Warm Weather = Water = Life Jackets!

Living in a beach town and close to cottage country, people in our community are usually very comfortable near or in water. This can be a good thing, but sometimes confidence makes us complacent in terms of making safe choices. 

Why should I wear a life jacket? 

A Canadian approved standard lifejacket, when worn properly, is designed to turn an unconscious person from face down to face up in the water, allowing them to breathe. Even if you know that you are a good swimmer, if there is a risk that you could fall, hit your head, or get into an accident participating in whichever activity you are doing near the water, wearing a life jacket would be a good idea.

How can I pick a lifejacket for me (an adult)?

The standard lifejacket is keyhole style and comes in two sizes – one for people who weigh over 40 kg (90 lbs), and one for people who weigh less than 40 kg (90 lbs). These are mostly seen on cruise ships and not at cottages. They are very functional, but not as comfortable.

Personal flotation devices (PDFs) can also be worn, depending on the activity. They are less bulky and more comfortable than a standard lifejacket, but are not appropriate for all activities, as they are less inflatable and have limited ability to turn an unconscious body face up.

Inflatable PDFs automatically inflate when immersed in water, or are inflated by the wearer using either an oral (blow-up) or manual inflation device (like pulling a cord).  They are only appropriate if the wearer is 16 years or older and weighs more than 36 kilograms. These pose different risks, as many times, the wearer is not able to inflate the PDF if they are unconscious or otherwise compromised in the water.

How can I pick a lifejacket for my kids? 

It is important for children to use life jackets and PDFs that are specifically designed for a human of their size. Important things to look for when finding a life jacket include: Canadian approval labels detailing the appropriate chest size or weight, a large collar (with a grab strap) for extra protection and support to the child’s head, and a jacket in bright colours (yellow, orange or red are best). In Canada, there are no approved flotation devices for children weighing 20 pounds and under. Transport Canada recommends that you wait until your child reaches 20 lbs. before you go boating with them.

Final thoughts 

We all know, wearing a life jacket can seem cumbersome and unnecessary, and we often gravitate towards life jackets that are less bulky and more comfortable. Weigh your risks when choosing a life jacket, and always ask yourself “would the life jacket I pick be able to turn me upright and keep me floating if something were to happen?”  If the  answer is yes, you are choosing wisely.  If the answer is no, maybe you will get a second chance!