Why Paperwork Matters

PADI Instructor

There’s an old joke that starts, “what does P.A.D.I. stand for?” Think you know the punchline?

Paperwork

And

Diving

In-between

If that wasn’t your guess, read on to learn about common paperwork mistakes and what can happen if paperwork isn’t done completely and correctly. This article will also answer common questions like, “what happens if a student answers ‘yes’ on their medical questionnaire then wants to change it to a ‘no’?”

Why Is Paperwork So Important?

  • It informs divers of their responsibility to be honest in disclosing and evaluating their medical condition and the risks of diving – even when operators do their very best to provide an enjoyable and relatively safe experience.
  • It establishes the guidelines all divers are expected to follow when participating in this transformational activity.
  • Paperwork is used as evidence to help defend dive pros and businesses if an incident occurs and legal action is filed.
  • Complete paperwork is a requirement of your professional liability insurance policy

What Can Happen If Paperwork is Overlooked
Here’s a hypothetical scenario that’s based on real life:

An open water student signs up for class and turns in his paperwork. The instructor does not closely check the documents and misses the student’s “yes” answer to a history of heart disease and high blood pressure.

During the first open water dive, the student has a heart attack and dies. The medical examiner says the diver’s heart was so bad, he could have had heart attack while sitting in his recliner.

The instructor submits an incident report to PADI along with the student’s paperwork. Meanwhile, the student’s family files a lawsuit.

During a quality management review, the failure to properly review paperwork is discovered along with other issues. The insurance company denies coverage because the instructor violated the Warranty of the Policy – obtain physician’s approval if “yes” answer. The instructor must now fight the lawsuit without insurance, and it could have turned out differently if more attention was paid to the paperwork.

The Most Common Paperwork Mistakes

Pat Fousek, Quality & Risk Management Executive, explains key pieces of paperwork, common paperwork issues, and answers frequently asked questions.

Liability Release – This document explains the risks of scuba diving to the participant and is designed as a contract. The diver agrees to assume the risks and accepts something can and may go wrong. None of us are perfect, and when entering a foreign environment with life support equipment, things do happen.

– Ensure all the blanks are filled in properly before the diver signs the form. This can be done with a stamp (do not obscure any other text), electronically, or filled in by the diver. Do not alter the document after the student signs the form.

–  Confirm the form is signed and dated properly. If the student has questions about the form, suggest they consult with an attorney. Do not attempt to interpret the form yourself, even if you are an attorney.

Non-agency Acknowledgment – This form explains to your customers that PADI Member businesses are not owned by PADI, that dive pros are not employees of PADI, and PADI does not and cannot control the day-to-day operations and decisions of your staff and your business. PADI is not involved in the decisions about whether or not to dive a particular day, the dive site, or what staff members are assigned for a particular duty. That is your business.

The non-agency acknowledgement form is the one most commonly forgotten by PADI Members even though it’s incorporated into the student record file and all the individual liability releases on the PADI Pros’ Site. Before you make copies of a form, please ensure you have the most up-to-date version.* We continually see forms and student record files that are 10 years old or older. As with other forms, be sure to fill in the blanks properly, and ensure the form is signed and dated.

* Current version of student record file (product no. 10058) – version: 5.01 from 6 Jan 2016

Safe Diving Practices Statement – This document is designed to inform divers of their responsibility to dive safely – not only while a student diver, but after certification as well. The diver’s signature on this form confirms s/he is aware of their responsibility as a diver, and failure to adhere to safe practices could place the diver at increased risk. Again, all blanks should be completed, and the form must be signed and dated.

The Medical Statement discusses the risks of diving and asks the diver to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions. A ‘yes’ answer requires the approval of a physician before participating in any in-water activities. The form also advises the diver to consult with a physician “on a regular basis” after completing the course. Always have the diver answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (not just draw a line through all the blanks), sign and date the form.

Invariably, one of your divers will answer ‘yes’ to a question on the medical statement and then want to discuss it with you, or change the answer to ‘no,’ – especially after a friend reminds the diver s/he’ll have to get a physician’s approval. Bottom line: there should be no discussion between the instructor and the diver about the medical statement.

If the diver chooses to change their answer, this is allowed, but the diver must initial and date the change. Think carefully about the reasons for a diver changing his or her answer.

  • Was it a simple oversight? If someone who is biologically male answers yes to, ‘are you pregnant or trying to become pregnant?’ it’s acceptable for the diver to change their answer. Be sure the diver initials and dates the change.
  • Did the diver truly misunderstand the question? If a diver initially answers ‘yes’ there must be a reason for it. You can discuss the situation with the diver, but the prudent thing to do is counsel the diver to be truthful about medical issues for the benefit of their loved ones, their dive buddy, and their own health and safety.

We often get questions about adult divers who had tubes in their ears as a child, but now think it’s not an issue. Another common one: the diver uses an inhaler during the months a particular pollen is active, but isn’t using the inhaler currently. In both of these situations, ask yourself: are you the proper person to verify the diver’s medical condition and physical fitness to dive?
If you have questions about PADI paperwork, or any of the information above, please contact your local PADI Office. Current versions of all the forms described above can be accessed on the PADI Pros Site (padi.com/mypadi) under the Training Essentials menu. Choose Forms and Applications from the dropdown. Using Ctrl + F can help you search the page and quickly find form you want.

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