The BDSG issues guidance for the resumption of diving in England
Earlier today (Thursday 21 May 2020) the British Diving Safety Group COVID-19 team met to
discuss the resumption of recreational diving activities.
The working group has cautiously welcomed a mindful, progressive return to shore diving,
because it naturally lends itself to social distancing above the surface. It is worth noting that
below the surface divers routinely dive in full personal protective equipment (PPE).
The BDSG has today issued clear guidance for diving in England. When the devolved
Government advice changes in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the BDSG will also
amend its advice. The Republic of Ireland resumed limited diving activities on Monday 18
May, eg recreational non-training shore diving to 12 metres.
BDSG Guidance for diving in England, as of 21 May 2020
- You must follow the Coronavirus (COVID-19) government guidance for your
country at all times.
- You must follow the normal safety protocols recommended by your training
organisation, and any special guidance provided by them regarding COVID-19.
- Without any specific guidance on water sports or diving, it is the BDSG’s
interpretation that diving is considered as an outdoor activity and as such, shore
diving should be practical if done while following points 5 and 6.
- Boat diving will be inherently less practical, but some boat operators may be able
to meet these recommendations.
- You can dive with one other person not from your household if you follow the
two-metre rule while out of the water.
- You can dive with anyone from your household and there is no need to follow
the two-metre rule while out of the water.
- If you have had symptoms or positive testing for COVID-19, consult with a doctor
before diving, ideally a doctor specialising in diving medicine, eg UK Diving
Medical Committee (www.ukdmc.org). In any event, you should be following
self-isolation guidelines relevant for your country if you have tested positive for
COVID-19, came into contact with anyone tested positive or have any symptoms
or suspect that you may have COVID-19.
- We strongly recommend that only experienced and fit divers return to diving at
this stage, due to the limited capacity of the emergency services.
- Additional guidance and advice on the possible consequences of COVID-19 for
diving is available from DAN Europe (www.daneurope.org ‘COVID-19 and Diving
Activities: 10 Safety Recommendations’).
We believe that the Scottish Government will amend their COVID-19 restrictions on 28 May
At present the BDSG COVID-19 Working Group is meeting on a weekly basis, in order to
review this guidance as the situation evolves.
The members are
▪ BHA (British Hyperbaric Association)
▪ BSAC (British Sub-Aqua Club)
▪ DAN Europe (Divers Alert Network)
▪ DDRC Healthcare (Diving Diseases Research Centre)
▪ Diving Ireland (Irish Underwater Council)
▪ FIDS (Federation of Inland Dive Sites)
▪ GADAP (Global Association of Diving Assistance Providers)
▪ GUE (Global Underwater Explorers)
▪ HSE Diving Inspectorate (Health & Safety)
▪ IANTD (International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers)
▪ IDEST (Inspectorate for Diving Equipment, Servicing and Testing)
▪ PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors)
▪ PBA (Professional Boatman’s Association)
▪ PSAI Europe (Professional Scuba Association International)
▪ RAID UK (Rebreather Association of International Divers)
▪ RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution)
▪ SAA (Sub Aqua Association)
▪ ScotSac (Scottish Sub Aqua Club)
▪ SITA (Scuba Industries Trade Association)
▪ SSI (Scuba Schools International)
▪ TDI / SDI (Technical Diving International / Scuba Diving International)
▪ UK DMC (Diving Medical Committee)
Earlier today (Friday 15th May 2020) the British Diving Safety Group COVID-19 team met to discuss the ongoing situation. At present this BDSG working group is convening on a weekly basis, in order to actively monitor and track the changes.
Every member of the team is an ardent scuba diver, hence they understand and share your keen desire to resume exploring our amazing British and Irish waters as soon as possible.
A spokesman for the BDSG stated “even though the sun is shining and we have got good visibility around our coasts, it is not the time to resume diving…yet. Please continue to adhere to your national guidelines.
In Scotland and Wales you are expected to ‘stay at home’, in Ireland you can ‘travel no more that 5Km’ and in England you can ‘only travel in a household group or meet one other person whilst maintain a 2m distance’. This makes diving virtually impossible.
We are actively working towards being able to endorse recreational and technical diving activities, as well as being mindful that we must protect those who work in and serve our sport. We believe that when we are able to advocate diving, that shore diving will be the first area to open up, because it naturally lends itself to social distancing above the surface.
In the meantime please stay alert, and as close to your home as you are able to. As soon as we are able to endorse British and Irish diving activities, we will.”
The BSDG Team
12th May 2020:
Diving in the COVID/post-COVID era
A special meeting of the BDSG was held on 12th May. A number of medical professionals and non-diving agencies attended, including the MCA, RNLI and the HSE, along with representatives from the dive training organisations. The purpose of the meeting was to determine how the latest changes in government guidance may apply to the UK recreational and technical diving community.
