Personal Flotation Devices - Requirements
All vessels must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard–approved life jackets, called personal flotation devices (PFDs). The quantity and type depend on the length of your vessel and the number of people on board and/or being towed. Each PFD must be in good condition, be the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, be readily accessible! Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.). PFDs 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.
Vessel operators should ask everyone on their vessel to wear a PFD whenever on the water. PFDs can save lives, but only if they are worn!
- All vessels must carry one USCG–approved Type I, II, III, or V PFD for each person on board.
- All PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition, be marked legibly with the USCG approval number, and be readily accessible. The PFDs must be of the proper size for the intended wearer. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.
- In addition to the above requirements, vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one USCG–approved Type IV PFD on board and immediately available (within arm’s reach). Kayaks and canoes are not required to carry a Type IV; however, they are a good idea for all vessels.
- Children 12 years old and younger must wear a USCG–approved PFD at all times while underway on any vessel 20 feet or less in length and on all kayaks and canoes.
- Each person on board a PWC or sailboard, and anyone being towed behind a vessel, must wear a USCG–approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not approved for these activities.
- When on Pittsburgh District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes, each person on board a vessel under 16 feet in length, or in a canoe or kayak, must wear a USCG–approved PFD.