Coastal Safety Brief - Diving and Snorkelling 2020

Page 1

COA S TAL SAFE T Y BRIE F DIVING & S NORKE LLING S U R F L I FE S AV I N G AU S T R A L I A


ND ATI VI O I NNGA LS N OAVPE SRH VO I ETW 20 0 4 -20

ANALYSIS

135

people have died on our coast while diving (SCUBA & SSBA*), an average of eight people each year. Together with snorkelling, diving is number seven in the top 10 National Safety Agenda Issues.

1|1 13|17

15|13 4|7

AVERAGE DROWNING AVERAGE FATALITIES PER YEAR DEATHS PER YEAR

3

5

21|10 DROWNING|FATALITY

14|10

#NCSS2020 PARTICIPATION • 0.4 million scuba divers in 2020

• Occasional divers average 5 hours per year

• 0.1 million frequent scuba divers

• Frequent divers average 70 hours per year

DROWNING DEATHS

OTHER FATALITIES

KEY DEMOGRAPHICS

30–54

MALES AGED

6|3 KEY DEMOGRAPHICS MALES AGED

45–59

61 80% 51 54% 0.02

74 78% 45 65% 0.02

Australian residents, Australian born

Australian residents, Australian born

AVERAGE AGE

AVERAGE AGE

MALE

MALE

AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE

AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE

WERE DIVING OFFSHORE (MORE THAN 500M)

WERE DIVING OFFSHORE (MORE THAN 500M)

PER 100,000 POPULATION

PER 100,000 POPULATION

DIVING (SCUBA & SSBA*) DROWNING DEATHS & OTHER FATALITIES 18

Deaths

0.04 6 0.02

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

9 2019-20

8 2018-19

1 2017-18

2

10 2016-17

12 2015-16

6 2014-15

12 2013-14

6 2012-13

16 2011-12

11 2010-11

7 2009-10

8 2008-09

7 2007-08

4 2006-07

9 2005-06

2004-05

9

Rate per 100,000 pop.

0.06 12

0

Rate per 100,000 pop. Total drowning deaths Total other fatalaties

0.08

0.00

* Surface Supply Breathing Apparatus

# National Coastal Safety Survey COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


SNORKELLING SNAPSHOT 20 0 4 -20

0|1 ANALYSIS

206

people have died on our coast while snorkelling, an average of thirteen people each year. Together with diving, snorkelling is number seven in the top 10 National Safety Agenda Issues.

1|1 65|44

26|16 5|1

AVERAGE DROWNING AVERAGE FATALITIES DEATHS PER YEAR PER YEAR

9

4

27|3 DROWNING|FATALITY

13|2

#NCSS2020 PARTICIPATION • 2.0 million snorkellers in 2020

• Occasional snorkellers average 5 hours per year

• 0.4 million frequent snorkellers

• Frequent snorkellers average 70 hours per year

DROWNING DEATHS

OTHER FATALITIES

KEY DEMOGRAPHICS MALES AGED

1|0

20–44

KEY DEMOGRAPHICS MALES AGED

55–69

68 84% 55 35% 0.02

138 89% 46 46% 0.04

International tourists, European-born

Australian Residents

AVERAGE AGE

AVERAGE AGE

MALE

MALE

AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE

AVERAGE MORTALITY RATE

WERE SNORKELLING OFF A BEACH

WERE SNORKELLING OFF A BEACH

PER 100,000 POPULATION

PER 100,000 POPULATION

SNORKELLING DROWNING DEATHS & OTHER FATALITIES TREND 0.10

15

0.08 0.06 0.04

5 13

8

8

8

15

10

8

17

16

5

19

18

20

16

15

10

2005-06

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

2009-10

2010-11

2011-12

2012-13

2013-14

2014-15

2015-16

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

2019-20

0

0.02

2004-05

Deaths

10

0.00

Rate per 100,000 pop. Total drowning deaths Total other fatalaties

Rate per 100,000 pop.

20


DIVING & S NORKE LLING IN AUS TR ALIA

Diving and snorkelling have become priority activities for Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) to monitor, due to the increasing prevalence of drowning deaths in coastal waters. Since 2004, SLSA has recorded 135 diving and 206 snorkelling deaths, of which 74 diving and 138 snorkelling deaths were due to drowning. However, in recent years the annual numbers of deaths recorded have been above the 16-year average. ABOUT THE BRIEF The 2020 Diving and Snorkelling coastal safety brief presents the trends in Australian drowning deaths and fatalities of divers and snorkellers. The snorkelling data explores drowning deaths and other fatalities (i.e. those due to other causal factors such as medical issues), including recreational sightseeing snorkellers, freedivers, spearfishers and abalone harvesters, where snorkelling was the primary activity. Similarly, the diving data explores drowning deaths and deaths from other causes in divers. Divers include those using scuba (i.e. wearing cylinders contained compressed gas – usually air), and those breathing from a compressed gas supply delivered via a hose from the surface (surface-supplied breathing apparatus – SSBA). Scuba diving is far more common than diving using SSBA, which is usually the realm of occupational divers as well as some keen recreational seafood harvesters. A brief feature on SSBA is presented here, adapted from recent published research1. This brief highlights the participation trends of Australian adults (16 years and older) in scuba diving and snorkelling activities, using data collected in SLSA’s annual National Coastal Safety Survey (NCSS). According to the NCSS2020, survey respondents reported snorkelling participation to be above that of surfing and watercraft activities and similar to those who participate in boating or land-based fishing. In comparison, scuba diving participation is lower, however, one quarter of all scuba diving participants go frequently (at least once per month) and half consider themselves to have advanced expertise.

