Snorkeling General Liability Insurance
Limits available: $1,000,000 to $6,000,000
Sex Abuse / Molestation available
Non-Owned Hired Auto Liability available
Snorkeling Accident Insurance
Medical limits available: $25,000 to $100,000
AD&D limits up to $10,000
Deductibles available: $100 to $5,000
Snorkeling is a relatively safe sport, with very few injuries occurring. However, when things go wrong in the water, the consequences can be severe. The accessibility of the sport in markets such as vacationers, disabled people, and children make it critical for recreational snorkeling-related business owners to give proper attention to reducing the risks of liability.
Snorkeling organizations have a duty to protect their clients and employees from harm as much as is reasonably practicable. All recreational water activities involve significant and serious risks. While rare, deaths and serious injuries do occasionally occur while snorkeling. The financial cost to the business owner can be immense, to say nothing of the emotional and physical cost to those involved. A business that hasn’t complied with its duty of care may be held liable along with its officers when an injury or death occurs.
Pre-existing medical conditions are typically the cause of snorkeling deaths. In some cases, snorkelers failed to disclose such conditions, while In others, an autopsy showed a significant medical condition of which the snorkeler was unaware. Many of these snorkelers shared characteristics or behaviors suggesting they were at risk. These include age, obesity, history of smoking, swimming strength or ability of snorkeler.
Workers may also be held personally liable if they have not shown reasonable care by:
- caring for their own health and safety
- making sure their actions do not adversely affect the health and safety of anyone involved in the activity
- comply with any reasonable instructions given by their employer.
Contractual transfer of risk
The starting point for any recreational activity is a contractual transfer of risk through a well-drafted waiver/release form. This form must be signed by all participants and/or parents/legal guardians prior to participation. The waiver/release should be customized to be specific to risks faced while snorkeling. Even if the waiver/release does not result in an immediate dismissal of a lawsuit on summary judgment, it can be important as evidence of an assumption of risk.
In addition, a pre-activity meeting should be held where the guide or instructor verbally explains all of the risks of participation as well as the individual responsibilities of the participants.
Roles and responsibilities of employers and employees
A recreational snorkeling business should develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) that detail how business is to be conducted. The SOP should be based on local regulations and codes, they are typically more detailed and specific to the needs of that business. SOPs, or operations manuals, should be written and reviewed with all employees.
We recommend these specific roles be filled at every recreational snorkeling site:
- snorkeling supervisor
- snorkeling guide (optional)
- first-aid provider.
Each worker should understand his or her own duties, as well as those of their co-workers. Workers who perform these roles may undertake one or more of these duties. For example, the supervisor may also serve as the first-aid provider. Or share lookout duties with another member of the snorkeling team.
Training for employees should be practical and assessment as realistic as possible. Practical training relevant to a worker’s duties should include:
- assessing and identifying at-risk snorkelers
- performing an environmental assessment
- setting up a snorkel site
- providing information to snorkelers
- demonstrating proper fit and use of snorkeling equipment
- Performing duties of the lookout, supervisor and guide
- conducting emergency procedures.
Employee training and supervision should be an ongoing process to maintain and improve their competence, with particular emphasis on emergency skills. Workers should practice regular and varied snorkeler rescue drills. Drills should be based on realistic scenarios and require implementation of the SOPs of the business. It’s important to document training and assessments and include names of staff involved, training dates, subject of the training, and specify the assessment outcomes.
Responsibility to Clients
Snorkeling operators should provide information and advice to snorkeling customers through a briefing prior to distribution of equipment and entering the water. Posters and signs with charts, diagrams and safety information should be posted in highly visible areas.
Prior to entering the water, assess all snorkelers to determine any risk factors. This process is subjective and relies on the knowledge and skills of the snorkel worker. Assessment of clients should include consideration of the following:
- Persons who smoke
- Persons of advanced or very young age
- Morbid obesity
- Personal who appear to be in bad health (Ex. respiratory problems or particularly unfit)
- Persons exhibiting visible anxiety or stress
All team members should be notified of any snorkelers identified as at-risk and why they are at risk. Always document this information.
Managing at-risk snorkelers requires using specifically-colored equipment or other markings and encouraging the use of floatation devices. Lookouts and supervisors should be stationed close to at-risk snorkelers and monitored closely. At-risk snorkelers should be encouraged to participate in guided snorkeling trips which keep at risk snorkelers close to lookouts and supervisors. All snorkelers should be using the buddy system.
Snorkel staff should take a headcount of participants upon entry to and departure from the snorkel site. Ideally, an oral roll call using a checklist or providing signature sheets are the best methods of counting heads because they are more accurate and provide documentation that should be kept on file.
Assessing the Environment
Prior to any snorkeling, assess and record the environmental conditions. The assessment should include:
- checking weather reports and tidal predictions
- checking the water conditions upon arrival at site
- noting any condition changes (deteriorating weather, influx of jellyfish, heavy watercraft traffic, etc.)
Changes in environmental conditions may results in:
- cancellation or postponement of the snorkeling trip
- changing snorkeling site
- limiting number of snorkeler participants
- providing additional supervision
- the use of flotation devices for all snorkelers
Preparing the snorkel site may include:
- checking that entry/exit points are safe to use
- deploying flags, markers, flags, and/or floats
- ensuring the lookout is in position to scan the site effectively
- providing a communication system among snorkel team members
- ensuring first-aid and emergency equipment is available for immediate use.
Snorkelers may also suffer injuries caused by a variety of marine creatures, the most common being jellyfish. Staff should immediately have snorkelers exit the water upon detection of dangerous marine predators, such as larger shark species.
Equipment supplied to snorkelers should be of quality to perform effectively and fit the client. Consider the following suggestions:
- Carry a variety of mask styles and sizes.
- Offer a range of optically adjusted masks for snorkelers with poor vision.
- Carry a wide range of wetsuits and flotation devices.
- Wash and check daily all equipment to ensure it is in safe and proper working condition.
- Disinfect snorkels and masks between each use.
- Make repairs according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Use of flotation devices
The staff guides should keep a flotation device on hand to be given to a tired or distressed snorkeler. Staff should demonstrate use of floatation devices to at-risk snorkelers prior to entry into the water.
Personal floatation devices (PFDs) used in snorkeling include swim jackets, boards, life rings and noodles. These devices offer support for snorkelers and minimize stress from maintaining their position in the water.
Fixed-flotation devices such as a moored float station, or trail and boundary markers using lines and floats are other options for supporting snorkelers.
Risks involving moving vessels
Snorkelers can be at serious risk from vessel or propeller strikes. Vessels can be that from which the snorkeling party arrived in or from another vessel. Take the following steps to minimize or eliminate the risk of snorkeler injury or death by moving vessels:
- Fit the vessel with propeller guards
- Employ buoys and markers to separate snorkeling activity from vessels
- Use lights and reflective flags at night to indicate that snorkelers are present
- Appoint lookout staff to oversee the area and maintain communication with team members and snorkelers if a vessel approaches
- Ensure snorkel workers are familiar with the snorkeling site and able to navigate it comfortably.
Source: Snorkel Safety