Human Factors Skills in Diving

"Truly two of the most productive days I have had in regards to personal and professional development. The best part about the training is Gareth provides students with the tools to take what has been discussed in the course and implement it in our own courses and dive teams..."

[post-course] "Implementing the debriefing structure we learned in our Human Factors course proved invaluable as everyone in the team felt comfortable providing both critical and positive feedback for everyone (including the instructors) in the team. The goal shifted from the typical “do the skills well to pass the course” to “do the skills well to better support the team”, and it was a lot of fun to watch."

Jon Kieren, Training Director, TDI/SDI/ERDI


Why do we need Human Factors Skills in Diving training?

How many diving accidents, incidents or near misses that you know about were down to the lack of technical skills or failure of equipment? I am betting not too many. Do these sound familiar?

"I didn't think that was going to happen"
"We didn't brief the plan, so I was surprised when he did that"
"We entered the wreck but no-one had talked about that"
"I thought that he had analysed the gas"

Doesn't happen to you? This attitude is a common human behaviour (fundamental attribution error and 'distancing through differencing') where we try to convince ourselves that we are different and these things happen to other people.

Recent research has shown that 44% of SCUBA diving incidents had complacency as a contributory factor, 39% overconfidence, 36% as error in judgement, 33% poor or failure to communicate...these are not technical failures...


"Simply and effortlessly took the group in and out our comfort levels to reveal areas each of us can hone in on for improvement on an individual level and role within a team.”

Lauren Kieren, Product Director, TDI/SDI/ERDI 


What is the course about?

Human in the System has developed a course which delivers 9 hours of computer-based simulation and reflective debriefs, combined with 7 hours of theory and diving incident case studies to develop teamwork & cooperation, communications, situational awareness and decision-making skills in the context of diving thereby improving personal and team performance, and reducing the likelihood of an incident from occurring in the first place.

These skills are not just about diving though, these are life skills.


What do you mean Human Factors in Diving Skills?

This two-day blended theory and practical course is aimed at Instructors, Instructor Trainers, divers who undertake mandatory decompression and cave divers. The course will develop your:

  • Situational awareness, so that you are aware of limitations to human attention and information processing and therefore how we can improve these.
  • Decision making, so that you understand how to make more effective decisions given the way our brain works, sometimes this means forcing ourselves to sit on our hands and pause.
  • Communications, by understanding the barriers to effective communications and developing enablers such as assertion skills and improved questioning techniques, even in uncertain and stressful situations.
  • Cooperation, by understanding leadership styles and techniques for different scenarios, what the skills and traits of an effective leader and follower are, and how to develop and build teams in dynamic and changing environments, a common occurrence in diving.
  • Knowledge and understand the effects of Performance Shaping Factors such as stress and fatigue. The course will show you what your triggers and signs of personal stress are, and the effect they have on personal and team performance.

Aviation, healthcare, oil & gas, nuclear have all developed human factors, non-technical skills and crew resource management programmes to improve the performance and safety of their teams - diving can be high risk, and yet there is no programme like this in the world.

"I now know what it is like to be taken out of my comfort zone as a student and the impact this had on my own performance and how my contribution to the team suffered as a consequence. I will certainly be applying the skills learned on this course to my own training programmes.

Phil Short, IANTD IT Trainer, co-owner Dark Water Exploration

Course Format

The class combines a mixture of theory, practical and computer-based simulation to develop these human factors or non-technical skills in a non-threatening but involved manner. The use of reflective debriefs, combined with video debriefs, means that true behaviours can be observed and developed. You will be surprised at how far you will come over the two days. The skills learned on this course are not just relevant to diving, but are equally applicable in your day-to-day job be that a manager, a doctor, paramedic, electrician or teacher.

The optimal size for this class is six, with the minimum required being four. This enables the different roles of operator and observer to be completed effectively.

Course costs include tuition, handout notes, completion certificate, four post-class follow-up coaching emails to reinforce learning and lunch/refreshments during the day. Payment is via credit card (Stripe). If you have a discount code, enter it at the checkout and the discount will be applied then.

"This course provides a greater understanding of Human failure modes in the underwater realm accessible to sports and technical divers and would fully recommend any diver attend." - 

Michael Thomas, CDG Training Officer, TDI Full Cave Instructor, PADI OWSI. 

Date not listed when you want to take a class?

Courses can be run when you want them as long as there is availability in the calendar. We aim to run at least one class a month, with locations available anywhere in the UK, Europe or further afield. There are no additional costs for travelling in the UK, but for overseas travel, costs incurred would be at cost.

If a course date is not listed which meets your needs, please contact us and we will try to arrange something. We are more than happy to run a course for a club or dive centre, and if this interests you, please get in touch.

Sign up to the newsletter and you will be notified when new class dates are published.

For a list of possible opportunities, click here to open the Human Factors Academy Google Calendar.

"A very useful course which was excellent at developing leadership and situational awareness skills. Gareth was very good at involving everyone in discussions, explaining and exploring the real-world implications of the theory being taught" - Louise Hector, co-owner Dive Academy


In the 1970s and 1980s there were a number of key events in aviation that highlighted the importance of the human as part of a complex system, and that despite high levels of technical reliability and design, failures were now down to crew-crew & crew-system interactions (Tenerife, Kegworth and Flight 401, Florida). The interventions that followed gradually evolved from pure pilot training, to now where anyone who is involved in aviation undertakes human factors or crew resource management training. However, "simple" accidents still happen like shutting down the wrong engine.  This page provides a much more comprehensive view for those who are interested.

The same evolution has happened in healthcare and other high risk domains such as oil and gas as they recognise the value of this training and have started to deploy training and coaching interventions. Indeed, supporting Critical Team Performance, we delivered the world's first Well Operations Crew Resource Management programme over an 8 month period.

However, in the sport of diving, the focus has still been on trying to improve safety by developing ‘skills’ through more training courses and making equipment more reliable. As such, it is now possible to develop divers with much higher levels of in-water skills even at the early stages of their training, and the undetected failures of equipment are now quite rare despite having complicated systems such as rebreathers now being used regularly. Despite this, no-one is addressing the non-technical skills, or human factors of diving in training. This is why Human in the System has developed the Human Factors Skills in Diving course.

For more information visit the course page.