Author: Boat Accessories Australia Date Posted: 9 December 2016
Improved technology and design of life jackets or Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) led to a major change in the standards of Australia’s PFD’s in 2010. There are three types of inflating life jackets. The manual operating life jacket requires the wearer to pull the inflation tag to trigger a CO2 cylinder and has an oral tube inflator included as a backup. The standard automatic operation life jacket inflates automatically when in contact with water. The superior automatic life jackets won’t inflate in rain, splashed water, spray or heavy humidity.
Life jackets are subject to harsh conditions including sun and salt as well as an environment of sharp objects including hooks, knives and anchors that can cause damage. While it’s important to check all life jackets regularly, inflatable life jackets require an extra level of care to ensure they work when required.
Self-Inflating Life Jackets
Self-inflating life jackets are less bulky than their foam versions. The reduced bulk allows for increased movement and is more comfortable to wear for the duration of a boat trip. Self-inflating jackets must be serviced two years from the manufactured date and then annually afterwards. If your inflatable PFD (or a component) fails any test listed, the PFD must be taken to an authorised service centre for further testing. Some manufacturers require their life jackets to be serviced by one of their agents while other manufacturers allow a combination of self-testing and servicing.
Self-Checking your Life Jacket (recommended at least every year)
As a boat owner, it is your responsibility to maintain, check and service all life jackets. Don’t put yourself or your family and friends at risk by using a life jacket that is damaged or has not been checked/serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you own self-inflating life jackets, you need to know if your model can be self-checked before proceeding. If self-checking is an option, visit the manufacturer’s website and follow the steps or, if available, download the self-inspection checklist certificate.
Carefully follow the steps recommended by the manufacturer. If you are unsure of any steps or your life jacket doesn’t pass every step, take it to a service agent. Have the agent look over your jacket to determine if it needs to be repaired or replaced. Don’t attempt to perform any repairs yourself, visit your service agent.
Keep a copy of your self-test certificates and service receipts as evidence that you have completed the required tests on your life jacket if they are requested during a boat equipment check.
If your life jacket has passed all steps, record details of your self-test date on your life jacket before repacking. Ensure all air is removed from the bladder and that the pull cord is not tangled and the pull cord is accessible from the outside of the jacket. If your life jacket has marked fold lines, follow these in number order. Replace the life jacket back on your boat and make a note when you need to perform the next self-test or professional service.
Servicing your Life Jacket (recommended every two years)
If you have a life jacket model that needs to be serviced exclusively or periodically by the manufacturer or a service agent, make a note of the date your next service is due.
Keep a copy of your service receipts/certificates or a safety log in a waterproof bag or container on board your boat or in the car as proof that you have had your life jackets serviced.
The service will ensure your life jacket’s buckles, straps, bladder, reflective tapes and inflation system are not damaged or defective. A professional service gives you peace of mind that your life jackets will perform as they should. Even though you may have your life jackets professionally serviced as required it is a good habit to look over your life jackets in between services or each time you put it on. Something as small as a fish hook can damage your life jacket and affect its ability to self-inflate.
There are many benefits of using self-inflating life jackets, but boat owners must familiarise themselves with the requirements of self-checking and servicing. If you have any queries or concerns about your life jackets, contact the manufacturer or a servicing agent before your next boating trip.
Boat Accessories Australia sells a range of self-inflating life jackets and replacement parts.