• I have an old orange lifejacket that has been in my boat for ages. It seems OK but there is no date on it. Is it still legal?
• I don't understand all the numbers associated with lifejacket types. What is the relationship between pounds of flotation and Newtons? How does this relate to the weight of the person?
There is no question that the better the swimmer you are the more comfortable you will be if you are submerged unexpectedly by a fall overboard, or the swamping or capsize of your boat.
However, in cold water, rough water or in the dark, or if you have to help fellow passengers, the fact that you are wearing a lifejacket will make a life or death difference. Cold shock on hitting the water will make you gasp and water can enter the lungs. Even if you survive the first moments of panic the cold can quickly incapacitate muscles and produce swim failure.
Experience and studies have shown that even expert swimmers can get into trouble. Average or poor swimmers will have great difficulty struggling in shoes and clothing.
In North America every year an average of 1,000 people die while participating in boating activity.
In Canada from 2001-2006 the number of boating related fatalities was an average of 175 per year.
Of these 90% were not wearing a PFD or lifejacket.
This is a conscious decision made by injury prevention professionals to acknowledge that many injuries and fatalities arise from situations that are largely predictable and preventable. Incident is a word that is non-judgmental and does not determine a cause without data.
If you are a visitor (under 45 days) to Canadian waters in a US registered boat your US approved equipment will be considered in compliance.
In a Canadian boat subject to the Small Vessel Regulations there must be a Canadian approved (Transport Canada or Coast Guard) lifejacket or PFD for each person on board.
"If you are a non-resident of Canada operating a boat that is licensed or registered in Canada, the boat must meet Canadian safety equipment requirements. However, in either case, you may bring your own lifejacket to use as long as it fits and meets the requirements of your home country." (from Transport Canada Safe Boating Guide)
There is a North American standards group that is currently working to revise and harmonize Canadian and US regulations and standards.
There is a North American standards group that is currently working to revise and harmonize Canadian, US and International standards and one the issues being looked at is the fit and performance of children's flotation devices.
Currently in Canada there is not a prescribed standard for babies under 20lb (9kg) therefore no devices can be approved for this group.
One of the Canadian lifejacket manufacturers (Salus Marine) who regularly make approved devices for a wide range of boating activity has taken up the challenge of designing a device for babies but it is not yet approved (link to Transport Canada letter @ Salus Marine) because of the lack of a construction and approval standard. The Canadian Safe Boating Council conveyed a CASBA award to this device in 2006.
I have an old orange lifejacket that has been in my boat for ages. It seems OK but there is no date on it. Is it still legal?
The regulation requires an approved lifejacket "in serviceable condition" for each person on board.
It is possible that this lifejacket may still work and technically fulfill the requirement. But you have to ask yourself: "is this what I am going to rely on to save my life or that of my passenger?"
Foam flotation can breakdown over time and ancient Kapok hardens and becomes useless for flotation. Old lifejackets are often uncomfortable and smelly and then it is no wonder that folks don't want to wear them. It is time to invest in comfortable PFD's that will fit each person in your family and a few guests.
In general a lifejacket provides much more flotation than a personal flotation device. As well a lifejacket will turn the wearer onto their back so that mouth and nose are clear of the water even if unconscious. They are made in safety colours and often have reflective patches for visibility.
PFD's are designed to be worn at all times and provide freedom of movement, better ventilation and the convenience and style of pockets and a variety of colours.
It is very important to distinguish between approved lifejackets and PFD's which have been manufactured to safe design standards and other floating aids which may provide some assist to floating but may also vary widely in quality and reliability. Always check the label for approval..
I don't understand all the numbers associated with lifejacket types. What is the relationship between pounds of flotation and Newtons? How does this relate to the weight of the person?
(The information below is courtesy of the Canadian Safe Boating Council from a report entitled Will it Float? authored in 2003 by Dr. Philip Groff, PhD and Jennifer Ghadali, MA of the injury prevention organization SMARTRISK (pages 39-40)
Archimedes' Principle states that the buoyant force on a submerged object is equal to the weight of the fluid that is displaced by the object. This force is either expressed in pounds or Newtons. An average-sized adult requires about seven pounds of buoyancy to remain afloat with his or her mouth clear of the water. As summarized in the chart below, each of the various styles of lifejackets and PFDs in Canada have differing degrees of buoyancy, though each is sufficient to keep an average-sized adult afloat.
34. Brooks, C.J. Survival in Cold Waters, Staying Alive: Transport Canada, 2003.
Click to see...
Chart of lifejacket buoyancies