Knowledge is not enough. We must apply. What can you do to build HF into your training or education?

- english gareth lock Oct 03, 2022

I have been asked on numerous occasions online and in person, “how do I put HF or non-technical skills into my dive training or dive business?”. This blog is going to help answer part of that, the missing part is something you need to own, and then use to finish things off.

To start with, to be able to pass on knowledge about a topic, you need to need both understand the topic and then how it fits into the area where you are going to use it. One of the problems (and benefits) of human factors is that it is general in nature and specific in application. By that I mean, we all know that effective communications are important, but how we communicate so the other party understands the meaning and intent is particular to a situation.

For example, to increase the chance that your students understand a topic in class, you can say to them at the start of the class that at the end of the lesson, one of them is going to give a 60 sec summary of the key points of the lesson. People are more likely to pay attention if they know they’ve got to teach someone else. Don’t use closed questions, those questions which can be answered yes/no like ‘Did you understand that?’ or ‘Do you have any questions?’, rather use an open question like ‘Tell me about’, ‘Explain to me about…’ or ‘Describe how…’ – think TED. Furthermore, the act of recalling the information makes it stick more. Finally, this process provides you feedback because if the answer(s) they give isn’t what your key learning points were, then you might need to cover some of the topics again! 

All of the HF topics in the paragraph above are covered in different sections of the Essentials class, not exactly like this, but rather the description and use of the tools like open/closed questions and the use of TED to generate curiosity. The Essentials course contains many more tools like that along with numerous case studies showing their relevance in action. There are also multiple lessons in the presentations by Darryl Owen, Beatrice Rivoira, Guy Shockey, Helene Pellerin, Bart den Ouden, Mike Mason, and Jenny Lord in the HF in Diving Conference videos. Mine were a little more abstract or conceptual in nature!!


This ability to abstract from one space to another is a critical skill to have if you are to deal with the uncertain (risky) world we live and dive in. However, it means that you need to understand not just the direct information in front of you, but also why it is there and what the problems are that are trying to be solved. Once you understand the ‘why am I learning this?’ and how it relates to other issues, then you can more easily abstract from one lesson to another problem.

In the first paragraph, I said that you own part of the solution. This is because you are the expert in your space. You know the conditions you dive in, the students you dive with, the equipment you and the students use, and the problems you yourself face. This means that you can problem solve if you understand what is causing the problems and you have access to knowledge that you can abstract from somewhere or something else. The need for abstraction is because rote compliance and learning don’t help you think wider than the box you have been taught within.

So here are some resources and processes you can use to educate yourself so that you will be able to abstract from one space to another in diving.



There are now more than 150 blogs listed here Consider picking a blog a day to read and think about how it applies to your own diving. Don’t fall foul of the powerful bias which leads us to look for differences rather than similarities. Share that knowledge with your dive buddies or students.

You could pick a blog a week and use it as a discussion point in your club or dive centre. Summarise the blog’s key points, and then get the team to consider similar problems they face and how they might solve them using the blog as a source of ideas. You can also search for topics (right-hand side of the screen) so you can pick multiple blogs for the same topic.

We have recently started a series of blogs called ‘Human Factors in Diving for Dummies’ the goal of which is to simplify some of the content so that it is accessible to all. You can find that by searching for dummies on the right-hand side of the blog page or clicking here.



One of the tools that most people find useful from the courses they’ve done with The Human Diver is structured debrief which allows learning to happen. You can find a comprehensive guide here to download for free

If Only…

This free video and workbook allow you to run an interactive workshop to better understand how incidents and accidents can happen and what you can do in your own team, club and dive centre to prevent an adverse event or learn from near-misses. While the video is about a CCR fatality, the concepts are applicable to all divers (and further). I’ve had an instructor come to me and said they thought their workshop would be about 30 mins, 2.5 hrs later they were still talking about the issues brought up in the video.

Under Pressure

You can order one or more books for your dive centre and then run discussion/learning sessions focused on a chapter theme or one of the case 30+ case studies per week. Rotate the ‘teacher’ around the club/centre, including students. Ask them to read a chapter (which will take about an hour) or case study and get them to make notes and key learning points and then run a short classroom session, asking questions, and looking to explore issues the club/centre faces. By using different ‘teachers’, you share the load of preparation, and the learning will happen from the engagement and the shared story-telling that will come from one person recounting a story.


Essentials Class

As an instructor, you have a couple of options available to you to help your students understand the concepts and tools of human factors in diving. However, you must have completed at least the Essentials of Human Factors in Diving course yourself because it is disingenuous to recommend something to others if you haven’t invested the time in it yourself and don’t know the real value.

  • You can mandate the Essentials class as part of pre-learning for your courses. This could be at Rescue, DM, instructor, or tech training level. The deal I do with instructors is that they pay £30 for the Essentials class which is then either added to the class fee or the instructor absorbs the cost. The student then gets the class for ‘free’. The instructor will then be informed of the progress of the student. The instructor is billed on a monthly basis for these classes. The student is better informed of the risks associated with human factors and human performance, and the instructor gets a smarter student in their class with a common vocabulary to discuss risk, human factors and incidents/near-misses. Leading instructors like Marc Crane (Bali) and Guy Shockey (Vancouver) have been doing this for a number of years now with nearly 100 students each going through the old Micro-class and new Essentials class. They both recognise the value it adds to their students, both for training and also outside the class.
  • You can have an affiliate code which gives you a 40% payment ($39) if someone uses your link. This link can’t be shared via social media in popular groups or forums but can be used internally within mailing lists and on shop websites.

If you're interested in either of these Essentials options, drop me an email via the contact page.


I hope this has given you some ideas about how to develop your knowledge so that you can include human factors and non-technical skills in your diving and your instruction. You must learn a little more about the subject yourself though. No one finds it easy to teach something if they have limited theoretical and practical knowledge about the topic. 

If you’ve got any questions or comments about this blog or what you’d like to teach or educate others in, please use the contact form and we’ll get back to you.

Gareth Lock is the owner of The Human Diver, a niche company focused on educating and developing divers, instructors and related teams to be high-performing. If you'd like to deepen your diving experience, consider taking the online introduction course which will change your attitude towards diving because safety is your perception, visit the website.