Lifejackets are a vital piece of safety equipment that could save your life. The best idea is to make sure you wear it. Put the lifejacket on as part of your pre-trip preparation. It is a lot harder to put a lifejacket on in the water during an emergency.
It is compulsory to wear a lifejacket:
- when crossing a designated coastal bar in an open boat that is less than 4.8m in length
- if you are under 12 years old (from 12 months old and up to, but not including, 12 years old) in an open boat that is less than 4.8m in length and underway.
Legislation also requires that:
- boat owners or skippers must give each person on board information about where safety equipment is kept and clearly sign where lifejackets are stowed. The labels must have the word ‘lifejacket’ in red text on a white background or white text on a red background
- lifejackets must comply and display information about which Australian Standard (AS) applies. The lifejacket must comply with this standard. The current standard is AS 4758, which has replaced AS 1512-1996, AS 1499-1996 and AS 2260-1996. Lifejackets that meet these previous standards are still acceptable to use if they are in good condition.
Types of lifejackets
There are 5 different types of lifejackets.
For use in open waters
- 'Level 100', 'Level 150' or 'Level 275' for lifejackets made to AS 4758
- 'PFD type 1' for lifejackets made to AS 1512-1996.
You can wear this type of lifejacket in smooth and partially smooth waters as well, but it must not be used by personal watercraft (PWC) riders, skiers or people being towed.
For use in partially smooth waters
- 'Level 50' for lifejackets made to AS 4758
- 'PFD type 2' for lifejackets made to AS 1512-1996.
This type of lifejacket:
- helps keep you afloat but does not have a collar to keep the head above water
- can be worn in smooth waters as well
- 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
- 'Level 50 special purpose' or 'Level 50S' for lifejackets made to AS 4758
- 'PFD type 3' for lifejackets made to AS 1512-1996.
This type of lifejacket:
- may be a specified buoyancy wet suit
- is 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 lifejackets
These lifejackets have more flotation than a Level 100 lifejacket under AS 4758 or a PFD type 1 under AS 1512–1996. They are bulky lifejackets designed to keep the body afloat for long periods. They have reflective tape and a whistle to attract attention. These lifejackets are mostly carried by commercial boats and recommended to be carried by boats operating long distances offshore.
Inflatable lifejackets must comply with the same standards for foam lifejackets. They must be gas inflated and not rely on oral inflation only. Inflatable lifejackets are also required to have markings that show the level of buoyancy that the lifejacket will provide.
Inflatable lifejackets used on a recreational boat must show an expiry date and be serviced by the manufacturer or authorised service centre annually. Instead, if the manufacturer has established a documented servicing program the owner or master can service the lifejacket themselves, but must produce documentary evidence showing they followed the servicing program.