Personal Flotation Device (PFD) Information – Pleasure Craft

PFDs are available in a wide range of approved types, colours and sizes. Sizing information is found on the label and is measured by the weight and/or chest size of the wearer that the device is capable of supporting. It is very important that the PFD fit properly. PFDs must fit – snug but allow you to move your arms and legs freely.

PFD - Personal Flotation Device

As for the number of PFDs on board, the Small Vessel Regulations state one Canadian- approved PFD or lifejacket of appropriate size for each person on board. Canadian approved PFDs will be labeled as approved by Transport Canada (or Department of Transport), or Department of Fisheries and Oceans (Canadian Coast Guard).

A personal flotation device may be of an inflatable type (including pouch type) if it is worn in any open boat, or it is worn by a person in any boat that is not open while the person is on deck or in the cockpit, or it is readily available to the person when the person is below deck.

Inflatable PFDs have some restrictions:

  • not to used for white water paddling or on PWC
  • must be a minimum of 16 years of age to wear A Comparison between the different types of PFDs

Inherently Buoyant PFDs (foam panels)- vest/jacket style

  • Approved for Recreational Boating only;
  • Has less flotation than Standard, SOLAS and Small Vessel Regulations Lifejackets (15½ buoyancy)
  • Has very limited turning capability;
  • More comfortable than lifejacket – designed for constant wear;
  • Must be worn snug;
  • Available in several colour & sizes
  • Some models help protect the wearer against hypothermia

Manual inflatable (Vest or suspender type)

  • 34lbs of buoyancy
  • inflates in about 5 seconds
  • pull tab to inflate
  • no inherent buoyancy – must be manually pulled Manual inflatable (Pouch type)
  • 22 ½ of buoyancy
  • Looks like a tourist pouch and is worn the same
  • 2 stage donning – once the inflation mechanism is triggered, the inflation chamber pops out of the pouch and must then manually be brought over the wearer’s head to be properly

Automatic inflatable

  • Looks very similar to the manual inflatable – 34lbs of buoyancy
  • Is equipped with a device that causes the PFD to inflate when immersed in water
  • No inherent buoyancy
  • Can be manually activated as well – pulling the tab

* Make sure you read the manufactures’ instructions

** Also, a person must be at least 16 years old and weigh 36.3kgs or more to wear an inflatable PFD.

Test Floatation Devices per Manufacturers’ Instructions

To test a PFD or lifejacket, do the following: don the PFD of lifejacket in chest-deep water; bend your knees and float on your back; and check to see the PFD or lifejacket keeps your chin above the water so that it is easy to breath.(check the manufactures’ instructions regarding testing methods/procedures).

The operator of the pleasure craft should brief and demonstrate the use of all lifesaving equipment and the storage location of this equipment to his or her guests prior to any voyage.Also, in case of emergency, their roles should be explained to them

Standard Lifejackets

Standard Lifejackets are approved by the Dept. of Transport Canada. They are available in two sizes –adult (over 40 kgs) & child (under 40 kgs).They only come in three colours: red, orange, or yellow. Be sure to check the label for approval and size information.

Lifejackets must fit properly – loose but not so loose that they pop off over your head but loose enough that water can get between the device and the wearer’s chest causing them to turn over on his back.

If worn correctly, they will turn you on your back to keep your face out of the water, even if you are unconscious

*It’s very important everyone test their floatation devices so they are familiar with them and they will actual them afloat if they need them.