Tuesday 15 November 2016


Recently, the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) published their annual incident report which showed 228 ‘reported’ incidents throughout the UK this season. And looking at the report there are repeated incidents that are seen year in year out, such as poor navigation, poor buddy awareness, incorrect use of equipment, oxygen toxity and out of gas to name a few.  Luckily, most of them are very minor and without serious injury.  After looking at the report one may think, “How did that happen?  It’s obvious”, and afterwards it’s clear, but at the time, possibly not.  But hindsight is always 20:20.  But why did the incident occur?  Were they taught incorrectly?  Probably not, although it can happen.  But unfortunately, sometimes we’ll never know. Human error, mistakes and bad decisions?  In most cases.  Again, but why?  They weren’t trained to make that decision.  One such factor could be the normalisation of deviance.  Small steps away from the norm which at the time are very small, but afterwards are way off from our start point.  Hence looking back, hindsight is 20:20.  And if we’re all honest, we’ve probably all got away with things that we shouldn’t have done.

So why do we make errors that go against our training?
That is why Gareth has developed the Human Factors Skills in Diving course, or to be precise, courses.  They’re designed to improve the knowledge, skills and safety of all divers and is aimed at instructors, instructor trainers and those undertaking higher risk diving such as technical divers and cave divers.  But more of that later. 

Who is Gareth?
Gareth Lock is a retired Royal Air Force senior officer Navigator of 25 years, who was both a senior supervisor and a tactical flight instructor on an operational C-130 flying squadron.  He has a MSc in Aerospace Systems from Kingston University and in 2012, Gareth started his PhD, examining the role of Human Factors in SCUBA diving incidents at Cranfield University.  As a diver Gareth is an Open Circuit advanced trimix diver (Technical Diver Level 2 with GUE) and normoxic trimix CCR diver (JJ-CCR with TDI).  He is a keen underwater photographer, he’s had published work in diving magazines and journals, he’s presented at international diving conferences, he manages the Diving Incident and Safety Management System incident database, and has most recently been appointed GUEs Director for Risk Management. 

Human Factors Skills in Diving - Micro Class
“Most diving accidents or incidents are not down to undetected failures or even detected failures, they are down to miscommunication, poor decision making, inexperience, peer pressure, poor teamwork...and yet none of the training courses formally teach this in an integrated manner.  Improve your decision-making, situational awareness and communication to make your diving more fun, instruction more effective and diver safer in the process.  This is a modular online course with more than 3 hours of engaging and detailed material split into 15 minute sections, with additional research-based resources provided for those who want to delve deeper.”

Technically I’ve done this course twice; once when it was first launched, and again a pre-learning for the Human Factors Skills in Diving - Two Day Course.  But that is one of the beauties of the class, once you have your login, you can go back again and again and refresh your knowledge.

The course itself covers several topics:
1. Introduction. 
  Human error – We can’t avoid it.
2. Decision Making: Why we make good & bad decisions.
  System 1 and system 2.
  Normalisation of deviance. 
  Useful links & additional reading.
3. Situational Awareness.
  Why we miss things.
  Useful links & additional reading.
4. Communications.
  Enablers & barriers.
  Useful links & additional reading.
5. Teamwork.
  Clarity of role.  Mutual accountability.
  Useful links & additional reading.
6. Leadership & Followership.
  Key to effective teams.
  Useful links & additional reading.
7. Performance Shaping Factors.
  Stress & fatigue.
  Useful links & additional reading.
8. Case Study, Just Culture & Summary.
  Case study.
  Case study detail.
  Just culture: Essential if we are to improve learning.

Is it worth doing?  Absolutely.  Regardless of agency, current skill set or certification, this course will increase your overall awareness of awareness, stress management and leadership to name but a few which will result in a more effective individual and team performance, both in diving, and in ‘the real world’.  And at £69/$99 it won’t break the bank either.  Far cheaper than any agency specialty course, and just as valuable.

Human Factors Skills in Diving – Two Day Course
“This two-day course is globally unique in diving. It combines GemaSim, a computer-based simulation developed specifically for personal and team performance development, with decades of human factors research and practice distilled and condensed into a structured and coherent framework.  This premium course is for instructors, instructor trainers and those who are exposed to higher levels of risk (cave and technical diving) to improve their personal and team performance, and improve their safety as a by-product.  The course has been taken by Training Directors of four leading technical agencies (GUE, IANTD, TDI and SSI XR) - all would thoroughly recommend the course and have implemented lessons learned in their own practice.”

