With marinas and boat launches beginning to reopen, many of us are considering getting out on the lake again.Before you head out, take the time to make sure you know what to look for in a lifejacket or PFD and how to test and use them properly.
According to the Canadian Red Cross, hundreds of Canadians drown every year while boating, and only 12.5% of these were wearing a properly fastened and fitted lifejacket or PFD.See their tips below, and visit RedCross.ca for more.
Lifejackets vs PFDs
A Canadian approved standard lifejacket, when worn properly, is designed to turn an unconscious person from face down to face up in the water, allowing them to breathe. The standard lifejacket is keyhole style. Standard lifejackets must be orange, yellow or red, and have a whistle attached.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs):
A Canadian approved PFD is designed to keep you afloat in the water.
PFDs were designed for use in recreational boating and are generally smaller, less bulky and more comfortable than lifejackets. They have less flotation than lifejackets, and have limited turning capacity, but are available in a variety of styles and colours.
Checklist for Choosing a Lifejacket
- Is it approved by the Ministry of Transportation or Department of Transportation?
- Will it support the person it was made for?
- Are all the snaps, belts, ties, tapes and/or zippers in good condition?
- Is it easy to put on and take off?
- Can you move your arms freely when wearing it?
- Does it let you bend at the waist?
- Can you see the ground at your feet and walk over obstacles easily?
- Does it keep your head above water?
- Can you swim and manoeuvre easily in the water?
- Have you attached a whistle to your flotation device?
Children’s Flotation Devices
There are approved PFDs and lifejackets designed especially for children. When you purchase a child’s approved flotation device, look for the following:
- Canadian approval labels detailing the appropriate chest size or weight
- A large collar for extra protection and support to the child’s head
- A grab strap on the collar
- Bright colours; yellow, orange or red are most easily seen
- Sturdy, rust-proof buckles and zipper
- Waist ties with snug-fitting drawstrings or elastic in front and back
- A safety strap that fastens between the legs to prevent the device from slipping over the child’s head
- Make sure that the approved flotation device is comfortable, yet snug.
- Do not buy a PFD or lifejacket that is too large in the hope that the child will grow into it.
- Remember that a PFD can never replace adult supervision. Keep your child within arms length at all times when in, on or around the water.
- After you have selected a flotation device for a child, we recommend that you attach reflective tape and a plastic whistle.
- Important: In Canada, there are no approved flotation devices for children weighing 20 pounds and under. Transport Canada recommends that you wait until your child reaches 20 lbs. before you go boating with them. For further information, visit Transport Canada.
Testing a Lifejacket or PFD
To test your new lifejacket or PFD, take the following steps:
- In a supervised area, put your lifejacket or PFD on and wade out into chest deep water.
- Bend your knees and float on your back.
- Make sure your flotation device keeps your chin above water and you can still breathe easily.
- Practice swimming on your stomach and back.
- If you are responsible for children, let them experiment with their own flotation device under your supervision.
Proper Maintenance of a Lifejacket or PFD
- Proper maintenance of your lifejacket or PFD is very important.A flotation device is designed to save your life and should never be used as a seat cushion or fender for your boat. Using it in this manner could cause damage, voiding its “approved” status.
- Inspect your flotation devices regularly. If there are rips or signs of wear, they should be replaced immediately.
- Store flotation devices on board your boat in a dry, well ventilated area.
- Ensure your flotation devices are readily accessible and stored away from gasoline.