Going Down On Legal Diving Issues

Diving is inherently dangerous. Nature designed humans to be land creatures, and they are normally ill suited for spending long amounts of time underwater. However, since people became interested in exploring the sea, they have also been interested in exploring and working below it, as well. Interest in remaining under water for a sustained time period can certainly be dated back to the days of Alexander The Great, whom in legend ordered the manufacturing of a glass diving bell, so that he might observe the wonders of the deep. However, man’s ability to stay for long periods under water was fairly much restricted to lung capacity, the limited use of snorkels and the diving bell until the 19th century, when the technology was finally developed to pump air to a person at increased depths in a fully encompassing dive suit. Then, just before World War II, such pioneers as Jacques Cousteau began to develop methods for people to take delivery of self contained bottled air at depth into the lungs without injury.

This was the beginnings of scuba diving (SCUBA is actually an acronym for Self Contained Breathing Apparatus), and a popular increase in diving in not only the work place, but in recreational sport. Now one might think that this increased interest in a potentially dangerous activity might result in a clear set of laws and precedents which would fully control the actions of those who participate in that activity. But, I have not found that assumption to be particularly true. In fact, much of what occurs in certain areas of diving, such as the recreational sector, is virtually self-regulating. Basically, Florida has two significant statutes which directly concern diving. One is Fla.Stat. 327.331, that deals most specifically with the use of a dive flag in state waters. The other is Fla.Stat. 381.895, that deals with purity standards for compressed air at diving facilities. (see both statutes in Appendix I). Significantly, Fla.Stat. 327.331 does actually give a definition for what a diver is: “Diver” means any person who is wholly or partially submerged in the waters of the state and is equipped with a face mask and snorkel or underwater breathing apparatus.