Many dive rescue teams are changing modes as they anticipate the upcoming winter season and pack away their summer equipment. During this transition, teams should consider doing a thorough equipment inspection and conducting the manufacturer's recommended annual service. While giving this equipment close scrutiny, consider checking it against your department's inventory list and making updates as needed. Keep in mind that there are three important benefits to this type of service and inspection: increased team member safety, increased potential that victims will be saved, and decreased department liability.
Most dive teams contract their SCUBA repairs and inspection services through either a local dive store or an outside vendor. Prior to sending your team's equipment out for service, make certain that the repair technician is certified by the manufacturer to make the repairs on your team's equipment. While most technicians will not work on equipment that they are not certified to service, there are a handful that will "give it a try." While some teams are required to accept the "low bid," they do not have to sacrifice the safety of their teammates. Don't allow anyone who is not certified by the manufacturer to tamper with your team's equipment!
SCUBA cylinders require a visual inspection annually and a hydrostatic inspection every five years (composite cylinders are hydrostatically inspected every three years). During the visual inspection, the inspector will look for internal corrosion, moisture, signs of contamination, and microscopic cracks near the cylinder valve threads. If your team is using aluminum or composite cylinders, it is a good idea to make certain that your tank inspector uses an electronic inspection device that passes an eddy current through the metal and identifies microscopic cracks in the area where the tank valve threads into the cylinder. Aluminum cylinders manufactured prior to 1987 are suspect for having these potentially life threatening cracks.
Tank valves should be serviced during the same time as the SCUBA cylinder. At a minimum, the large O-ring at the valve/tank interface and the O-ring at valve/regulator interface should be replaced during the annual visual inspection. Aqua Lung