Personal Lifesaving Appliances
About 90% of people who drown in recreational boating incidents are not wearing a lifejacket. Even if you have one on board, conditions like rough winds and waves and cold water can make it really hard, if not impossible, to find it and put it on. Worse yet, if you unexpectedly fall into the water, the boat (with your lifejacket on board) could be too far away to reach.
Although you can choose between lifejackets and PFDs, keep in mind that lifejackets offer a higher level of protection. Lifesaving cushions are not approved as safety equipment on any boat.
To find a list of all Canadian-approved lifejackets and PFDs, check out the Approved Products Catalogue Index at www.tc.gc.ca.
A lifejacket is the best insurance you can have - so find one that suits your needs and wear it!
Lifejackets come in red, orange or yellow. This makes you much easier to see in the water. Right now there are three Canadian-approved lifejacket types to choose from:
|SAFETY OF LIFE AT SEA (SOLAS) LIFEJACKETS||STANDARD TYPE LIFEJACKETS||SMALL VESSEL LIFEJACKETS|
|Performance in the Water||Best Performance – Will turn you on your back in seconds to keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious||Slower Performance – Will turn you on your back to keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious||Slowest Performance – Will turn you on your back to keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious, but may do so more slowly|
|Sizes (by weight of person)||
Available in 2 sizes:
|Available in 2 sizes:
- Over 40 kg (88 lbs)
- Less than 40 kg (88 lbs)
|Available in 3 sizes:
- Over 41 kg (90 lbs)
- 18 kg (40 lbs) to 41 kg (90 lbs)
- Less than 18 kg (40 lbs)
Future types and designs of lifejackets, including inflatables, that meet the new lifejacket standard adopted in 2007, will offer more comfort and better performance.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)
PFDs are available in a wide range of approved types, sizes and colours. While PFDs are more comfortable than lifejackets because they are designed for constant wear, they do not generally offer the same level of protection as lifejackets for:
- staying afloat; and
- turning you on your back so you can breathe.
Choose a PFD based on your needs and activity. If you plan to operate at high speeds, look for a PFD with three or more chest belts for security. If you will be boating in cold water (water less than 15°C), choose a PFD with some thermal protection. A large selection is also available for activities such as sailboarding, kayaking and canoeing. No matter what type of PFD you choose, you should choose a colour that makes you easy to see in the water.
There are many pros and cons to choosing a PFD over a lifejacket – but remember that a PFD may not turn you on your back if you fall in the water. The choice is yours, but think carefully before buying.
You can also buy inflatable PFDs, but you must understand how to use and care for them if they are to work properly. You must also understand which activities and conditions they are approved for. Above all, remember that you have to be wearing an inflatable PFD for it to be approved on an open boat. If the boat is not open then you only need to wear it while you’re on deck or in the cockpit.
Inflatable PFDs are NOT approved for:
- anyone under 16 years old;
- anyone who weighs less than 36.3 kg (80 lbs);
- use on a personal watercraft; or
- white-water paddling activities.
Inflatable PFDs come in two styles:
- Vest types can be inflated orally, manually (with a CO2 system) or automatically.
- Pouch types can be orally inflated or manually inflated by pulling a toggle to activate a CO2inflation system.
Although these PFDs inflate quickly, for weak swimmers it can seem like it takes forever. All Canadian-approved inflatable PFDs have an oral inflation tube in case the CO2 inflation system fails. This tube could be hard to use when you are trying to keep your head above water.
An emergency is no time to try out a new device. Inflatable PFDs should come with an owner’s manual. Look for it and read it carefully. Try it on under supervision and before heading out to make sure you know how to use it.
To learn more about choosing a lifejacket or PFD, visit www.wearalifejacket.com.
Keeping Kids Afloat
Kids should wear a lifejacket and be within arm’s reach at all times. Before buying a lifejacket for your child, make sure it is Canadian-approved. Have your child try it on. It should fit snugly and not ride up over the chin or ears. If there are more than 7.6 cm (3”) between your child’s shoulders and the device, it is too big and could do more harm than good.
Look for these safety features:
- a large collar for head support;
- waist ties or elastic gathers in front and back;
- a safety strap that goes between the legs to prevent it from slipping over your child’s head;
- buckles on the safety straps; and
- reflective tape.
You should also consider attaching a non-metallic pealess whistle.
Do you want your child to wear a lifejacket? Set a good example and wear yours every time you are on the water.
Parents of young children should be aware that there are no approved lifejackets for infants under 9 kg (20 lbs). To learn more about finding the right lifejacket for your child, please visit www.boatingsafety.gc.ca.
For a lifejacket to be Canadian-approved, it must have a label that states it has been approved by:
- Transport Canada;
- Canadian Coast Guard;
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada; or
- any combination of the above.
Lifejackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard are not Canadian-approved. However, visitors to Canada may bring their own lifejacket to use on a pleasure craft as long as it fits and it conforms to the laws of their home country.
Caring for Your Lifejacket
Treat your lifejacket like an investment and take good care of it! Lifejackets that are ripped or in poor condition are not considered approved. Follow these tips to keep yours in good condition:
- Check its buoyancy regularly in a pool or by wading out to waist-deep water and bending your knees to see how well you float.
- Make sure that straps, buckles and zippers are clean and work well.
- Tug on straps to make sure they are well attached and there is no sign of wear.
- Dry it in open air and avoid direct heat sources.
- Store it in a dry, well-ventilated place where it is easy to reach.
- Do not dry clean. Use mild soap and running water to clean.
- Never sit or kneel on your lifejacket or use it as a fender for your boat.
Buoyant Heaving Lines
A buoyant heaving line is approved for use as long as it:
- is in good condition;
- is made of one full length of rope, not many shorter ropes tied together;
- is long enough for the boat you will be using; and
- is used only as safety equipment so that it is easy to find and use in an emergency.
When buying a lifebuoy, look for a Transport Canada approval stamp or label. Lifebuoys must be at least 610 mm (24”) in diameter. SOLAS lifebuoys are 762 mm (30”) in diameter. Smaller lifebuoys and horseshoe-type devices are not approved.
A reboarding device allows someone to get back on the boat from the water. A transom ladder or swim platform ladder meets this requirement.