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Effective lookouts

A lookout on duty should do nothing other than monitor divers and snorkelers to have the best chance of spotting someone in difficulty and initiate an emergency response.

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ON  SCREEN TEXT: Effective lookouts

To prevent this happening on one of your tours, ensure a lookout does nothing other than monitor divers and snorkelers while on duty. This gives them the best chance to immediately spot someone in difficulty and initiate an emergency response.

A lookout is required when people are diving or snorkelling at recreational sites, except if there are 10 snorkelers or less in the group and they are being directly supervised in the water by a guide.

Operators should develop a system and train workers to effectively perform lookout tasks so they can quickly spot someone in distress, this reduces the rescue time and minimises the risk of that person dying.

There are a few basic rules a lookout should follow:

  • Pay particular attention to 'at risk' people, such as those who are older or overweight, those with medical conditions, and breath hold divers.
  • Make sure you're in an elevated position that has clear views of participants and is free from public distraction.
  • Move around to get a clear view of areas that are hidden from your main spot.
  • Scan the surface as well as beneath the water using patterns and zones (such as looking from side to side), cover the whole site at least once every 60 seconds and change scanning patterns regularly.
  • Focus on each snorkeler to check for movement or signs of distress.
  • Use binoculars and polarised sunglasses that don't hinder peripheral vision.
  • Always wear brightly coloured or distinctive clothing for easy identification.
  • Take a break every 60 minutes to avoid fatigue.

Pass on any relevant observations or notes to the person who takes over.

Good scanning skills are vital for lookouts and they should be regularly tested through training exercises.

Arrange for someone to simulate an unconscious snorkeler or place a small distinctive object, like a red tennis ball, in the snorkelling area.

If a lookout takes more than 60 seconds to respond, further training and improvements are needed.

Remember a lookout must be present to monitor divers and snorkelers and all lookouts must be trained in effective scanning techniques which are tested regularly.

ON SCREEN TEXT: Work safe. Home safe.

ON SCREEN TEXT: For more information visit or call 1300 369 915.

ON SCREEN TEXT: Workplace Health and Safety Queensland would like to thank Reef Magic Cruises Cairns, Dive Career Centre and crew for their participation in this film.

© The State of Queensland (Department of Justice and Attorney-General)

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