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

2

MOVING FORWARD Diving and snorkelling are common activities used to explore and enjoy the remarkable Australian coastline. Diving and snorkelling are some of the best ways to experience Australia’s spectacular underwater views and interact with our extraordinary marine life. Unfortunately, being situated in and under the water means that when tragic incidents occur, assistance may be some distance away and lives can be lost. To this end, SLSA continues to monitor and record fatal diving and snorkelling incidents for these activities and has extended this research to investigate causality and other contributing factors. Scuba diving and snorkelling are very popular activities in Australia. Twelve per cent of 1,600 survey respondents (NCSS2020) reported that they scuba dive and/or snorkel at least once a year. Extrapolation of this data equates to approximately 2.4 million participants annually (although this number must be considered with caution due to relatively small numbers2). In addition, many international tourists scuba dive and snorkel on Australian beaches (albeit recent changes with impacts of COVID-19) and offshore reefs to experience internationally renowned destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, which alone has received an average of 2.2 million visitors annually since 20133. While most snorkellers say they take basic safety precautions, like avoiding alcohol and drugs and staying within their skill level, only one quarter (28%) always check coastal conditions before snorkelling. Just over half (57%) reported that they always snorkel with a buddy, although in reality they often separate in the water. Similarly, around one-third (39%) of scuba divers, who are required to be qualified, say they don’t always follow the safety practices and regulations applicable to scuba diving. These simple safety practices can make a big difference if a diver gets into difficulties and have saved many lives.

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


SLSA has recorded 212 diving and snorkelling drowning deaths and 129 other fatalities over the 16-year period from July 2004 to June 2020, equating to an average of 21 deaths each year. The number of deaths fluctuates from year to year, but as a trend the number of snorkelling deaths around Australia has generally increased over time, consistent with other research4. Historically, diving deaths increased steadily until the early 1990s after which it generally plateaued with some annual fluctuations5.

Spearfishing and freediving deaths are emergent associated in almost one-third of snorkelling deaths (36%). Freediving has become increasingly popular in recent years despite the high levels of associated risk7,8. Another issue occurs during the short, highly regulated fishing seasons, like the abalone or crayfishing season, that receive large influxes of divers, freedivers and snorkellers in dangerous locations at the same time9,10. With the increasing popularity of snorkelling, ‘breath-hold blackouts’ (sometimes called ‘shallow water blackouts’) are implicated in many snorkelling-related deaths and are receiving more and more media attention. This brief finishes with a feature that explores what these are, the mechanisms behind their occurrence, and how they can be avoided while participating in these popular and rewarding activities.

Almost all diving decedents (93%) were diving with other people and many were experienced or even highly experienced divers. This suggests that diving incidents are not necessarily an effect of inexperience or negligence, but rather happen in unexpected moments of inattention or panic. Being underwater, diving does not leave much room for error or the inability to cope with this potentially hostile environment due to physical or precipitating factors6. A small mistake or pushing your physical limits too far may have severe consequences. Medical conditions and injuries combined played a notable role in a large proportion of diving (56%) and snorkelling incidents (49%). Cardiac issues were the most common cause of medical-related death, implicated in 21% of diving and 36% of snorkelling deaths, respectively, consistent with earlier reports.4,6 Diving and snorkelling can exacerbate existing medical conditions, highlighting the importance of regular health checks, especially prior to going on holidays. Most diving and snorkelling deaths have occurred in Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales. In Queensland, over half of all snorkelling deaths occurred on the Great Barrier Reef (59%), generally during organised snorkelling tours or private snorkelling trips. Similarly, more than half of all diving deaths (60%) were recorded at offshore locations. As such, it is not surprising that 88% and 90% of diving and snorkelling deaths respectively happened greater than one kilometre from a surf lifesaving service. This emphasises the importance of skills maintenance and highlevel water safety training of individuals and tour operators, as it can prevent fatal mistakes and ultimately save lives.

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


DIVING

0.4M

70HRS

26%

SCUBA DIVERS IN AUSTRALIA IN 2019/20

PER YEAR BY FREQUENT SCUBA DIVERS

ARE ADVANCED SCUBA DIVERS

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

4

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S DIVING 20 0 4 -20

DROWNING DEATHS

FATALITIES

WHY

5%

7%

ILLICIT DRUGS WERE DETECTED

ILLICIT DRUGS WERE DETECTED

41%

14%

DUE TO INJURY

DUE TO INJURY

WHERE

54%

65%

WERE DIVING OFFSHORE (MORE THAN 500M)

WERE DIVING OFFSHORE (MORE THAN 500M)

WHEN

50%

58%

DIVING BETWEEN 6AM–12PM*

DIVING BETWEEN 6AM–12PM*

45%

39%

DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS

WHO

DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS

51% 35%

44% 31%

WERE AUSTRALIAN BORN*

WERE AUSTRALIAN BORN*

WERE INTRASTATE VISITORS

WERE INTRASTATE VISITORS

*These percentages do not include ‘unknown’ data

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


L O C AT I O N DIVING 20 0 4 -20

2004 – 20

DIVING DROWNING DEATHS & FATALITIES BY STATE (n=135) Key to Activity Diving Drowning Death Other Diving Fatality Multiple instances per activity at the same location

