Divers Alert Network® (DAN®) developed this Diving First Aid for Professional Divers (DFA Pro) course specifically for individuals who dive as part of their job duties and who may have to comply with U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations or other institutional requirements. This includes people who are employed as commercial divers, scientific divers, public safety divers as well as divers who are employed by or volunteer at aquariums. Since much of the content draws from DAN’s core diving first-aid courses, this program is also well suited for dive professionals such as divemasters and dive instructors.

Dive accidents are rare, but they may require prompt, specific action. This course addresses topics required by OSHA guidelines, including bloodborne pathogens. Other topics include scene safety, oxygen administration, neurological assessment, CPR — including use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and first aid for injuries from marine life.

This course assumes that the injured diver has been removed from the water and all scuba gear or other equipment has been removed; that training is available from other agencies. The sequencing of topics follows from a “most likely” scenario to a more “urgent care” one. Secondary care is covered in the latter part of the book.

Successful completion of the Diving First Aid for Professional Divers course includes demonstration of skill competency and passing a knowledge assessment. Upon completion, you will receive a provider card indicating that you have been trained in basic life support (including CPR) and first-aid measures.

Reading this handbook without instruction and skill practice will not make someone competent to provide CPR or first-aid assistance.

First Responder Roles & Responsibility

First aid is providing initial care for an injury or illness. The three key aims of first aid are to (1) preserve life, (2) prevent the condition from worsening and (3) promote recovery.

Emergency-response skills deteriorate with time, so retraining is required every two years to maintain DFA Pro provider certification, although some local/institutional protocols and regulations may require more frequent retraining. In addition, regular practice is encouraged to retain skill proficiency. All skills performed in an emergency should be within the scope of your training and experience.

Course Prerequisites

There are no prerequisites, including scuba certification, for participation in the DFA Pro course.

Anyone who provides surface support for divers and/or serves as first responders to divers and others in and around water will benefit form this course. Familiarity with diving equipment and diving terminology will make understanding the material easier, but interested and informed nondivers should be able to master the material.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is encouraged in the form of additional training courses, supervised practice sessions, reading current literature and refresher training. Your DFA pro Instructor can provide information about these programs.

How To Use this Handbook

Each chapter in this student handbook contains three distinct features.

  • The beginning of each chapter has a list of questions to assist with learning. This is the information you should look for as you read the material, complete the knowledge development sections, and participate in class discussions.
  • Boxes labeled “Note” provide explanations that are important for understanding the material just presented.
  • Boxes labeled “Advanced Concepts” contain additional information beyond what is required for this course. It is enrichment for students who want to know more.


This student handbook introduces medical terms that may be unfamiliar to some readers. Familiarity with basic medical terminology will enhance the quality of communication with emergency and health-care workers. A glossary of terms is provided.

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