Scuba diving

With the right training, experience, equipment and conditions, scuba diving in the UK and Ireland can be phenomenal. Our marine environment rivals some of the best in the world, offering a fascinating range of wrecks and wildlife for scuba divers around our coastlines to enjoy. As with any watersport, there are risks involved and we’re here to help you dive safely.
Two scuba divers just below the surface of the water and silhouetted against the sun

Photo: Shutterstock / Rich Carey

Understand the risks and dive safely

There were 50 scuba fatalities in UK waters between 2011 and 2015. Many could have been avoided through improved dive preparation, monitoring throughout the dive and personal diving skills.

Divers tend to be well educated about the risks of their sport but some push their limits too far, don’t take proper precautions and older divers are more at risk from underlying health conditions.

RNLI lifeboat crews were called out to 73 incidents involving divers in UK and Ireland waters during 2015. One rescue involved three all-weather lifeboats from The Lizard, Falmouth and Penlee, an RNAS Culdrose search and rescue helicopter and HMS Somerset after a dive boat reported one of its divers missing. Luckily the diver was wearing a personal locator beacon (PLB), which may have saved his life that day.

Trained abroad? Get advice for diving at home

If you learned to dive abroad and want to start diving at home, get advice from BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club), PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) or the Irish Underwater Council.

Take our new sea survival course for divers

Knowing what to do if something goes wrong at sea can make the difference between life and death. That's why we've developed the RNLI Diver Sea Survival course in partnership with the British Diving Safety Group (BDSG), which will provide you with essential diving survival skills.

Six simple checks for safe diving

  • Be fit to dive
    Prepare yourself by being fit to dive - cold water will put extra strain on your body. Always consider your cardiac health before diving and get any concerns checked out.

  • Check your diving equipment
    At the start of the season make sure all your diving gear is in service and ready for another year’s diving.

  • Plan your dives
    Check the weather and tides. Find tide tables and sea conditions for the UK and Ireland at magicseaweed.com.

  • Always complete a buddy check
    Always complete a thorough buddy check before a dive. However experienced you are or however many times you have dived with your buddy, DO IT - it could save your life.

  • Be spotted
    All divers should carry a surface marker buoy (SMB) or delayed surface marker buoy (DSMB) on every dive to aid their visibility to all surface craft.
  • Carry a means of calling for help
    If something goes wrong, how will you call for help? Consider carrying a personal locator beacon (PLB) in a waterproof canister.

Check your most important piece of kit – your body

Divers aged 50 and over accounted for 57% of all diving deaths in UK waters in 2013, according to research from the BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club).*

That’s why we’re encouraging experienced divers to ensure their cardiac health is shipshape.

Three easy steps to checking your diving health

If you’re a diver aged 50 or over, check that you are fit to dive. You may be experienced and safety conscious, but the greatest risk you face is your body not being able to cope with the demands of diving. A medical emergency when you’re mid-dive could be fatal.

  • Step 1
    Carry out a realistic and honest self-assessment of your health before diving.

  • Step 2
    Visit your healthcare professional for a health check. Or if you’re in the UK, get a free NHS health check.

  • Step 3
    Any concerns? Speak to a UK Diving Medical Referee.

If your health check reveals any medical concerns, contact an approved, registered diving doctor through the UK Diving Medical Committee. It's better to identify and deal with a problem in advance than to risk a complication mid-dive.

Don’t be afraid to say no to a dive if you have any concerns about your health, even if you’re just about to enter the water.

* Statistics taken from the BSAC Diving Incident Report 2013 for the incident year 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013.

Keeping you safe

Here are ways we’re working to help you get the most out of scuba diving and keep you as safe as possible while enjoying your sport.

  • Understanding divers
    We’ve been working with the British Diving Safety Group (BDSG) to better understand how and why people dive, what they know about the risks and what safety measures they take. Our research will help us produce targeted and relevant safety advice to help divers enjoy their sport as safely as possible.

  • Sea survival for divers
    We’ve developed the RNLI Diver Sea Survival course in partnership with the BDSG. The aim of the course is to teach sea survival skills and refresh pertinent diving skills to help scuba divers dive safely.

  • Scuba health roadshow
    We’re also organising a scuba health roadshow in partnership with the DDRC (Diving Disease Research Centre). By asking divers about their health, we hope to get an overall picture of the diving population’s cardiac health in the UK and Ireland.

Figures taken from:

  • The National Water Safety Forum's Water Incident Database (WAID) 2010-13.
  • The BSAC Diving Incident Report 2015 for the incident year 1 October 2014 to 30 September 2015.
  • RNLI 2015 incident data.

Don’t be a statistic

50 scuba diving fatalities  in UK waters between 2011 and 2015

73 lifeboat launches to scuba diving incidents in 2015