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Water Safety: Lifejackets. Useless Unless Worn

As a user of boats and other craft from a very early age, holder of various RYA and BCU qualifications as well as in 13 years of regular volunteering with the Coastguard Rescue Service I was brought up and educated in the correct use of lifejackets and personal flotation devices (PFD’s or Buoyancy Aids).

It therefore saddens me to see a major water safety issue both on television and also around our waterways, presenters and other professionals not wearing lifejackets properly if at all.


I don’t know if it’s just complacency (familiarity breeds contempt) but lifejackets and PFD’s are designed to be worn in a specific way for them to work to save your life. After all, that’s what they’re for.

Whats the difference?

The difference between a lifejacket and PFD is although they’ll both keep you afloat, only the lifejacket is guaranteed to keep you afloat, on your back with your face out of water (if worn properly).

You see lifejackets being worn, poorly adjusted, not done up at all and very commonly, no crotch strap fitted or worn.

The attitude is one of ’Crotch Straps? Why do we need them. It’s not as if I’ll fall in anyhow’.

I’ve seen this among regular boaters at events in the past as well as on TV.

What happens if it's not fitted properly?

If the crotch strap isn’t there/or worn the lifejacket when inflated is likely to ride up causing restriction to the swimmers movement and could even cause further problems as their posture in the water isn’t what it should be. To the extent of the person drowning.

If this was combined with a lifejacket that was undone or poorly fitted the casualty could even float out of it leaving them without any aid to floatation. Again leading to the person drowning.

At Red Kite SAR we can provide safety advice for water activities and specialist training on how, when and why you need to use lifejackets and buoyancy aids (PFD's), the advantages and disadvantages of each and why some flotation is better than nothing. Contact Us for more information.

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