Safety Culture

The Role of Ego in Technical (and Recreational) Diving

I read a blog recently that suggested our egos could be responsible for many of the casualties that technical diving regrettably suffers. Sadly, my comments on this blog never made it past the moderator. As a scientist and psychologist, I am somewhat protective of terminology used to describe human thought, emotion and behaviour, and the author of this blog fell into a common trap in how one described ego.

The Folly of Deep Air

Picture the scene: conditions are perfect, with flat seas and a clear blue sky. The atmosphere on the small boat is thick with testosterone and there is much whooping and hollering and backslapping as the six divers prepare their gear. The gauntlet has been thrown down. The challenge: to descend quickly down a reef wall to 90m on a single cylinder of air, collect a handful of sand and then come back to the surface.

Peer Pressure, or Disappear Pressure?

At those moments we are subjected to “peer pressure”, which is the social leverage that we feel when someone pushes us to behave in one direction or another. Usually, if we feel a good connection and a sense of balance with the other person (or persons) we are able to have our judgment override the social pressure—“No, David, I’m not diving five hours before we have to fly back!”

Just Culture

Debriefing allows lessons to be learned—successes and failures. Photo by Gareth Lock.

A diver had an oxygen toxicity seizure because an incorrect gas was filled in a cylinder by a dive centre. A baby died because the wrong dose of medication was injected. Who is to blame for the error and how do we try to make sure that these types of incidents aren’t repeated?