4

Capital City

15 | 13

2 2 2

2

PERTH

2

2

2

2

2004 – 20 DIVING DROWNING DEATHS (n=74) AND FATALITIES (n=61) BY STATE AND WATER TYPE

[

DROWNING FATALITY

[

DROWNING FATALITY

[

DROWNING FATALITY

[

DROWNING FATALITY

[

DROWNING FATALITY

[

DROWNING FATALITY

[

DROWNING FATALITY

NSW QLD WA

VIC TAS SA

NT

Coastal Ocean Sovereign Water 0

5

10

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

15

6

20

25

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

0


5 5

2

3

DARWIN 2

2 2

22

1|1 2

13 | 17 2

4|7

3 6 2 17

BRISBANE 2

4 2

5 2 13 2

21 | 10

3

Lord Howe Island

SYDNEY

ADELAIDE

2

CANBERRA

MELBOURNE

4

3 2 5 2

3 3 2 2

14 | 10 2

1,000km

HOBART

6|3

SCALE

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S DIVING 20 0 4 -20

FATALITIES

DROWNING DEATHS

80% MALE

78% MALE

2004 – 20 DIVING: INCIDENT LOCATION 1% 7%

OCCURRED OFFSHORE

3%

11%

65% 54%

3%

7%

16% 54%

16%

DROWNING DEATHS

65%

FATALITIES

Offshore Bay Beach Rock/Cliff Jetty Port/Marina

16%

DROWNING DEATHS

FATALITIES

2004 – 20 DIVING: CONTINENT OF BIRTH

51% 43%

2%

3%

AUSTRALIAN BORN

7%

7% 17% 15% 43%

51%

DROWING DEATHS

FATALITIES

2%

2%

Australia Europe Asia North America Africa Oceania Latin America

20%

DROWNING DEATHS

28% FATALITIES

NB: analyses include known cases only

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S DIVING 20 0 4 -20

DROWNING DEATHS Average age of deceased

45 YEARS

FATALITIES

39% 27%

38% 30%

Average age of deceased

51

AGED 30-44 YEARS

AGED 45-54 YEARS

AGED 45-54 YEARS

AGED 55-64 YEARS

YEARS

2004 – 20 DIVING: TOXICOLOGY

ILLICIT DRUGS DETECTED

7% 5%

18%

3% 1%

7%

13%

5% 8%

3%

DROWING DEATHS

FATALITIES

Illicit Drugs Legal Drugs Alcohol & Legal Drugs None Not Performed Unknown

69%

74%

DROWNING DEATHS

FATALITIES

2004 – 20 DIVING: MEDICAL AND INJURY-RELATED

INJURY

14% 41%

17%

14% 21% 11% 2%

41%

DROWNING DEATHS 14% Injury Medical Cardiac None Unknown

44%

FATALITIES

DROWNING DEATHS

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

9

31% 5% FATALITIES

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S D R O W N I N G D E AT H S DIVING 20 0 4 -20

AGE & GENDER 10 9

39% 27%

45

10

9 7 5

4

AGED 30-44 YEARS

YEARS

Male Female

11

DROWNING DEATHS BY AGE & GENDER (n=74)

3

3

2 1 0-4

AGED 45-54 YEARS

5-9

10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69 70-74 75-79 80-84

85+

TIME DROWNING DEATHS BY TIME (n=72*) Shading denotes daylight hours

16

50% 49%

12

6

6AM-12PM

7

6

0

0

0

9 - 10pm

6 - 7pm

5 - 6pm

4 - 5pm

3 - 4pm

2 - 3pm

1 - 2pm

1

8 - 9pm

2

4

12 - 1pm

11 - 12pm

10 - 11am

9 - 10am

8 - 9am

7 - 8am

6 - 7am

12-6PM

5

7 - 8pm

4 5

2

2

*This number does not include ‘unknown’ time of death, this is due to under reporting of night-time deaths which are usually not recorded until the morning and have occurred without witnesses. 2.7% (n=2) of cases occurred at unknown times.

MONTH DROWNING DEATHS BY MONTH (n=74) Shading denotes seasons

20

18

15

2020 SUMMER

45%

DECEMBER-FEBRUARY

10

10 6

5

4

0

July

6

5

6

6

4

4

4

May

June

1

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

August

September

10

October

November

December

January

February

March

April

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S F ATA L I T I E S DIVING 20 0 4 -20

AGE & GENDER Male Female

14

FATALITIES DEATHS BY AGE (n=58)

11

51 YEARS

38% 30%

9 7

AGED 45-54 YEARS

AGED 55-64 YEARS

4

4

5-9

2

1

1 0-4

4

4

10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69 70-74 75-79 80-84

85+

TIME FATALITIES BY TIME (n=60*)

15

Shading denotes daylight hours

7

1

6 - 7pm

1

5 - 6pm

3 - 4pm

2 - 3pm

1 - 2pm

12 - 1pm

11 - 12pm

10 - 11am

9 - 10am

7 - 8am

1 0

8 - 9am

0

6 - 7am

12-6PM

0

3

0

0

9 - 10pm

3

3

8 - 9pm

6AM-12PM

6

7

7 - 8pm

8 5

4 - 5pm

58% 38%

*This number does not include ‘unknown’ time of death, this is due to under reporting of night-time deaths which are usually not recorded until the morning and have occurred without witnesses. 1.6% (n=1) of cases occurred at unknown times.

MONTH FATALITIES BY MONTH (n=61)

10

Shading denotes seasons

8 8

8

2020 SUMMER

39%

DECEMBER-FEBRUARY

6

6

6 5

4 4

4

2

2 0

6 6

2

1 July

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

August

September

11

October

November

December

January

February

March

April

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

May

June


P A R T I C I P AT I O N P R O F I L E SCUBA DIVING

The NCSS2020 revealed that coastal participation differs by activity, gender, frequency and state. These pages show the proportion of male and female participants, the number of total and frequent participants, how many hours annually frequent vs. occasional participants spend on an activity, and the percentage of the state population who participate in each activity.

