PFD, Life Jacket information

Lifejackets, or Personal flotation devices (PFDs), are an essential item of marine safety equipment.  They are designed to keep a person in a relatively upright position to allow the person to breathe & not to have to tread water to stay afloat. They can be either closed cell foam jackets or inflatable jackets.

In Australia, they are classified into a number of levels

  • Level 100 + PFD_601299.pngPFD_601101.png
    • These are intended to be used in water activities where early rescue may be expected. 
    • A level 100 or higher has sufficient flotation to support the body and head. The flotation collar keeps your head above water.
    • Do not use it as a cushion.
    • Not permitted for water skiing, aquaplaning, and similar activities.  
  • Level 50 PFD_602404.pngPFD_602304.png
    • These are intended to provide flotation for short term immersion in sheltered water during daylight hours.  The upper portion of the PFD Type 2 must be of safety colours.
    • A level 50 has less flotation than a level 100, with flotation panels front and back only.
    • Is less restrictive to wear than level 100 or higher, but will not keep your head above water if you are unconscious.
    • A level 50 is suitable for use for sports such as water skiing, sailboarding, kiteboarding and sailing dinghies.
  • Level 50S PFD_603465.png
    • Similar to level 50, a level 50S lifejacket doesn't meet the Australian Standards Association colour standards. These are designed for high-speed water sports such as water skiing, aqua-planing, operating PWC, and sailboarding.

Although PFDs are meant to be used in sheltered waters & are intended to keep you afloat until help arrives, they may not be suitable for all situations.    PFDs may not react the same way in rough situations as in calm waters.

There is also the life jackets aimed at the more commercial or larger marine vessels that operate further offshore.

  • SOLAS (safety of life at sea) lifejacket
    • A very bulky lifejacket, designed to keep the body afloat for long periods.
    • Has a light and whistle attached to attract attention.
    • Carried by commercial vessels and recommended for use on larger vessels operating far offshore.
  • Coastal lifejacket
    • This multi-fit lifejacket has more flotation than a lifejacket level 100 or above.
    • It has a whistle attached for attracting attention.
    • It is recommended for use on larger vessels operating far offshore.

For children wearing PFDs, it is very important that they come under constant competent supervision.