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Ohio PFD requirements

What kind of PFD do I need? How many do I need?

According to Ohio boating laws, every vessel must carry one wearable USCG-approved PFD of appropriate size for each person on board.

Ohio law requires that all PFDs be readily accessible at all times, and in good, serviceable condition. They may not be kept inside a plastic bag or protective covering. If they are badly torn, damaged, rotted, punctured, or otherwise unserviceable, they no longer meet legal requirements and must be replaced.

Other than commercial vessels, no person shall operate or permit to be operated any watercraft:

  • 16 feet or greater in length without one Type I, II or III wearable PFD per person plus one Type IV throwable PFD;
  • Less than 16 feet in length and canoes or kayaks of any length without one Type I, II or III wearable PFD per person;
  • A Type V PFD may be carried in place of a Type I, II or III wearable PFD provided the approval label indicates that the device is approved for the activity or that it can be a substitute for the other types of PFDs. The Type V PFD must also be used in accordance with the requirements on the approval label and the requirements in its owner’s manual. 

No person shall operate or permit to be operated any commercial vessel: 

  • Less than 40 feet in length not carrying persons for hire without one Type I, II or III PFD per person;
  • 40 feet in length or longer not carrying persons for hire without one Type I PFD per person;
  • 26 feet in length or longer without at least one Type IV ring life buoy in addition to other applicable PFD requirements.

No person who lets vessels for hire, or the agent or employee thereof, shall rent, lease or otherwise permit the use of a vessel, unless the person provides the equipment required under sections of Chapter 1547 of the Ohio Revised Code and rules adopted under the Ohio Administrative Code.

Lifejackets for children

No one may operate or allow the operation of any vessel under 18 feet in length which is carrying a child less than 10 years old on board, unless that child is wearing an approved PFD. 

PFDs for Skiers and Persons Being Towed

No person shall ride or attempt to ride upon water skis, surfboards, inflatable devices or similar devices being towed by a vessel without wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved Type I, II, III PFD or a Type V PFD specifically designed for water skiing, in good and serviceable condition, and of appropriate size. No operator of a vessel shall tow any person who fails to comply with this law. 

It is highly recommended that all boaters wear a PFD. 

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