Lifejackets save lives

With more than 1 million New Zealanders expected to take to the water in around 1 million recreational boats this summer it is heartening to see that more boaties seem to be wearing lifejackets.

Maritime NZ Deputy Director and Chair of the Safer Boating Forum, Lindsay Sturt, said a recent survey shows boating safety behaviour seems to be improving. Seventy-eight per cent of boaties said they always wear a lifejacket on the water and 60 per cent said they always wear life jackets and ensure others on their boat do too.

“Always wear lifejackets” is the Forum’s message because at least two-thirds of recreational boating deaths could be prevented if people wore lifejackets.

The skipper is responsible

Maritime rules make the skipper responsible for each person on board having a life jacket or buoyancy aid.

“Most councils require lifejackets to be worn,” Mr Sturt said. “It is just common sense. Most accidents occur suddenly with no warning. When that happens it is too late to try to find and put on a lifejacket.”

It is also important to have the right type of lifejacket. Consider the type of boating you do, the distance from shore you intend to go, and the kind of conditions you are likely to encounter.

Lifejackets provide more than flotation. They allow a person in the water to keep still thereby conserving energy and helping to avoid the effects of cold on breathing and muscle coordination.

What to show your passengers

Give each person a lifejacket, explain what type of jacket it is, and how inflatable lifejackets are activated. Show them how to fit, fasten, and adjust their lifejacket, and how to put on and adjust the crotch strap if there is one. If a whistle and light are fitted, show them to passengers and explain how the light is turned on.
Then, check all lifejackets are being worn correctly and are not damaged.

Caring for lifejackets

When stored, keep lifejackets clean and dry. After a trip, rinse off salt water to help prevent corrosion. Auto-inflate lifejackets should be wiped with a wet sponge – not rinsed. Auto-inflate lifejackets are activated on contact with water. If they are rinsed they can inflate.

Ideally stow lifejackets in a dry, well-ventilated space out of the sunlight. Do not compress or store under heavy objects.

With all inflatable lifejackets, check that the bladder is not damaged and the gas cylinder has not been discharged.