There are two main types of flotation devices.
- Lifejackets will turn most unconscious persons face up in the water. Standard lifejackets are keyhole-style flotation devices that are approved for use on all pleasure craft.
- Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) are designed to be more comfortable to wear than lifejackets, but they may not turn an unconscious person face up in the water.
To comply with the Small Vessel Regulations, all pleasure craft must be equipped with enough Canadian-approved lifejackets or PFDs for everyone on board. Each lifejacket or PFD must have enough buoyancy, be in good condition, and very importantly, be readily accessible! Readily accessible means you must be able to put the flotation device on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.). Flotation devices should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments, and they should not have other gear stowed on top of them.
Flotation devices also must be the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for flotation devices is based on the person’s weight and chest size. The only exceptions to this requirement are:
- A person with a chest size in excess of 140 cm
- A child weighing less than 9 kg (20 lbs)
Pleasure craft operators should ask everyone on their boat to wear a flotation device whenever on the water, particularly in smaller boats. Although you can choose between lifejackets and PFDs, keep in mind that lifejackets offer better protection. Flotation devices can save lives, but only if they are worn!
An emergency situation (rough water, rapid onset of bad weather, or dangerous boating traffic) can occur suddenly—leaving little or no time to put on lifejackets or PFDs. Lifejackets and PFDs are very difficult to put on once you are in the water. Be a smart boater, and have everyone on board your boat wear a lifejacket or PFD at all times.
“Eighteen years of research across Canada show that the vast majority of boaters who die—whether in powered or unpowered boats—have neglected basic principles of boating safety such as always wearing a flotation device.”—BOATING: Immersion and Trauma Deaths in Canada: 18 Years of Research, Canadian Red Cross, 2011