GENDER

NCSS2020 PARTICIPATION BY STATE

1

2%

%

2%

66%

2% FREQUENCY

STATE

5%

2 3%

%

400,000

100,000

NCSS2020

NCSS2020

SCUBA DIVERS

27% USUALLY SCUBA DIVE AT AN OFFSHORE LOCATION

34%

70

5

HOURS

HOURS

FREQUENT

OCCASIONAL

FREQUENT SCUBA DIVERS

66%

69%

CAN SWIM 50M IN THE OCEAN WITHOUT STOPPING OR TOUCHING THE BOTTOM

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

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SEEK COASTAL SAFETY INFORMATION ONLINE

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


NCSS2020 AGE OF SCUBA DIVING PARTICIPANTS

36%

57%

33%

21% 10%

SCUBA DIVERS ARE 16-34 YEARS OF AGE

16 - 24

25 - 34

35 - 49

50+

NCSS2020 SELF-REPORTED SCUBA DIVING EXPERTISE 50%

50%

26%

22%

SCUBA DIVERS ARE ADVANCED DIVERS Beginner

Intermediate

NCSS2020 SWIMMING ABILITY OF SCUBA DIVERS OVERALL 50 COMPARED TO OCEAN

50% SCUBA DIVERS SAY THEY ARE AVERAGE OCEAN SWIMMERS

50% Overall Ocean

42%

40

37%

30

26% 19%

20

13%

11% 10 2% 0

Advanced

Unable to Swim/Weak Swimmer

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

13

Average

Competent

Highy Competent

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


SAFET Y PR AC TICES SCUBA DIVING

78%

NCSS2020 SAFETY EQUIPMENT USE BY SCUBA DIVERS Q. Please indicate what equipment you carry or use when scuba diving?

SCUBA DIVERS WEAR FLIPPERS WHEN DIVING

78%

80 70

67%

60

64%

58%

50

54% 47%

40

33%

30

29%

20 10

5%

0 Flippers

Buoyancy aid

Secondary regulator

Dive flag

Whistle

Spare air tank

Shark deterrent device

Lifejacket

Other

37%

NCSS2020 SAFETY PRACTICES OF SCUBA DIVERS Q. How often do you follow each of these practices when you go scuba diving?

SCUBA DIVERS ALWAYS CHECK CONDITIONS BEFORE GOING DIVING Always

100

14%

13%

14%

16%

9%

8%

Most of the time

7%

Sometimes

8% 24%

13% 80

13%

17%

17%

19%

32%

28%

Never

15% 15%

31%

15%

Can’t say

19%

60

33% 40

73%

70%

69%

65%

63%

63%

61%

60%

57% 37%

20

0

Use safety equipment

Dive to appropriate Consistently Use only certified skill/training monitor and functioning level location/conditions scuba equipment

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

Dive with at least one other person

14

Avoid diving under the influence of alcohol/drugs

Follow laws and Consistently monitor Have a dive plan regulations air levels and an emergency plan

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

Check conditions with authorities


HAZARD PERCEPTION SCUBA DIVING

NCSS2020 COASTAL HAZARD PERCEPTION OF SCUBA DIVERS Q. How hazardous do you believe the coast to be? (Including the ocean, surfzone and adjacent rocky coast)

55%

86% FREQUENT SCUBA DIVERS BELIEVE THE COAST IS SOMEWHAT HAZARDOUS

Frequent Occasional

86%

16% 2%

3%

Extremely hazardous

12%

19% 8%

0%

0%

Very hazardous

Somewhat hazardous

Not very hazardous

Not at all hazardous

NCSS2020 HAZARD PERCEPTION OF SCUBA DIVING

Q. How hazardous do you believe scuba diving to be? 51%

51%

27% 18%

SCUBA DIVERS BELIEVE THAT DIVING IS SOMEWHAT HAZARDOUS

3% Extremely hazardous

Very hazardous

Somewhat hazardous

Not very hazardous

1%

0%

Not at all hazardous

Can't say

NCSS2020 HAZARD PERCEPTION OF FREQUENT VS OCCASIONAL SCUBA DIVERS Q. How hazardous do you believe scuba diving to be?

27% FREQUENT SCUBA DIVERS BELIEVE DIVING IS EXTREMELY /VERY HAZARDOUS

55% 40%

37% 25%

15%

19%

9% 0% Extremely hazardous

Frequent Occassional

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

0% Very hazardous

15

2%

Somewhat hazardous Not very hazardous Not at all hazardous

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

0%

0%

Can't say


S U R F A C E - S U P P L I E D B R E AT H I N G A P P A R AT U S (S S B A) D I V I N G

Surface-supplied breathing apparatus (SSBA) diving differs from scuba diving as it involves breathing gas (usually air) supplied from a device on the surface. The term “hookah” is commonly used describe the basic equipment which supplies air from a simple, usually petrol-driven, compressor which delivers the air to divers via a long hose with a demand valve.

breathing gas. If exhaust fumes enter the breathing air, there is a high risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, which can be fatal but may also lead unconsciousness underwater and death by drowning. Carbon monoxide can also be produced from a faulty and/or overheating compressor, so thorough maintenance and checking is important. The diver usually wears a mask, fins, suit, weights, and, ideally, a buoyancy compensator device. An emergency gas supply in the form of a bail-out cylinder should also be worn in case of an air supply failure, although this important safety measure is too often neglected.

