surface Interval article and Webinar this year? We introduced a way to evaluate risk using a three-prong approach? It is called EAP or – Environment- Activity- People.  To recap, we should always conduct an Environmental risk assessment as well as evaluate the type of the dives Activity itself, then assessing the People’s abilities and limitations. This helps us to use good judgement to make good decisions.

10 – Last but not least, talk to us!

We are here to help! Like you we are passionate about dive training and safety.  If you have any questions, just email us on or pick up the phone and ring us on +61 2 9454 2888. We would love to hear from you!

Professional Conduct

In our ongoing series on quality and risk management issues we try provide information that can minimise the risks to divers and make diving as safe as possible. Safety includes not just physical safety but also emotional and mental safety. One such risk of emotional and physical harm is that of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Sadly in all industries there are some people that will take advantage of the situation to assault or harass others. Indeed there are some well-published recent cases of sexual harassment and assault involving well-known sports stars, business people, politicians, and actors.

PADI professionals are widely known for their empathy, commitment to diver safety and high degree of professionalism. The diving industry, however, is not immune to these issues. Though these behaviours are thankfully rare, they can occur. It is a responsibility of all members within the industry to do whatever we can to prevent this behaviour and if we witness it to take appropriate action.

It is every PADI member’s responsibility to ensure a safe environment for diving. PADI standards also require that we:

“Treat student divers and all those involved in dive activities with respect, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation, disability or sexual orientation” Page 11 Commitment to excellence.

The PADI Training Bulletin from the fourth quarter 2015 addressed this area of concern in respect of customers and student divers. The bulletin offers excellent guidance for PADI members about professional behaviour, responsibilities, physical contact, respectful communication and harassment policies. The article also addresses the store’s responsibility and way to have good policies in place to both prevent and respond to these problems.

What is sexual harassment?

One definition is behaviour characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other professional or social situation

This behaviour can range from inappropriate sexually themed comments, ‘jokes’, asking people personal information and persistent unsolicited advances. 

What is sexual assault?

 “Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual behaviour including physical contact and threats”

While it is rare that a complaint is made it only takes a quick search on line to find stories of both divers and dive professionals being harassed. Survivors of this type of behaviour comment that they were shocked and extremely scared because they felt their lives at risk. Some felt unable to take assertive action because being underwater they felt their personal safety was at risk.

Sometimes sexual assault occurs when divers are underwater in a vulnerable position. When this occurs underwater the person subjected to the behaviour can feel powerless and fearful. This can result in panicked ascents, breath hold ascents and serious physical injury not to mention the emotional impact of the event.

Responding to complaints:

  • Investigate, take the complaints seriously and do not minimise the event.
  • Seek advice (including legal advice) if you are unsure of how to handle the complaint.
  • Report it to PADI Quality Management at
  • Reporting an assault to the police or other relevant authorities is a way to try to prevent the behaviour from continuing. In many cases complainants choose not to report what happened to them for fear of repercussion and retaliation.
  • Call the behaviour out – Let colleagues and staff know that the behaviour is not OK

How to prevent the behaviour from occurring:

One way to prevent harassment is to create a culture in which everyone is treated equally. By minimising the sexism (intentional or not) in a dive operation we can create an environment in which everyone thrives.

Positive steps you could take:

  • Have policies that address how you will respond to complaints.
  • Be mindful of how you introduce your colleagues – use their name and don’t objectify them.
  • Don’t make comments on people’s bodies, how they look, or their personal life.
  • Provide privacy when people are getting changed.
  • When addressing each other use names – rather than descriptions “young lady” “big guy”.
  • Role model the right behaviours at the workplace.
  • Treat staff equally and with respect.
  • Support women diving – Have a PADI Women’s Dive Day event – what better way to show customers and staff that you support women diving.
  • Take down the posters of scantily clad women and men. Objectifying people in advertising does not support a fair and equal workplace.

By taking these steps you will encourage your staff and customers into a positive environment in which everyone is respected. Let’s keep diving safe for all divers!

You can learn more about this topic through the many resources available in your community. If you or someone you know has been the subject of unwanted sexual contact or harassment reach out to support services in your region. If you wish to report such behaviour to PADI please contact the Quality Management department at