Boats are fun, but safety should always be your number one priority every time you go out on the water. The best pieces of safety equipment on your boat are the life jackets. Carrying life jackets on your vessel is not only good common sense, it’s also a legal requirement.
As a boat owner, you must ensure that you’re carrying an approved life jacket in the appropriate size for each passenger joining you on the expedition. Not only must the sizing be correct, but the jacket must be in good condition and if inflatable, properly serviced too. There are penalties in place if you’re caught without life jackets, or even if you’re just not carrying enough, so it’s important to get this right every time. The reality is, every year there are lives lost during recreational boating incidents. Sadly, many of them could have been prevented by simply wearing a life jacket.
Life jackets must be stored or placed on board in an area where they can be quickly and easily accessed. They need to be located somewhere clearly visible to passengers, or clearly marked with an unobstructed sign that reads ‘LIFE JACKETS’ (this should be on a white background with red lettering). You can obtain stickers for free from registries and service centres.
When crossing ocean bars or out in open ocean waters, a Level 100 life jacket is the minimum requirement for all passengers on board. It must also be worn when crossing coastal bars. Depending on the type of vessel you’re travelling on, a level 50 or 50S life jacket may meet the requirements. For full details and explanation, see the table on the RMS website.
If you’re exploring enclosed or alpine waters, a life jacket 50S or greater must be carried for each passenger (unless otherwise specified).
The different levels of life jackets explained:
- Level 50 Life jacket – Manufactured using high-visibility colours and designed to support the wearer in the water, the Level 50 comes without neck support and is unable to keep the wearer’s head face-up in the water should they be rendered unconscious. They are predominately used when boating in sheltered areas, enclosed or inland waters.
- Level 50S Life jacket – Very similar to the Level 50, the 50s has the same overall buoyancy rating, however, they are not required to be produced in high-visibility colours. They are more stylish and suited to water sports, such as water skiing and wake-boarding, where assistance is readily available and you’re not likely to need to stand out to be located for rescue.
- Level 100 – Designed for people who may have to wait for rescue, but aren’t in high risk situations. These are best used in sheltered and calm water, and are not intended for rough or wavy conditions.
- Level 150 – Intended for general offshore and rough water and weather conditions. Manufactured to provide a high standard of performance, should it be required. The Level 150 is designed to assist an unconscious wearer in turning to a safe position to prevent drowning.
- Level 275 – These life jackets are designed for primary offshore usage, and are perfect for people who are using items of significant weight, or who are wearing clothing which may trap air and adversely affect the life jacket’s capacity to self-correct. The Level 275 will ensure that the wearer remains floating with their mouth and nose out of the water.
Having life jackets on board isn’t always enough. Sometimes, passengers are required to wear them while boating around. When is that required on a recreational vessel? A good place to start is, whenever the master (or skipper) instructs you to. Other examples include:
- Boating in bad weather conditions such as; storms, gale force winds or any time the Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning
- When you are boating with elderly persons, children, non-swimmers or people with serious medical conditions
- When a yacht doesn’t have safety features like barriers, rails, lifelines or harnesses
- If your vessel has broken down
- Any other similar circumstances as advised by the master of the vessel
For more information on life jackets, specifications and legal requirements, see the RMS webpage for full details. If you have questions regarding life jacket use and supplies, come see us at Terrace Boating. Our accessories department is always stocked with life jackets, as well as all you need to make your boating adventures a fun and safe experience.