Compressors must be fit-for-purpose, well-maintained, and appropriately configured to provide a steady air supply to all the divers using it. Compressors also need to be positioned securely in a well-ventilated area to prevent overheating and to ensure that exhaust fumes cannot contaminate the

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


A recent study of SSBA deaths in Australia1 identified 84 SSBA-related deaths between 1965 and 2019. Unlike in scuba diving incidents, equipment-related issues were the major contributor to SSBA deaths. Incomplete (i.e. when certain components are missing), or faulty equipment predisposed to one third of the deaths. Equipment problems were also identified as the triggers in one-quarter of cases. The main source of these problems were poorly maintained, badly positioned, or inappropriately configured compressors, which led to interruption or contamination of the breathing gas supplied to divers. Most victims were relatively young, healthy males (average age of 33 years). At least half of victims were undertaking work-related diving, and more than one third were recreational diving. Many of the recreational victims were untrained in the use of SSBA and some had no dive training or certification in any form. Unlike scuba diving, where certification should be shown before receiving a cylinder fill, there is no restriction on who can buy and use a “hookah”. One quarter of the deaths were from primary drowning (although 44% resulted in drowning, sometimes subsequent to unconsciousness from another cause). Lung overpressure injury (usually due to a rapid ascent following loss of air supply) accounted for another one quarter of the deaths, gas contamination (usually carbon monoxide [CO]) for 17%, and trauma (from shark, crocodile and boats) led to 12% of deaths. SSBA deaths between 2004-2020 SLSA’s Coastal Fatality database has recorded fourteen deaths of divers using SSBA, half of these being recreational divers collecting seafood. The average age of the casualties was 46 years, and all were males. At least ten were described as experienced divers. There were two deaths in each of the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia, four in Tasmania, and none in New South Wales. The causes of two incidents were unknown, while others were attributed to cardiac events (3), impact with boat or propeller (2), loss of air supply (2), crocodile attack (1), shark attack (1), and CO contamination of the air supply. Six of the divers died from drowning, three from trauma, two as a result of a lung overpressure injury, and one from CO poisoning. The cause of death for the two remaining cases are yet to be determined. This excerpt has been adapted from Lippmann (2021)1.

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


SNORKELLING

2M

70HRS

49%

SNORKELLERS IN AUSTRALIA IN 2019/20

PER YEAR BY FREQUENT SNORKELLERS

AGED BETWEEN 16-34 YEARS OF AGE

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

18

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S SNORKELLING 20 0 4 -20

FATALITIES

DROWNING DEATHS WHY

1%

3%

ILLICIT DRUGS WERE DETECTED

ILLICIT DRUGS WERE DETECTED

65%

22%

DUE TO CARDIAC CONDITION

DUE TO CARDIAC CONDITION

WHERE

35%

46%

WERE SNORKELLING OFF A BEACH

WERE SNORKELLING OFF A BEACH

WHEN

47%

51%

DIVING BETWEEN 6AM–12PM*

DIVING BETWEEN 6AM–12PM*

33%

39%

DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS*

WHO

DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS*

35% 42%

40% 48%

WERE ASIAN-BORN*

WERE EUROPEN-BORN*

WERE INTERNATIONAL TOURISTS

WERE INTERNATIONAL TOURISTS

*These percentages do not include ‘unknown’ data

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


L O C AT I O N SNORKELLING 20 0 4 -20

2004 – 20 SNORKELLING DROWNING DEATHS & FATALITIES BY STATE (n=206) Key to Drowning Activity Snorkelling Drowning Death Other Snorkelling Fatality Multiple instances per activity at the same location

4

Capital City

2

4

3

3

4 6

26 | 16

Activity

wning Death

g Fatality

OCCURRED AT THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

es per activity at the same location

54% 66%

DROWNING DEATHS

2

3 2 2

FATALITIES

2

2

2004 – 20 SNORKELLING DROWNING DEATHS (n=138) AND FATALITIES (n=68) BY STATE AND WATER TYPE

[ NSW[ WA[ VIC[ SA[ NT[ TAS[ Torres Strait[ QLD

DROWNING FATALITY DROWNING FATALITY DROWNING FATALITY DROWNING FATALITY

0

DROWNING FATALITY DROWNING FATALITY

Coastal Ocean Sovereign Water

DROWNING FATALITY DROWNING FATALITY

0

PERTH

10

20

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

30

40

20

50

60

70

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


0|1 5 5

2

DARWIN 2

2 4

4 6

3 6

7

9

2 3

7 3 2

2 2 4 3

1|1

2

4

4 3

65 | 44 2 3 2

4 2 2

5|1

3 6 2

BRISBANE 2

5

27 | 3 2

2 4

SYDNEY

ADELAIDE 2

4 5

CANBERRA

MELBOURNE

2 2

5

4

2

2 4

6 2

13 | 2

3

3

2

1,000km

HOBART

SCALE

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

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1|0

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

Lord Howe Island


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S SNORKELLING 20 0 4 -20

DROWNING DEATHS

FATALITIES

84% MALE

89% MALE

2004 – 20 SNORKELLING: INCIDENT LOCATION 1%

1% 9%

OCCURRED AT A BEACH

13%

7% 35%

46% 35%

46%

DROWNING DEATHS 37%

Beach Offshore Bay Rock/Cliff Jetty

FATALITIES

50%

DROWNING DEATHS

FATALITIES

2004 – 20 SNORKELLING: CONTINENT OF BIRTH

35% 14%

DROWING DEATHS

2%

2%

ASIAN BORN

7%

14%

12%

8% 35%

24%

32%

FATALITIES

Asia Australia Europe North America Oceania Africa

25% DROWNING DEATHS

40%

FATALITIES

NB: analyses include known cases only

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S SNORKELLING 20 0 4 -20

DROWNING DEATHS Average age of deceased

46

FATALITIES

32% 25%

Average age of deceased

55

AGED 20-34 YEARS

AGED 60-74 YEARS

YEARS

32% 21%

AGED 55-64 YEARS

AGED 65-74 YEARS

YEARS

2004 – 20 SNORKELLING: TOXICOLOGY 2%

ILLICIT DRUGS DETECTED

3% 1%

15%

3%

1%

1% 13%

1%

3%

DROWING DEATHS

FATALITIES

Alcohol Illicit Drugs Legal Drugs Alcohol & Illicit Drugs None Not Performed Unknown

