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Ensuring You Have the Right Size Life Jacket

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 1 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Boating Aid Buoyancy Life Jacket Marine

Life jackets play a vital role in keeping people safe in water and can significantly reduce the number of casualties if sailing or other water-related accidents occur. But getting the right size and buoyancy of a life jacket is essential, if you want maximum protection.

A life jacket is a crucial piece of equipment to have and should always be supplied or put to hand if you’re taking part in any on-water activities, such as powerboating, trips on a yacht or small boat cruising. They’re essential for both swimmers and non-swimmers and should be worn if you feel you need to on the boat, if there’s any chance you could fall in the water or if an emergency situation occurs. They should also be supplied as a precaution to any activities likely to be taking place near large or dangerous lakes, or on the coastline.

Many life jackets are cleverly designed to automatically turn the user around, even if they’ve been knocked unconscious, so the head, mouth and nose aren’t in the water, so are a vital piece of safety equipment to use.

Life Jacket Sizes

Life jackets come in a wide variety of sizes and are designed for men, women, children and even babies. To obtain an accurate fitting life jacket, you need to know your weight. In the case of adults, weights are then used to categorise jackets in terms of generic sizes, such as small, medium, large and extra large. It’s a similar situation for babies and children, as the size is determined by their weight. For example, a size 15-30kg jacket would generally fit a toddler.

Buoyancy Levels

In addition to getting the right size of life jacket, it’s also important that you get the right buoyancy level too. This means that the life jacket will offer sufficient use for the purpose you’ve got in mind – some, for example, are better for more competent swimmers, whereas others are designed to be worn by people who are more likely to wait to be rescued. If the wrong buoyancy size of jacket is worn, then it could have a detrimental outcome.

The main buoyancy sizes of life jackets in the UK are:

  • Level 50 – meets the product safety standards EN393 or ISO 12402-5. Is aimed at people who are already competent swimmers and who aren’t far from shore.
  • Level 100 – meets the product safety standards EN 395 or ISO 12402-4. It’s not suitable to be used in rough water conditions, but is designed for those who will wait to be rescued.
  • Level 150 – meets the product safety standards EN 396 or ISO 12402-3. This is aimed to be used in rough weather conditions and in offshore water. It’s designed to automatically put people into a safe position whilst waiting to be rescued and is recommended for use by those on motor boats or offshore cruises.
  • Level 275 – meets the product safety standards EN 399 or ISO 12402-2. This is ideal for offshore use and provides extra buoyancy for anyone who may be weighted down with heavy clothes. It has a self-righting ability, which means it will ensure the wearer floats with their mouth and nose out of the water.
Once you’ve found your perfect size and buoyancy of jacket, don’t forget that life jackets require regular check-ups and servicing to ensure they’re in tip top condition.

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