Personal Flotation Devices: Keep Your Passengers & Yourself Safe

One should use a personal floatation device for the same reason labourers should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) – these units can save lives. Each year, thousands of people are injured and hundreds drown in boating-related accidents. According to reports, the majority of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.

You should also wear a life jacket when playing water sports or performing any other water activity, including swimming. In any of these circumstances, a life jacket will help you stay afloat and can help prevent drowning. When shopping for life jackets you’ll come across different types suitable for different water-related activities, so understanding each type’s intended use is extremely important.

Class I: Bigger and More Buoyant


Also called offshore life vest, these personal flotation devices are designed to keep an individual afloat and face up for long periods. Class I PFDs provide 10 kilos of buoyancy, which is the most of any PDF, and are designed to be used in deep, open waters where a person may be in the water for quite a long time before help arrives. While these life jackets are bulkier than other types, they are most likely to keep an unconscious person face-up in water for the longest period of time.

Class II: The Standard in the Industry

Also known as near-shore buoyant vests, these are the most common life jackets. They provide 7 kilos of buoyancy and can turn an unconscious person face-up. They are suggested for use in calm inland water where any rescue would be relatively swift. These life jackets come in a variety of shapes and sizes designed for both adults and children.

Class III: Floatation Aids

These floatation devices come in different sizes and shapes and are designed for use in calm, inland waters where rescue will be swift. Although these life jackets also provide 7 kilos of buoyancy, they are not very likely to turn an unconscious person over.

Class IV: Throwable Aids


These flotation devices don’t replace wearable PFDs – they are designed to be used only for extra support or to help someone who was not wearing their life jacket. Common types of throwable aids include ring buoys, horseshoe buoys, boat cushions, and others. Note that these devices are only useful if they are kept readily accessible to be thrown quickly in the event of an emergency. They are not suitable for children, non-swimmers or anyone unconscious.

Inflatable Life Jackets


These floating devices are designed to take up less space. They rely on internal chambers that when inflated, provide buoyancy. If you decide to use an inflatable life jacket, it is extremely important that you become familiar with the manufacturer’s instructions and that you choose a device that is the appropriate size.

Many people are wondering are inflatable life jackets safe. The safety of these PFDs will depend on periodic maintenance. When an inflatable life jacket fails to inflate properly, the results can be life-threatening. Fabric degradation, bladder leaks or improperly installed CO2 cylinder is all it takes to render an inflatable life jacket ineffective by preventing its inflation or ability to stay inflated.

Different manufacturers will have different maintenance instructions for their products and directions for the users to service and inspect the devices. Proper maintenance service and inspection will ensure all parts of the device are checked and in good working order. When it comes to how long do inflatable life jackets last, they are limited to ten years. The service life of a life jacket is limited due to the fact that materials degrade.

Finding the Right PFD Size

Right PFD Size

Life jackets come in all shapes and sizes. Make sure you read the PFD manufacturer’s recommendation on sizing, which is based on a person’s weight, to determine if the PFD is appropriate. PFDs are available in child and adult sizes. Never allow an adult to wear a child-size FPD and vice versa. Make sure that everyone tries their lifejacket to ensure it is the proper fit. A good fit means the vest should be snug but not overly tight, and all fasteners should close completely.

How to Test Personal Floatation Device?


Over time, the foam of personal flotation devices will shrink and lose some of its buoyancy. So, every couple of years, you should consider checking how much float yours has left. One easy and quick way to do that is by wading into chest-deep water, bending your knees and floating on your back. Your life jacket should be able to keep your chin above the water and you should be able to breathe easily.

Make sure that children wear their lifejackets at all times. Also, test the units before each use and make sure your children know how to use them as some kids may panic when wearing them.

Do dogs have to wear life jackets on boats? Yes, they do. All dogs, whether they love water or not, can easily panic due to an unexpected fall or leap into the water. This is quite true when boating with your dog. Dog life jackets come with safety grab handles that help if there is ever a dog overboard situation.