74%

82%

DROWNING DEATHS

FATALITIES

2004 – 20 SNORKELLING: MEDICAL & INJURY-RELATED

CARDIAC CONDITION

22% 65%

13% 23%

22%

19% 7%

DROWNING DEATHS

FATALITIES

1%

46% DROWNING DEATHS

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

65% Cardiac Medical Injury None Unknown

23

3%

FATALITIES

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S D R O W N I N G D E AT H SNORKELLING 20 0 4 -20

AGE & GENDER DROWNING DEATHS BY AGE (n=138)

32% 25%

46

17

12

11

11

11 9 7

AGED 25-34 YEARS

YEARS

AGED 60-74 YEARS

Male Female

17

16

8

7

6

4 2 0 0-4

0

0

5-9

0

10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69 70-74 75-79 80-84

85+

TIME DROWNING DEATHS BY TIME (n=135*)

19

19

Shading denotes daylight hours

17

16

8

8

8

7

8 6 4

0

9 - 10pm

1

10 - 11pm

0

8 - 9pm

7 - 8pm

6 - 7pm

5 - 6pm

4 - 5pm

3 - 4pm

2 - 3pm

1 - 2pm

12 - 1pm

11 - 12pm

10 - 11am

9 - 10am

1

8 - 9am

12-6PM

8 5

7 - 8am

6AM-12PM

6 - 7am

47% 47%

*This number does not include ‘unknown’ time of death, this is due to under reporting of night-time deaths which are usually not recorded until the morning and have occurred without witnesses. 3% (n=4) of cases occurred at unknown times.

MONTH DROWNING DEATHS BY MONTH (n=137*) Shading denotes seasons

19 17 15

2020 SUMMER

34%

DECEMBER-FEBRUARY

15

16

15

10

9 8

5

6

2 July

August

September

October

November

December

January

February

March

April

*This number does not include ‘unknown’ month of death. One case occurred in an unknown month.

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

May

June


C A U S A L A N A LY S I S F ATA L I T Y SNORKELLING 20 0 4 -20

AGE 11

FATALITIES DEATHS BY AGE (n=68)

32% 21%

55

8 7 6

6

AGED 65-74 YEARS

5

5

AGED 55-64 YEARS

YEARS

Male Female

11

3

3 1

1 0 0-4

0

0 5-9

1 0

0

10-14 15-19 20-24 25-29 30-34 35-39 40-44 45-49 50-54 55-59 60-64 65-69 70-74 75-79 80-84

85+

TIME FATALITIES BY TIME (n=67*) Shading denotes daylight hours

13 11

8

5

6AM-12PM

3 1

7 - 8pm

0

0

10 - 11pm

0

9 - 10pm

0

8 - 9pm

5 - 6pm

0

4 - 5pm

3 - 4pm

2 - 3pm

1 - 2pm

12 - 1pm

11 - 12pm

10 - 11am

7 - 8am

8 - 9am

0

6 - 7pm

1 0

6 - 7am

12-6PM

8

6

9 - 10am

51% 47%

11

*This number does not include ‘unknown’ time of death, this is due to under reporting of night-time deaths which are usually not recorded until the morning and have occurred without witnesses. 3% (n=2) of cases occurred at unknown times.

MONTH FATALITIES BY MONTH (n=68) Shading denotes seasons

11 9

9 8

2020 SUMMER

40%

7 6 5 4 3

DECEMBER-FEBRUARY

2

July

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

August

September

25

October

November

December

January

February

March

April

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

2

2

May

June


P A R T I C I P AT I O N P R O F I L E SNORKELLING

The NCSS2020 revealed that coastal participation differs by activity, gender, frequency and state. These pages show the proportion of male and female participants, the number of total and frequent participants, how many hours annually frequent vs. occasional participants spend on an activity, and the percentage of the state population who participate in each activity.

12% 11% 8%

55%

11% FREQUENCY

14

%

STATE

GENDER

NCSS2020 PARTICIPATION BY STATE

10 12%

%

2,000,000

400,000

NCSS2020

NCSS2020

SNORKELLERS

31%

70

5

HOURS

HOURS

FREQUENT

OCCASIONAL

70%

CAN SWIM 50M IN THE OCEAN WITHOUT STOPPING OR TOUCHING THE BOTTOM

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

45%

FREQUENT SNORKELLERS

61%

SNORKEL AT A PATROLLED BEACH DURING PATROL HOURS

|

26

SEEK COASTAL SAFETY INFORMATION ONLINE

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


NCSS2020 AGE OF SNORKELLING PARTICIPANTS

33%

49%

25%

24%

18%

SNORKELLERS ARE 16-34 YEARS OF AGE

16 - 24

25 - 34

35 - 49

50+

NCSS2020 SELF-REPORTED SNORKELLING EXPERTISE 51%

51%

32% 17%

SNORKELLERS ARE INTERMEDIATE Beginner

Intermediate

NCSS2020 SWIMMING ABILITY OF SNORKELLERS OVERALL COMPARED TO OCEAN

Overall Ocean

35%

22% 16% 10%

10%

Unable to Swim/Weak Swimmer

37%

30%

22% SNORKELLERS SAY THEY ARE WEAK OCEAN SWIMMERS

38%

Advanced

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

Average

27

Competent

Highy Competent

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


SAFET Y PR AC TICES SNORKELLING

88%

NCSS2020 SAFETY EQUIPMENT USE BY SNORKELLERS Q. Please indicate what equipment you carry or use when snorkelling?

