Check lifejacket, save lives

Harbourmasters in the Bay of Plenty are urging boaties to make sure their inflatable lifejackets are in good working order before hitting the water this summer.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council maritime operations manager Reuben Fraser says inflatable life jackets need to be maintained and serviced.


Bay of Plenty harbourmasters are reaching out to the boating community to check inflatable lifejackets.

“There have been drownings in other parts of New Zealand due to life jackets failing to inflate – and that’s not something we want to see happening."

He says lifejackets are mandatory on any vessel on the water in New Zealand.

Personal flotation devices must be correctly sized for each person on the boat at any time, including on jet skis and paddle boards on flat water, in case of emergency.

Rueben says people can conduct their own service check but for a full professional service they will need to be taken to a lifejacket service agent.

Frequently checking to make sure the gas canister is screwed in properly and not rusted between servicing also helps, he says.

“It’s very important they are checked regularly; and that every second year they are taken to a professional service agent for full servicing.

“There is a cost involved in having life jackets checked and fully serviced – but you can’t put a price on saving a life,” says Rueben.

He reckons the Regional Council’s maritime staff is happy with the number of people who do choose to wear a life jacket on the water – but they can only save the life of the person wearing them if they’re in proper working order.

“We want people to enjoy their time on and in the water and to do so safely.

"Incidents and accidents can and do happen at any time, not always due to anyone doing anything wrong – ensuring your equipment is up to scratch and knowing what to do if something goes wrong will minimise the risks and the chances of a tragedy.”

Inflatable PFD’s have many benefits over standard lifejackets, including taking up less space and exceeding flotation requirements, making them very safe.

The inflatable PFD’s come in automatic and manual variations. Automatic PFD’s inflate after being submerged in water and manual PFD’s require the wearer to pull a tab to inflate.

A ‘pouch’ style inflatable PFD is also available.

Tips for your annual life jacket check:

-          Rinse the jacket in fresh water, particularly if it has been used around salt water. If the cover has oil or dirt on it, use warm soapy water to clean it. If it’s an auto inflate model, remember to remove the plunger cap and water soluble bobbin first, so it doesn’t self-inflate when you wash it.

-          Check the bladder by inflating orally and leaving overnight. If the bladder leaks, return it to an approved service agent. Deflate by inverting the cap on the oral inflation tube and pressing it gently.

-          Unscrew the CO2 cylinder and check it for rust or corrosion; also check the nozzle hasn’t been punctured by the firing needle. Once the CO2 cylinder has been used, it has to be replaced – you can’t refill them.

-          For manual lifejackets, check the firing pin works by pulling the inflate cord.

-          Most automatic jackets will have a dissolving bobbin – check it is in place and that it’s not more than four years old. Some automatic types have an automatic inflation mechanism or cartridge that will have an expiry date printed on it.

-          Make sure the coloured retainer clip on the firing mechanism is in place, to prevent accidental inflation. Check the sealing washer is in good condition.

-          Screw the CO2 cylinder back in place; then hand tighten it until firm.

-          Replace firing bobbin at least every three years; or more often if it is used frequently.

-          Check webbing and stitching for abrasion. Check whistle and reflective tape is clean and in good order. Check light is working if your PFD has one attached.

-          Make sure the jacket is thoroughly dry before repacking. Repack the bladder by folding ‘concertina’ fashion (not rolling), and zip up or velcro the cover. Make sure the pull toggle is accessible.

General tips:

-          Check with your supplier when purchasing a new PFD on how to service and what to look for.

-          Gas cylinders are ‘dangerous goods’ and should be kept away from children.

-          Do not use your life jacket as a cushion or pillow.

-          Remember to firmly fasten the crotch strap on your life jacket. If you have to jump into the water from a height, hold tightly onto your life jacket, so it does not ride up and cause a neck injury or restrict your breathing.


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