Students, researchers and others at Indiana University do an awful lot of diving for a land-locked, Midwestern university.
In 2016 alone, participants in university snorkeling and diving programs visited seven countries. More than 500 university participants reported diving, logging more than 530 hours, with 140 of these hours occurring during training and scientific dives. The activities involved programs, staff and students from IU Bloomington, IU Southeast, IU South Bend and IUPUI.
IU's diving instruction program, begun in 1963, even predates the industry professional organization, the Professional Association of Dive Instructors, which is the umbrella organization for most SCUBA training and resources. With deep expertise a plenty, the university has created the IU Diving Safety Program and an accompanying Snorkeling and Scuba Diving Policy to make sure best practices are standard across all programs, activities and IU campuses.
"We want to make sure faculty and students are protected and cared for," said Mylana Haydu, Diving Safety Officer. The program is through IU Environmental Health and Safety. "The university can provide shared resources and expertise. You don't have to recreate the wheel for each project and program."
Diving and snorkeling programs and activities at IU come in various forms. They could involve archaeological research, work on underwater parks, study abroad courses, or domestic programs with Boy Scouts, to name a few.
The diving safety program requires those organizing these activities to demonstrate that appropriate planning has been conducted, taking into consideration how medical emergencies would be handled in remote areas, for example; that training is up-to-date; that equipment will be safe; and that participants undergo appropriate medical exams.
Diving can be dangerous, Haydu said, but the diving safety program can identify and address gaps, reducing the chance of crises in the field -- or ocean, in this case. They ask about the reliability of the air supply, for example, and quality of the boats. Additional training may be needed, for example, to cover challenges posed by a particularly deep diving site or projects requiring unique research methodology.
Haydu, in consultation with a 12-member Diving Control Board, is able to customize training based on the needs of the programs.
Bob Kessler, who serves as recreational diving subcommittee chair of the Diving Control Board, said the new Diving Safety Program and policy are critical components to helping ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty involved with all aspects of diving. For scientific diving, he said, the program is required by OSHA.
"It already has helped to increase communication across campuses in regards to the sharing of ideas and activities amongst researchers and educators," he said. "I would say it's gotten off to a great start."
Mike Jenson, Director for IU Environmental Health and Safety, agrees.
"The biggest aim is obviously to keep members of the university community as safe as possible when diving," Jenson said. The program also provides a one-stop shop for those who are sponsoring and participating in diving activities to ensure that all compliance and liability responsibilities will be fully met."
The IU Academic Diving Manual, various required forms and information about the program can be found at Protect IU. Search for #IUDiveSafe on Facebook and Instagram or check out Protect IU Facebook for pictures and videos about the Diving Safety Program and a recent certification activity involving the Academic Diving Program.