SNORKELLERS WEAR FLIPPERS WHEN SNORKELLING

88%

37%

34%

28%

19%

18% 6%

Flippers

Lifejacket

Buoyancy aid

Whistle

Shark deterrent device

Dive flag

Other

76%

NCSS2020 SAFETY PRACTICES OF SNORKELLER Q. How often do you follow each of these practices when you go snorkelling?

AVOID SNORKELLING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS Most of the time

Always 1% 12%

6%

12%

24%

1% 1%

2% 3% 6%

17%

1% 2%

4% 10%

13%

Sometimes

Never

Can’t say 2%

4%

11%

19%

16%

17%

25%

31%

28%

27%

21%

28%

22%

25%

76% 68%

69%

64% 57%

58%

Avoid snorkelling under the influence of alcohol/drugs

Snorkel to appropriate skill/training level

Follow laws and regulations

Consistently monitor location/conditions

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28

Snorkel with at least one other person

26%

60% 50%

Use safety equipment

31%

28%

Have a dive plan and an emergency plan

Check conditions with authorities

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


HAZARD PERCEPTION SNORKELLING

NCSS2020 COASTAL HAZARD PERCEPTION OF SNORKELLERS 54%

Q. How hazardous do you believe the coast to be? (Including the ocean, surfzone and adjacent rocky coast)

Frequent Occasional

41%

54% OCCASIONAL SNORKELLERS BELIEVE THE COAST IS SOMEWHAT HAZARDOUS

22% 16%

14%

12%

19%

13% 5%

4% Extremely hazardous

Very hazardous

Somewhat hazardous

Not very hazardous

Not at all hazardous

NCSS2020 HAZARD PERCEPTION OF SNORKELLING Q. How hazardous do you believe snorkelling to be?

41%

40%

46% BELIEVE THAT SNORKELLING IS SOMEWHAT/VERY HAZARDOUS

12% 5%

2%

0% Extremely hazardous

Very hazardous

Somewhat hazardous

Not very hazardous

Not at all hazardous

Can't say

NCSS2020 HAZARD PERCEPTION OF FREQUENT VS OCCASIONAL SNORKELLERS Q. How hazardous do you believe snorkelling to be?

50% FREQUENT SNORKELLERS BELIEVE SNORKELLING IS SOMEWHAT/VERY HAZARDOUS

44% 38% 25%

6% 0%

0%

Extremely hazardous

Frequent Occassional

48%

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTR ALIA

25%

9%

2%

0%

Very hazardous

29

Somewhat hazardous Not very hazardous Not at all hazardous

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING

3%

Can't say


F R E E - D I V I N G & B R E AT H - H O L D B L A C K O U T S

Diving without a supplementary oxygen supply or ‘freediving’ has been around for thousands of years, an activity used by coastal communities for fishing and to collect pearls or corals. Since recreational freediving has become increasingly popular, the limits of human underwater breath-holding abilities continue to be pushed11. Unfortunately, breathholding for too long can result in a loss of consciousness and may result in an individual drowning. Here we discuss two different types of blackouts that can occur while snorkelling or diving, how they occur and how you can stay safe.

such as freediving and spearfishing, an hypoxic blackout most commonly occurs due to due to extended breath-holding with or without pre-immersion hyperventilation. Hyperventilation (which in this context involves taking a series of breaths with extended exhalation) decreases the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood (or induces a state of hypocapnia), allowing swimmers and divers to stay immersed for longer and deeper11. In normal breathing, as oxygen is converted to carbon dioxide through the process of respiration, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood increases and culminates in a breakpoint triggering an urge to breathe11. By hyperventilating pre-immersion, the time until the breakpoint can be prolonged allowing for longer dives. However, if oxygen levels are not replenished the body experiences hypoxia and a loss of consciousness potentially occurs (hypoxic blackout11). An hypoxic blackout in the water is incredibly dangerous as it often leads to a drowning event; usually fatal. This blackout mechanism can occur quickly and with little or no warning.

Underwater blackouts can occur at any depth, although the term ‘shallow water blackout’ has been used by the media to describe these events. A more appropriate term is “breathhold blackout”. The following describes two mechanisms that cause breath-hold blackouts to occur. HYPOXIC OR BREATH-HOLD BLACKOUT An hypoxic blackout is the loss of consciousness due to a substantial drop in blood oxygen levels and can occur on land or in the water11,12. In predominantly underwater activities

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


An ascent blackout, or hypoxia of ascent, is the loss of consciousness due to a drop of water pressure acting on the chest and lungs as a swimmer or diver ascends towards the surface from depth13. The high surrounding (ambient) pressure at depth increases the partial pressure of oxygen in the lungs and partly compensates for the reducing oxygen levels from breathholding11. However, when ascending to the surface, the sudden decrease in water pressure causes a reduction in the pressure driving oxygen to the blood and, hence, other organs including the brain. Similar to hypoxic blackouts, an ascent blackout can result in a loss of consciousness underwater, leading to drowning and even death. Both of these mechanisms can occur when a breath-hold diver is ascending from depth. WHO IS AT RISK? Anyone who participates in activities which require breath-holding underwater at any depth is at risk of hypoxic blackout. This includes diving snorkellers, free-divers and spear fishers as well as individuals involved in breath-holding games or hypoxic training to increase breath-holding abilities12,14. Those whose breath-holding involves diving to greater depths, such as freedivers and spearfishers, are at greater risk of blackouts due to the reduction of pressure from ascent13. Between 2001-2013, breath-hold blackouts resulted in 22 drowning deaths in Australia4. In this study, eleven were spearfishing, five were practicing breathholding in the ocean, five occurred while practicing breath-holding in swimming pools, and one occurred in a mine shaft4. HOW TO STAY SAFE WHILE SNORKELLING AND DIVING* *adapted from Hong (1990)15 • Never snorkel or dive alone and keep a close eye on your buddy • Breathe normally during a compressed air dive (scuba or SSBA) and never hold your breath during ascent • Do not hyperventilate before a breath-hold dive • Never ignore the urge to breathe during a breath-hold dive and immediately head to the surface for air if you need to • Take breaks of appropriate durations between breath-hold dives to rest and stabilise • Don’t hesitate to drop your weight belt if you are beginning to feel faint • Ensure that you are physically and medically fit for diving. All scuba divers 45 years or older should undergo a diving medical examination • Learn the basics of CPR and think about adapting them to your diving arena, whether diving from shore or a vessel

