All of us as divers are concerned with having safe and enjoyable dives. Safety is preached before each and every dive as well as in all dive education programs. One safety concern that is often overlooked is the one that involves dive cylinders and their contents. If you do a quick search on the Internet, you are sure to notice a number of accidents and incidents both in and out of the water that involve dive cylinders and their contents. With that in mind, how can we keep ourselves and our dive buddies safe from this type of danger?
First, with diving often being a destination activity with rental equipment involved, the safety conscious diver must be vigilant when checking out rental cylinders. When you receive a rental tank, take a minute or two and look at the cylinder. Is the hydrostatic test date and visual inspection current? How does the valve look? Is the o-ring intact? Do a “sniff test”, how does the air smell? Oftentimes, a simple inspection like this will alert you to larger issues involving the cylinder and the contents inside of it.
A second concern would be the quality of air or gas within the tank, most often a “sniff test” like mentioned above will alert you to potential issues. In addition, ask the dive operation to take you on a tour of their compressor room and tank filling area. Look for an air quality analysis certificate. Sense an issue with the dive shop and the quality of the air or gas in your tank? A carbon dioxide test kit is an inexpensive insurance policy that can be easily carried in your dive bag. Use the kit and run a quick test on the air or gas in your tank.
Are you requesting Nitrox or does the dive shop you’re using for your fills also fill nitrox? If you’re in this situation, proper gas analysis is crucial. If the dive shop doesn’t require you to analyze the tank and sign off before you pick it up, ask for an analyzer and test the contents of the tank before you accept it. Better yet, purchase your own analyzer and analyze the contents of your tank both before you accept the tank and before your dive. Even if you’re diving air and request an air fill, it would be prudent to analyze the tanks contents. The possibility exists for a mis fill or a tank mix up in the filling area giving you a dangerously high oxygen percentage in your tank when you requested an air fill. Again, a simple solution would be to purchase your own analyzer and keep it in your dive bag. There are a number of options here, including one that utilizes a smartphone app!
By being constantly vigilant with dive cylinders and the contents within them, you will have that added confidence that every breath you take from your regulator will provide a safe, life supporting breath of clean air or nitrox!