As summer rolls by and more individuals are keen to take advantage of the unique position of the Maltese Islands, diving becomes a way of discovering the rich underwater life.
But despite how attractive this summer-related activity sounds for locals and tourists alike, the fact that a relatively high incidence of diving incidents and fatalities are being reported on the news might become a deterrent for some.
Locally-based operators seem to think that the decline in strictness imposed by training institutes may be contributing to the rise in incidents.
In fact, an exploratory study held jointly by the University of Malta and KU Leuven, finalised in April 2020, took a closer look at the activity of sports diving and, more specifically, how the safety and wellbeing of divers can be improved.
The project was financed by the Malta Tourism Authority.
Prof. Vincent Cassar and Dr Vincent Marmara from the Faculty of Economics, Management & Accountancy, Prof. Mark Borg from the Faculty of Education and Prof. Sandra Buttigieg from the Faculty of Health Sciences participated on behalf of the University of Malta.
Their role included collecting field data through focus groups with 15 local diving centre operators. Recommendations were made based on both the field data and the scoping literature review.
Whilst divers are being strongly urged to monitor their own physical condition and increase the incidence of monitoring of their air supply through the use of nudging devices, diving instructors are advised to be more familiar with diving sites prior to organising diving trips, and they should conduct a thorough risk assessment, screening of divers and a maximum number of group-size per dive.
Dive centre operators who participated in the focus group, and who considered the current general level of safety of divers as good, addressed the need for related legislation to be updated – and expressed their willingness to work with the government to make a well-informed decision.
The more detailed recommendations may be read in the study, available upon request from any of the authors mentioned above.