Skip links and keyboard navigation

Life jackets and personal flotation devices

Changes – 1 January 2012

Changes are being introduced from 1 January 2012 to improve recreational boating safety.

New designated bars
The list of designated coastal bars requiring everyone onboard an open boat under 4.8m to wear a personal flotation device.

The new designated coastal bars are:

  • Mooloolah River mouth
  • Gold Coast Seaway
  • Round Hill Creek.

Stowage of life jackets
Stowage requirements for life jackets have also changed. Now, boat owners or skippers must give each person on board information about where the safety equipment is kept and clearly sign where life jackets are stowed. The labels must have the words 'life jacket' in red text on a white background or white text on a red background.  

Life jackets/personal flotation devices must comply with standards

For a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) to comply with a particular standard, certain information required under that standard must be displayed.

The current standard for life jackets is Australian Standard 4758 (AS 4758). This standard has replaced Australian Standard 1512–1996, Australian Standard 1499–1996 and Australian Standard 2260–1996. You do not have to upgrade your current PFD under the old standards – they will still be acceptable for use as long as they are in good condition.

AS 4758 has a different rating system than the previous standards. Here is how they compare with current types:

Under standard AS 4758 Under previous standards
Level 275
Level 150 
Coastal life jacket
Level 275
Level 150
Level 100 
PFD type 1
(AS 1512–1996)
Level 50 PFD type 2
(AS 1499–1996)
Level 50 special purpose PFD type 3
(AS 2260–1996)

This Marine Information Bulletin answers your questions about personal flotation devices and gives more detail on the accepted standards in Queensland.

Types of life jackets/personal flotation devices

There are five different types of personal flotation devices (PFDs). Here are some important points to remember about PFDs to avoid getting a fine:

  • Life jackets should be accessible at all times; if they aren't visible to passengers you must clearly sign where life jackets are stowed.
  • They must be kept in good condition.
  • They must fit the wearer – ill-fitting PFDs won't meet the safety equipment requirement.
  • Do not use PFDs as a cushion.
  • Make sure you know how to put them on quickly.
  • PFDs should be marked correctly to ensure they comply with standards.
For use in smooth, partially smooth and open waters 

Photo of an example of a PFD type 1
  • To comply with Australian Standard 4758 it must be marked 'Level 100', 'Level 150' or 'Level 275'.
  • To comply with Australian Standard 1512–1996 it must be marked 'PFD type 1'.
  • Not to be used by personal watercraft (PWC) riders, skiers or people being towed.

For use in smooth and partially smooth waters

Photo of an example of a PFD type 2
  • To comply with Australian Standard 4758 it must be marked 'Level 50'.
  • To comply with Australian Standard 1499-1996 it must be marked with 'PFD type 2'.
  • Keeps you afloat but does not have a collar to keep the head above water.
  • Can be used by skiers or people being towed in smooth or partially smooth waters.
  • Can be used by PWC riders in smooth and partially smooth waters or beyond those waters.

For use in smooth waters

Photo of an example of a PFD type 3
  • To comply with Australian Standard 4758 it must be marked 'Level 50 special purpose'.
  • To comply with Australian Standard 2260-1996 it must be marked with 'PFD type 3'.
  • May be a specified buoyancy wet suit.
  • For use in smooth water and only where the user is likely to be in the water for a short time.
  • Can be used by skiers or people being towed in smooth waters.
  • Can be used by PWC riders in smooth waters.

Coastal and SOLAS

Image of an example of a coastal life jacket

These jackets have more flotation than a Level 100 life jacket under AS 4758 or a PFD type 1 under AS 1512–1996. They are bulky life jackets designed to keep the body afloat for long periods. They have reflective tape and a whistle to attract attention. These jackets are mostly carried by commercial boats and recommended to be carried by boats operating long distances offshore.

A useful guide for purchasing coastal and SOLAS life jackets is the National Marine Safety Committee's National Register of Compliant Equipment.

Inflatable PFDs/life jackets

Inflatable life jackets are approved equipment and must comply with the same standards that are applied to foam PFDs. They must be gas inflated and not rely on oral inflation only.

Inflatable PFDs used on a recreational boat must show an expiry date and be serviced by the manufacturer or authorised service centre annually. Alternatively, where the manufacturer has established a documented servicing program the owner or master can service the PFD themselves, providing they can produce documentary evidence showing adherence to the servicing program.

Compulsory wearing of life jackets

It is compulsory to wear a life jacket:

  • when crossing a designated coastal bar in an open boat that is less than 4.8m in length
  • if you are under the age of 12 in an open boat that is less than 4.8m in length, while it is under way.

Read the frequently asked questions about when it is compulory to wear a life jacket.

The designated coastal bars in Queensland are:

  • Currumbin Bar
  • Tallebudgera Bar
  • Jumpinpin Bar
  • South Passage Bar
  • Caloundra Bar
  • Maroochy Bar
  • Mooloolah River mouth
  • Noosa Bar
  • Gold Coast Seaway
  • Round Hill Creek
  • Wide Bay Bar


Under 12 – from 12 months and up to, but not including, 12 years of age.

It is not recommended that babies under 12 months travel on boats unless necessary. When they do, they must be held securely by a parent or other responsible adult.

Open vessel – a boat that does not have a permanent rigid deckhouse, cabin or other enclosed space suitable for a person to occupy.

Underway – a boat not at anchor, made fast to the shore or aground. A boat does not have to be moving to be underway.

Coastal bar – a shallow area where sand is deposited across a river mouth, lake, estuary or harbour entrance.

Boating in New South Wales

If you go boating in New South Wales, new life jacket rules now apply. Information about the changes is available from NSW Maritime.

Last updated
06 December 2013