Choosing the right Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
A good PFD can be the difference between life and death in the event of an accident. Get into the habit of always wearing one on a boat, and the same applies to passengers. It is also a good idea for young children to wear one when they are close to water to reduce the risk of drowning. You can even get floatation devices for animals.
The vast majority of drowning accidents occur in calm waters close to land. Boats capsize, and someone falls overboard. Investigations show that most people are ill prepared for someone falling in the water or having to jump overboard in the event of an accident.
To find out which type of PFD you should buy, ask yourself the following questions:
Who is going to use it? When will it be used? Can the person swim and how well? Is the person used to being in and around water? A PFD should always be worn on top of everything else. It should also be CE marked and suitable for the weight and size of the wearer. PFDs include the following types:
Floatation device 50N
Intended for swimmers in sheltered waters. Also called buoyancy aids. They are easy to move around in, and good if you want to go fishing or for other activities where you need to be able to move freely.
Life jacket 100N
Best suited to non-swimmers or persons not very familiar with water. They are also the only choice for children. Life jackets are always either orange or red and have a floatation collar. The level of floatation is to the front, to ensure that the wearer lands in the water face up and with their head above water. A life jacket always has reflective strips and a whistle. They are good to wear when you are out in open water and it can take time for help to arrive.
In the case of a child, it is especially important that the collar matches the size and weight of the child. If it is not a good fit, the level of floatation can be incorrect, which can then have the opposite effect. It should be difficult for the child to take off, but easy for an adult to put on the child. The crotch strap should be securely fastened, with a maximum gap of five centimetres between the crotch and strap. It is worth getting the child to try going in the water with the life jacket on, to get a sense of how it feels in the water.
Life jacket 150N
This jacket is the best at ensuring you will face the right way up if you fall into the water. It offers great freedom of movement in the uninflated position. In contact with water, the jacket is automatically inflated with the aid of a gas cylinder. It also includes reflective strips, whistle and an eyebolt to aid recovery from the water. It restricts the ability to swim and climb up into a boat, but keeps the wearer in the right position until help arrives. A life jacket should be inspected regularly to ensure it is working as it should do, year after year. The jacket should only be worn by swimmers and is not intended for children.
If you have good fixing points in the boat and a safety line from bow to stern, you can reinforce safety on board with a harness and safety line that you attach together. Both must be CE marked and attached in accordance with regulations.