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REFERENCES

Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Report 2020 The Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Report (NCSR) is published annually and contains information on Australian community behaviours and attitudes to the coast; SLS capability and membership capacity; rescues and emergency response; and coastal drowning deaths. The NCSR2020 represents the statistics from the period of 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020. Trend analyses from 2004-20 are also included. All care is taken to ensure the statistical information included within this report is correct. However, pending the outcome of ongoing coronial investigations and as SLS state/territory entities update their operational information, this data may be amended. Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Surveys The annual Surf Life Saving Australia National Coastal Safety Surveys (NCSS) collect Information about community swimming ability, behaviours and attitudes to coastal safety. The NCSS2020 is conducted by Newspoll Market Research and Omnipoll and is run online over a ten-day period among a national sample of approximately 1,600 respondents aged 16 and above. The study is carried out in compliance with ISO 20252 - Market, Social and Opinion Research. To reflect the population distribution, results were postweighted (on age, gender, geographic strata and education) and projected to Australian Bureau of Statistics data. Data illustrated in figures may not always add up to 100% due to rounding.

References 1. Lippmann J. (2021). Fatalities involving divers using surface-supplied breathing apparatus in Australia, 1965 to 2019. Diving Hyperb Med. in press. 2. Lippmann, J., Stevenson, C., McD Taylor, D., & Williams, J. (2016). Estimating the risk of a scuba diving fatality in Australia. Diving Hyperb Med, 46(4), 241-246. 3. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (2020) Great Barrier Reef tourist numbers. Accessed 18 November 2020. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/ reefstrategies/visitor-contributions/ numbers 4. Lippmann, J. (2019). Snorkelling and breath-hold diving fatalities in Australia, 2001 to 2013. Demographics, characteristics and chain of events. Diving and hyperbaric medicine, 49(3), 192-203. 5. Lippmann, J., Stevenson, C., & Taylor, D. M. (2020). Scuba diving fatalities in Australia, 2001 to 2013: Diver demographics and characteristics. Diving and hyperbaric medicine, 50(2), 105-114. 6. Lippmann, J., & Taylor, D. M. (2020). Medical conditions in scuba diving fatality victims in Australia, 2001 to 2013. Diving and hyperbaric medicine, 50(2), 98-104. 7. Mijacika, T. & Dujic, Z. (2016) Sportsrelated lung injury during breath-hold diving. European Respiratory Review 25: 506-512. 8. Durkan, T. (2017) Understanding freediving blackouts and how to prevent them. The Inertia. Accessed 18 November 2020. https://www. theinertia.com/surf/understandingfreediving-blackouts-and-how-toprevent-them/ 9. Surf Life Saving Western Australia (2020) Abalone Fishing. Accessed 18 November 2020. www.mybeach.com. au/safet yrescue-ser vices/coastalrecreation/abalone

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10. Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (2020) Abalone recreational fishing guide 2020/21. Accessed 18 November 2020. www.fish. wa.gov.au/Documents/recreational_ fishing/licences/rec_licence_abalone. pdf 11. Fitz-Clarke, JR. 2011. Breath-Hold Diving. Comprehensive physiology, 8, 585-630. 12. Boyd, C., Levy, A., McProud, T., Huang, L., Raneses, E. & Olson, C. 2015. Fatal and nonfatal drowning outcomes related to dangerous underwater breath-holding behaviors – New York State, 1988-2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64. 518-521. 13. Lindholm, P. & Lundgren, CE. (2009). The physiology and pathophysiology of human breath-hold diving. Journal of Applied Physiology, 106, 284-292. 14. Pearn, J. H., Franklin, R. C., & Peden, A. E. (2015). Hypoxic blackout: diagnosis, risks, and prevention. International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, 9(3), 9. 15. Hong, SK. 1990. Breath-Hold Diving. In: Bove and Davis, Diving Medicine, 2nd ED., Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders, pp 59-68. Data correct at 31 October 2020. Changes may occur at a later date. © 2021 Surf Life Saving Australia This publication is copyright. Except as expressly provided in the Copyright Act 1968 and the Copyright Amendment Act 2006, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval systems or transmitted by any means (including electronic, mechanical, microcopying, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without prior permission from Surf Life Saving Australia. For enquiries concerning reproduction, contact SLSA on: phone 02 9215 8000; email: info@slsa.asn.au

COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING


Every attempt has been made to trace and acknowledge copyright, but in some cases this may not have been possible. Surf Life Saving Australia apologises for any accidental infringements and would welcome any information to redress the situation. Acknowledgements Surf Life Saving Australia wishes to thank Frederick Anne (Omnipoll) for provision/ analysis of participation data. and the Australasian Diving Safety Foundation (ADSF) for enabling Dr John Lippmann OAM to provide information from its database and contribute to this report..

Suggested Citation Cooney, N., Lippmann, J. Ellis, A., Daw, S., and Lawes, J. (2021) Coastal Safety Brief: Diving and Snorkelling. Surf Life Saving Australia: Sydney.

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COASTAL SAFET Y BRIEF – DIVING & SNORKELLING