Life jackets & Personal Flotation Device (PFDs)
PFDs vs life jacket & PFD types
PFD means Personal Flotation Device. PFDs are available in a wide range of approved types, sizes and colours. While PFDs are more comfortable than lifejackets because they are designed for constant wear, they do not generally offer the same level of protection as lifejackets for staying afloat, and turning you on your back to keep your face out of the water so you can breathe properly.
Who approves PFDs in Canada?
When buying a Personal Flotation Device, look for a Transport Canada approval stamp or label. You must have a PFD that fits each person on your boat. The PFD must be of an appropriate size for each individual. During a nautical excursion it must be available at all times within the pleasure craft.
Personal flotation device for infants
It is important that an infant wear a PFD that corresponds to his/her size and weight. An infant can easily lose PFD that is too big. On the other hand, a PFD that is too small will not ensure proper floatation, and in both cases, the infant is at risk and may drown. The personal flotation devices should be snug fitting, yet allow freedom of movement of arms and legs.
Different types of PFD
Specific personal flotation device exist for many different sports such as in kayak, canoeing, fishing, sailing, etc. When you buy a PFD, choose the model that is the most appropriate for the activity to be practiced.
Many pleasure craft operators neglect their PFDs. Some people use their PFDs as a cushion in their pleasure crafts. Others use them as fenders to protect the hull while the craft is docking. The material inside the PFD that ensures the floatability may break-up and the external shell may be torn. Some people will expose their PFDs directly to the sunlight. The ultraviolet rays can damage the fabrics of the PFD. All of these practices are discouraged.
The maintenance of a PFD is simple. The operator of a pleasure craft should clean personal floatation devices and lifejackets with a mild soap or running water, and avoid dry cleaning them or using strong detergents or gasoline to clean them. One must let the PFD dry in the open air, never put them in the dryer, or in constant exposure to sunlight, or close to a direct heat source. On board a pleasure craft, the operator must place the personal floatation devices (PFDs) and the lifejackets that are not being used, in a dry, well ventilated and accessible area.
There are two approved types of personal flotation devices:
- Inherently buoyant PFDs which have buoyancy capabilities due to their construction from unicellular foam or macro cellular elements;
- Inflatable PFDs, which are fitted with an oral inflation device and a manually activated CO2inflation system.
When must a personal flotation device be replaced?
All of the care that you give to your PFD will prolong its use. There's no expiry date for a personal floatation device and/or lifejacket but it becomes void if it has been repaired or altered; therefore, it is no longer usable and must be replaced and thrown away to recycling. This measure may seem somewhat extreme, but one must be made aware that no control method exists to verify the quality of the repair or of the alteration. A repair or an alteration may compromise the floatability of the PFD and consequently, approval by Transport Canada is no longer valid.
Make it a habit to periodically check the floatability of your PFD. It must keep the person face-up in the water. Conventional lifejackets and personal floatation devices both have the same use. Each one has certain advantages and disadvantages.
The PFD is comfortable. It is available in a wide variety of colours and styles with models that are designed for specific nautical sports. The main inconvenience of the PFD is that it offers a lesser degree of floatability. The standard lifejacket offers a much greater degree of floatability than a PFD. By its construction, the conventional lifejacket can turn an unconscious person face-up in the water and maintain this position until the person is rescued. However, it has the inconvenience of being larger and less comfortable than a PFD. It is for this reason that the lifejacket is used much less than the PFD.
During any nautical activity, in the case of an emergency, a lifejacket or a PFD placed under the seat in a pleasure craft cannot be of any great use. Wear it!
A Canadian approved (coast guard, Transport Canada, etc.) 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. 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).
For a standard life jackets, requirements are that it must be orange, yellow or red, and have a whistle attached.
If you can’t make your life jacket fit snugly, then it’s too big. If you can’t comfortably put it on and fasten it, it’s too small. To assure a snug fit, have someone pull up on the shoulders of your lifejacket while wearing it; your chin, head and neck should not slip through. As for the lifejacket, the rules are that it must be worn loose to allow the water to flow under the device in order to turn you face up. The lifejacket must offer a sufficient degree of floatability in order to turn an unconscious person face-up in the water and maintain this position until the person is rescued.
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