1. Introduction to Human Error and why HF is important.
2. Familiarisation Mission of GemaSim.
3. Decision Making.
4. Mission 1.
5. Situational Awareness.
6. Mission 2.

Day 2:
1. Recap.
2. Communication.
3. Mission 3.
4. Teamwork, Leadership/Followership, Stress.
5. Mission 4.
6. Debrief on class and setting goals.

The course:
Prior to the course there was plenty of communication by Gareth including instructions, pre-reading and expectations.  On the day of the course I started a little tired as this backed on to another amazing EuroTEK, which funnily enough links to one of the topics Gareth covers on the course; fatigue due to driving down the morning of a dive to save costs.  Sound familiar?  There were 10 students on the course and we split into 2 groups of 5 for the GemaSim missions (more of that to follow), one mentored by Gareth and one by Matt Jevon of South West Technical Diving.

The course was led by Gareth with interesting leads into topics but it was delivered in such a way that we, as a course, took over and created a discussion led group.  It’s a very effective way of prevention boredom by permanent send by the instructor, and I’m sure we’re experienced that as students and have probably been guilty of that as instructors. 

On the initial instructions there was a link to a short GemaSim video which would help explain the software.  Unfortunately, I accidently managed to watch the wrong video (don’t ask) but swiftly caught up on the Familiarisation Mission.  On the missions (45 minutes in duration), we worked as a team of 4 with 2 observers; 1 course observer and 1 fellow student we all took this role at some point).  The missions themselves simulate a space mission, although from a military point of view, the ‘missions’ were very loose, and if not focused, you could easily go off on a tangent.   This meant effective teamwork was critical.  Each team member held a crew position with each pair given their own computer.  It all sounds simple until you realise each screen is different.  You can view your controls, but the other pairs display, and visa versa.  In addition, one pair had a check list, and another the task list.  Effective communication would be key to keep the team alive, as well as check list discipline.  For the first mission, I volunteered to be leader.  The mission was a failure as we didn’t make it back to base in time but it highlighted a number of factors that could be improved by all team members.  For mission 2 I sat out and observed and mission 3 I was a team member.  As the missions progressed, our teamwork improved, despite the complexity increasing.  For the final mission, the team volunteered me to be the leader.  We delivered our best performance completing the mission with 10 minutes’ spare, despite deliberate communication ‘failures’ by the observers.


I wasn’t sure what to expect from the course to be honest.  I’ve known Gareth for a number of years, and in particular, he knows my military background.  On the recent TEKCamp, Gareth prevented me from being an active participant in the icebreaker challenge because of this.  I know my military background would definitely highlight some strengths and weaknesses.  Leadership I knew I would be good at, and possibly my communications would need some work.  The former I knew was true when I was chosen to be the group leader on the final mission, although at times I couldn’t help feeling as though I was on egg shells in case I overstepped around a bunch of civvies. Being honest, I would say that (in my opinion) I found the missions less challenging due to my military background compared to others in my group who were not natural leaders, or in a leadership position in their day job, however everyone walked away learning something new from themselves.  Even me.  This was clear to see, especially when you compared the performance of mission 1 to that of mission 4. 

Similar to the Human Factors Skills in Diving - Micro Class, this course improves your understanding and awareness, but progresses it from the theory to the practical by putting you outside of your comfort zone.  I have no doubt that I’ll still make mistakes after the course, I’m only human, but, the likelihood is reduced.  I can definitely say however that I am a better team member from it.

I would love to add some links to YouTube videos which will really make you think, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the course. 

At around £500/$750 it’s about the same cost as a standard recreational or technical diving course (less specialities) and it’s worth doing.  And to make it easier, you can spread the cost of the course over 3 monthly payments.  You may not get a c-card for your logbook (although you do get a certificate and t-shirt) but you will walk away a better individual. 

Further information
For anyone interested in more information, there are the links above, but there’s also the Human Factors Academy Facebook Page, and the Human Factors Skills in Diving Facebook Group.

If you’re interested in completing the online Micro Class, then why not use a 25% discount code of ‘TIMGORT2016-25’ at the checkout page.


The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.

Safe diving!

Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI & SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: tim@rectotec.co.uk l

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