Importance of Coast Guard-Approved Lifejackets

by | Wednesday, July 16, 2014 |

Each vessel must have enough U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets, or personal floatation devices (PFDs), for all its passengers. 46 CFR 28.110 reads: “[E]ach vessel must be equipped with at least one immersion suit, exposure suit, or wearable personal flotation device of the proper size for each individual on board.” Make sure your vessel is equipped with a lifejacket for each person aboard, and consider the type of lifejackets you stock on the vessel.

The Importance of Stocking PFDs on Your Vessel

Having U.S. Coast Guard-approved flotation devices aboard your vessel will keep you in compliance with the law and may help you avoid negligence-related legal issues, should someone ever drown or suffer near-drowning related injuries while on your boat.

However, the primary reason you need sufficient, high-quality PFDs on your vessel is simply because they save lives. However, you and your passengers actually need to wear them in order for them to work. After a vessel crashes or capsizes or a passenger goes overboard, it may be too late to locate and put on your PFDs.

The following statistics from the USCG illustrate the importance of wearing PFDs:

  • The most frequent failure resulting in drowning is not having a PFD available when needed.
  • Since Type III PFDs were introduced, more people started wearing devices while on the water, reducing the total number of drownings. Approximately 40,000 people are alive today because of the introduction of type III PFDs.
  • More than 400 people drowned in 2006 because they weren’t wearing a PFD.

Types of Commercial PFDs

PFDs vary by their model, purpose, size and buoyancy, so it’s important to select the correct devices for your vessel and passengers.

There are two types of PFDs that are suitable for commercial vessels:

  • Type I PFDs – Also referred to as offshore lifejackets, Type I PFDs are best in any type of areas, including the ocean, rough waters and remote areas. They provide the most buoyancy (higher lift) and are most suitable for areas where rescue may take a significant amount of time.
  • Type V PFDs – This type of PFD is a category of devices for special uses, some of which are commercial or industrial in nature, such as commercial work vests, commercial whitewater vests, man-overboard rescue devices (e.g., ring buoys), and law enforcement flotation devices.

Types of Recreational PFDs

Recreational vessels may be stocked with Type I or certain Type V PFDs, such as hybrid inflatable PFDs, canoe/kayak vests or boardsailing vests. In addition, there are two other types of U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets that may be suitable for recreational uses:

  • Type II PFDs – Type II PFDs, which may be inflatable, buoyant foam or a hybrid model, are good for general boating activities on calm, inland waters where fast rescue is likely.
  • Type III PFDs – This type of PFD is more comfortable and slightly less buoyant than other types, designed to accommodate active boating activities, such as water skiing, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Like Type IIs, they are only suitable in relatively safe areas where there is a good chance for a quick rescue, should something go wrong.

Helpful Info for Vessel Owners

You can learn more about which types of PFDs are suitable for your vessel either by reading the USCG Think Safe pamphlet that’s provided with each PFD sold, or by downloading a free copy of How to Choose the Right Life Jacket Brochure, available on the USCG’s Boating Safety Resource Center website.

Find more informative articles of interest to vessel owners on the Marine Education Textbooks Blog.

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