Every passenger should have a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket or personal flotation device before leaving the shore. The Coast Guard will stamp an appropriate label on a life jacket or PFD to confirm this.
Boat operators must read and understand the PFD or life jacket manufacturer’s label and ensure the intended wearer complies with it. Make sure the life jacket fits the wearer’s body size, planned activities, and anticipated water conditions.
Recently, a new labeling system for life jackets was implemented that relies more on icons than words. Jackets and flotation aids labeled by “type” are still in compliance with regulatory requirements until they are no longer functional. The new labels include icons that indicate the level of performance, the ability to turn, and any warnings.
Each boat operator’s responsibility is to ensure that each passenger is properly equipped with a US Coast Guard-approved life jacket or Personal Flotation Device. When wearing these PFDs, all the straps, zippers, and buckles must be securely fastened so that they do not move up over the ears or face while the wearer raises his arms.
Having determined that the life jacket is the appropriate size, a buoyancy test should be conducted to ensure the jacket provides adequate buoyancy. Life jacket buoyancy should be tested by tightening all straps, zippers, and buckles and relaxing in shallow water. To maintain ease of breathing, the wearer should always keep their chin above the water. If not, choosing a different style or size may be necessary.
Personal Flotation Devices are a must for children around water, so they should be taught how to wear a PFD and get used to it.
If a child falls into the water, they are prone to panic. Even when wearing a PFD, a panicking child may have difficulty floating. Due to these reasons, children must become accustomed to wearing a PFD in the water before participating in boating activities.
Every child aboard should wear a life jacket appropriate for their size. Check the label to ensure the child’s weight fits within the range. Despite not being the most comfortable, Type II life jackets are the safest for most children.
NOTE: The lifejacket must fit snugly enough that the child cannot slip out!
A crotch strap and float collar should be on life jackets for infants and smaller children (under 50 pounds). To ensure the jacket fits, pick the child up by the shoulders. Children’s vests must not slide over their ears or chins. Always check the user label before buying a lifejacket for a child. The user label will tell you what weight range the life jacket is for.