Your Scuba Cylinder Can Be A Hammer


Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

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During my first scuba class, my instructor and his assistants were most adamant about never leaving a scuba cylinder standing alone and upright. As a scuba instructor, I tell my students that a scuba cylinder standing alone is a "foot-seeking-device" and will most likely fall on the foot of a litigation-seeking attorney. A single scuba cylinder typically, depending on the composition material and the volume of the cylinder,  weighs between 30 and 50 pounds (13 to 22 kg). This amount of mass can develop a significant impact force, even when falling only a short distance.


The photographs below document an injury sustained by a diver when a single steel "72" cylinder standing next to a wall was accidentally knocked over and fell on his foot. The diver was wearing leather sneakers at the time. I suspect a bare-footed or wearing-only-dive-boots diver would have sustained greater damage. These photographs were taken approximately 24 hours after the incident.



Examination by emergency medical people at a local hospital revealed the diver has a broken toe (comminuted fracture of the left first digital phalange). Basically, the toe was crushed into multiple fragments. Fortunately, this transverse fracture required no pinning or surgery. This type of fracture tends to heal rather well, but this diver missed diving for eight weeks while his body repaired the damage.

The X-rays below of the injury to the diver's left foot show multiple breaks (fine lines) at the in the first bone  (upper right of oblique view) of the big toe

X-Rays of Comminuted Fracture Caused By A Falling Scuba Cylinder

Oblique View

Enlarged Oblique View

Antero-Posterior View

 Enlarged Antero-Posterior View


The next time you see a single scuba cylinder standing alone on a pool deck or at a dive site, don't think of it as an unattended tank. Instead, consider it to be a hammer waiting to strike and either secure the tank with a line or chain or lay the cylinder down to prevent an injury to yourself or a fellow diver.


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My thanks to the injured diver for permission to photograph the damaged foot 


My thanks to the medical staff involved for allowing me a have a copy of the x-rays

 About The Author: 

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D. is a biochemist and Diving Safety Coordinator at the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 100 scuba related articles. His personal dive library (See Alert Diver, Mar/Apr, 1997, p. 54) is considered one of the best recreational sources of information In North America.

  Copyright 2001-2004 by Larry "Harris" Taylor

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Use of these articles for personal or organizational profit is specifically denied.

These articles may be used for not-for-profit diving education