Diving Accidents

Advice following a diving accident

The Christchurch Hyperbaric Medicine Unit provides a 24 hour acute service for NZ south of Taupo, on request from emergency departments, ambulance and general practice.

For medical assistance contact:

                Diver Emergency Service: 0800 4DES 111


First Aid for Diving Emergencies Flowchart

First Aid For Diving Emergencies.pdf


Diver Safety

Before diving, take a few minutes to review the safety training learned during SCUBA training courses.

This includes:

Diving Equipment checks

Emergency Equipment checks

Emergency Procedures

Some areas to review are:

Predisposition to Decompression Illness (DCI)

  • Fitness to dive
  • Alcohol and / or lack of sleep
  • Multiple ascents
  • Multiple days diving
  • 4 deep dives
  • Diving at altitude
  • Exertion during diving
  • Cold water
  • High CO2 levels
  • Exercise after diving
  • Hot showers after diving
  • Flying or driving to altitude after diving

Avoiding DCI

  • Appropriate training
  • Avoid the previous list if you can
  • Plan your diving day
  • Revise computer use / backup tables

Planning a dive

  • Depth
  • Duration
  • Surface intervals
  • Decompression requirements and appropriate safety margins
  • Current and state of tide
  • Exit point


First Aid for DCI

  • ABC - Airway; Breathing; Circulation
  • Patient a. flat on back (conscious) 
               b. Recovery position (unconscious).
  • High flow oxygen 15 Lpm  (Hudson mask does not provide 100%.)
  • Call for assistance (DES) 0800 4 DES 111 or 09 445 8454, these are toll free. The Diver Emergency Service will advise you as to where and how to seek medical assistance.
  • Consider risk of DCI in dive buddies if dive profile similar.
  • Watch carefully. They can get worse!

Diving First Aid 10 Commandments

1.Safety of Rescuer(s)
2.Basic Life Support
5.Rest and protect
6.Observe and record
8.Specific Care
9.Evacuate as indicated
10.Secure diving equipment

Information for DES (0800 4 DES 111 or 09 445 8454)

  • Your name
  • Name of the patient
  • The telephone number you are at
  • You will be asked to remain at that number until you are rung back by the duty diving doctor. (this should not be more than 5 mins)

Please bring to the hospital

  • Any record of the diving,
    i.e., log book, dive recorder or computer. Include all diving within the previous seven days.
  • Medical history and current medications
  • Remember to secure any equipment used to aid in investigating the cause of the problem.


  • There are few dive areas in the South Island from which road evacuation can be accomplished below 300 m.
  • Road transport is adequate if quicker or nearly as quick as air transport.
  • Keep patient below 300 m altitude or cabin pressure.
  • Direct transfer from dive site to Christchurch Hospital is preferable if patient stable.
  • Helicopter has limited range so will often transfer patient to fixed-wing via base hospital.
  • For referrers, see Patient Referral and Transfer Procedures on CDHB Intranet, HealthPathways, Blue Book and provided to all Emergency Departments in our region.


Safe Diving !


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Related Documents

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Page last reviewed: 06 September 2013