- It must be properly fitted to each person and it should be comfortable, otherwise people may avoid wearing it.
- Lifejackets should be selected for the kind of boating you do: relatively calm waters, near shore, offshore, ocean racing, kayaking and canoeing, etc. Read the lifejacket literature, which indicates the conditions the lifejacket is designed for.
- All lifejackets must be immediately accessible to each person aboard.
- An inflatable (and a child’s lifejacket) should have crotch or thigh straps so it doesn’t ride up over the wearer’s head in the water.
- A lifejacket with an integral spray hood is recommended for offshore use.
- Know how to manually inflate an automatic lifejacket and test it manually at least once a year. Inspect an automatic mechanism and replace it as specified in the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Replace any lifejacket that is damaged.
- Inflatables with an integral safety harness and tether are available.
- A harness tether should be able to be released instantly under a strain if a person becomes entangled. A snap shackle with a strong, easily-grasped pull loop is recommended for the harness end of the tether. All persons must carry an accessible sharp knife to cut the tether if the snap shackle doesn’t open. Some tests have revealed that in some cases when a lifejacket is inflated it makes it difficult to get to the snap shackle to release it – that’s one reason a knife is important.
There is an ongoing discussion about inflatable lifejackets. Some boaters are concerned about the possibility of an automatic lifejacket inflating if a boat overturns, trapping a person below decks or under the boat, or that the lifejacket will inflate if the person gets doused by a wave on deck. Many authorities recommend automatically-inflating lifejackets for most boaters who choose an inflatable, mainly because if a person is injured and falls overboard the victim may not be able to inflate a manual lifejacket. Carefully consider what you read and hear when making a choice for an inflatable. No matter what type of lifejacket you choose, some basic considerations apply:
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Priscilla Travis spends more than 110 days each year on the water, takes photos, and writes about nautical topics.