Safety First – Col’s Boating Safety Tips.

Or known as – Personal flotation devices

PFDs/life jackets are the most important piece of safety equipment on any boat. They must comply with the standard and be the right size float the person as they are also weight rated and be the right jacket for the intended use. They should be kept in an accessible position and not used as cushions and fenders. The stowage compartment for life jackets is to be clearly labelled and visible to passengers. The labels must have the words ‘life jacket’ in red text on a white background or white text on a red background. Wearing of life jackets is now compulsory for everyone in open boats under 4.8 metres while crossing a designated coastal bar.

Safety can also be enhanced if PFDs are worn in the following circumstances:

• at the first sign of bad weather
• when operating a vessel by yourself
• in an emergency situation
• between sunset and sunrise or during restricted visibility
• when operating in unfamiliar waters
• when operating with a following sea • when boating alone – A strong recommendation
• at all times on poor swimmers and children under 12 (compulsory when underway in open boats less than 4.8 m).

Practice putting them on in the dark and in the water—it is harder than you think!

PFDs on children

When choosing a PFD for a child care must be taken to ensure it fits properly and is the correct weight rating and the child would not slip out when in the water. On smaller children a crotch strap is necessary to hold them in the jacket once in the water. For any children’s Jackets make sure that are pre-adjusted and a great idea Is to place the children’s names on their jackets.

Children under the age of 12 years in open boats under 4.8 metres must wear a life jacket while underway,
this includes when drifting. Children are unpredictable and not strong swimmers, even when they do not require to wear the jacket! why not have it on just in case?
Try to get in the habit of placing your children’s life jacket on in the car prior to going anywhere near the water. As a parent and a boatie, it frustrates me to see small children walk down a pontoon or jetty to get on a boat not wearing a life Jacket. What if they slip and end up between the boat and pontoon? Look after the most important cargo on your vessel

Personal flotation device standards

For a life jacket 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 life jacket under the old standards – they will still be acceptable for use as long as they are in good condition. The new standard AS 4758 has a different rating system than the previous standards.

Life Jackets stickers

The law is that if our life jackets are not 100% visible in the boat and stowed Away in a handy easy accessible location, we have to place the red / white Life jacket sticker labelling where they are.

Skippers responsibility

It is the responsibility of the skipper of the vessel to make sure that all Life jackets and safety gear complies and are in a good serviceable condition, if they are Faded, mouldy, perished or in the plastic bags they came in, they may be classed as unserviceable safety equipment. Do your checks, put some thought to wear all your safety gear is located in the vessel for quick and easy access.

Also, a safety brief given to all passengers including a life jacket demonstration. Our studies have shown that around 35% of boaties cannot fit their life jackets in Under 20 seconds. “What if”
If operating in restricted visibility, have you given any thoughts to placing a light on your safety equipment? A water activated flashing light or maybe a simple glow stick, as this would definitely be of benefit if you found yourself in the water during the times of darkness.

Glow stick

Water activated flashing light

Here is how they compare: Under standard AS4758

Types of lifejackets: There are 5 different types of lifejackets.

For use in smooth, partially smooth and 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. All PFD type 1 jackets have a neck collar fitted and are a boat only jacket.

For use in smooth and 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 only.

  • ‘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

Inflatable lifejackets must comply with the same standards for foam lifejackets. They must be gas inflated and not rely on oral inflation only. They 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.


For further information visit Maritime Safety Queensland

Safe Boating