Infrastructure needs establishing
The consensus of the meeting was that the infrastructure to safely support recreational and technical diving activities are still lacking and requires more time to re-establish itself.
Contamination risks remain too high during the preparation for diving and could put undue pressure on businesses which must operate safely and within the law.
Also, if emergency support was necessary, that would place an unacceptably high burden on rescue services and medical treatment facilities at a time when they are already stretched. For example, if an asymptomatic diver needed rescuing by the RNLI, and one or a number of the crew caught the coronavirus, the whole lifeboat station would have to be put into special measures, which might mean temporarily being unable to respond to emergency calls.
Further BDSG consultations are set to take place to coincide with any changes made to UK government guidance.
With regret, we must encourage UK divers to act responsibly and not to go diving.
Chair – BDSG
Here is a detailed first-hand experience from a medical professional who is a keen diver and survived COVID-19.
The British Diving Safety Group (BDSG) was formed in 2002 to promote safe diving practices amongst the British sport diving community.
It is chaired by the RNLI. The group has broad representation, with all of the UK diver training agencies, the HSE and the MCA having a seat at the table.
These organisations regularly meet in order to work towards a common goal; to make diving safer. By sharing and analysing incident data, devising safety initiatives and then promoting them to divers, the group has a broad influence on the recreational diving community.
The comprehensive nature of the BDSG, reflecting as it does all of the significant interests in the British sport diving scene means that it is uniquely positioned to significantly influence diving safety.
The members of the BDSG include:
- BHA (British Hyperbaric Association)
- BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club)
- DAN Europe
- DDRC Healthcare (Diving Diseases Research Centre)
- DDST (Defence Diving Standards Team)
- Irish Underwater Federation (Diving Ireland)
- GADAP (diving insurance)
- RAID UK (Rebreather Association of International Divers)
- GUE (Global Underwater Explorers)
- HSE Diving Inspectorate (Health & Safety)
- IANTD (International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers)
- IDEST (Inspectorate for diving equipment, servicing and testing)
- MCA (Maritime and Coastguard Agency)
- PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors)
- Ian Taylor (professional charter boat skipper)
- PSAI Europe (Professional Scuba Association International)
- RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute)
- SAA (Sub Aqua Association)
- SSI (Scuba Schools International)
- ScotSAC (Scottish Sub Aqua Club)
- SITA (Scuba Industries Trade Association)
- TDI/SDI (Technical Diving International / Scuba Diving International)
- UK DMC (Diving Medical Committee).
A special meeting of the British Diving Safety Group was held online on Tuesday 12 May 2020 that included medical experts, the majority of diver training organisations (including RAID) and supporting industry representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to determine how the latest changes in government guidance may apply to the UK diving community. And how we must interpret these into best practices considering the legality of returning to diving as well taking into account the ethical and social aspects of potentially putting increased demands on the health and rescue services.
The consensus of the attending parties was that the infrastructure to safely support diving activity is still lacking and requires more time to re-establish itself. Contamination risks remain too high during the preparation for diving and could put undue pressure on businesses who must operate safely and within the law. More importantly, should emergency support be necessary, this would place an unacceptably high burden on rescue services and medical treatment facilities at a time when they are already stretched.
The 5 main reasons not to return to diving just yet:
- Transmission risk of the disease
- Non symptomatic divers could still have the disease
- The effects of the disease on the lungs is not sufficiently understood yet
- Undue stress on healthcare and emergency workers in case of an incident
- Risk of a 2nd wave
Consequently, the view of all concerned was that whilst we respect everyone’s desire to return to diving activities as soon as possible, it is too early to restart diving in the UK. We should be considerate of the impact any activity could have until such a time when the supporting infrastructure can safely operate at full capacity and in line with government guidance.
With regret, we must encourage divers to act responsibly and not go diving, however safe it may seem to do so. We will continue to work together to provide suitable guidance to support a planned return to safe diving as and when the time is right.
We’ve set out a 3 week period during which we’ll prepare guidance documents for:
- site operators
- shop owners
- boat operators
- any other relevant groups
We will also re-asses the situation and viability to return to diving at the end of this 3 week period, which will be followed by another RAID update.
In summary, stay at home and lets improve the UK’s numbers further before we go out and enjoy diving again.
As a dive agency and an active member of several industry organizations, we have no expertise in medical issues, most especially infectious diseases. However, we do have a fiduciary duty to our members to bring to their attention, bulletins and releases on medical issues from accredited experts in the field. When we make a statement that is directly related to health and safety, our policy is to cite reliable sources.