Types Of Lifejackets

Understanding what type of lifejacket you need is critical to your safety on the water. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all lifejacket type, you need to select the correct type for the person & the waterways in which you intend to go boating.

Under marine safety law, you are required to wear a lifejacket in the circumstances listed below. Lifejackets must be correctly fastened when worn, otherwise penalties apply.

When you need a lifejacket

The information below details the requirements for which specified lifejacket must be worn.

Types of lifejackets

Level 100 Or Greater Inflatable Lifejacket (Type 1)

Level 100 or greater lifejackets provide higher levels of buoyancy. There are two options: inflatable or non-inflatable. Inflatable lifejackets rely on CO2 for buoyancy, which means they are lighter and less cumbersome to wear than the equivalent foam lifejackets. Once inflated, these lifejackets display high-visibility colours.

Generally, adult inflatable lifejackets are rated at 150 or greater and are designed to help keep the wearer’s head face-up and above the water even if unconscious.

There are two kinds of Level 100 or greater inflatable lifejackets, those that are inflated by manual activation or those that inflate automatically when the lifejacket comes in contact with water. Level 100 or greater lifejackets are required in certain situations, for example when boating on open (ocean) waters.

The inflatable types are becoming more popular because they are comfortable to wear, but boaters must be aware of the added maintenance and service requirements that come with this style of lifejacket, and the need for detailed crew and passenger briefing on their operation.

Level 100 Or Greater Non-Inflatable Lifejacket (also Type 1)

Level 100 or greater lifejackets are generally available as non-inflatable garments with in-built foam buoyancy, including neck support.

These lifejackets must be high-visibility colour and are bulkier to wear than the inflatable equivalent. However, they do not require the additional operation and servicing of an inflatable lifejacket.

Level 50 Lifejacket (Type 2)

These are designed to support the wearer in the water, but without the neck support required to keep the wearer’s head face-up and above the water if unconscious.

They are made using high-visibility colours and in comfortable styles. They are mainly used when boating in more sheltered areas such as enclosed or inland waters.

Level 50s Lifejacket (Type 3)

These are buoyancy vests with the same overall buoyancy as a Level 50 lifejacket, however they are not required to be made in high-visibility colours. This makes them popular for use in aquatic sports such as wakeboarding and water-skiing, where style is important and assistance is on hand.

When In open ocean waters… our tip in a recreational vessel is to always wear your life jacket!

For general boating, a Level 100 lifejacket is the minimum required for open ocean waters and must be worn when crossing coastal bars.

When In enclosed and smoother waters…

Any approved lifejacket (50S or greater) must be carried. In many situations, they must be worn i.e. Alpine waters, when boating alone, if you are under 12 years old etc.

When In Alpine Waters…

These are cold water areas and have the worry of cold-shock. Wear your life jacket at all times.

Examples Of Lifejackets

Level 100 non-inflatable lifejacket
Level 100 inflatable lifejacket
Level 50 non-inflatable lifejacket
Level 50S non-inflatable lifejacket

Lifejackets for children

The master of a recreational vessel or a hire and drive vessel that is underway must ensure that every person aged less than 10 years old who is on an open area of the vessel wears a lifejacket at all times. Penalties apply when lifejackets are not worn.

When choosing a lifejacket for a child, care must be taken to ensure that the garment fits the child and that small children do not slip out when they are in the water. Where possible, a child’s lifejacket that features a crotch strap is strongly recommended, as it assists to hold the child in the jacket.

Heightened Risk

You must wear a lifejacket when directed by the master of the vessel. For example, when the master considers there is a heightened risk of an incident occurring or if an incident was to occur, it might be difficult to help yourself. Examples of heightened risk include (but are not limited to): 

  • Boating in bad weather such as in a gale warning, storm warning, severe thunderstorm warning or other severe weather warnings issued by the Bureau of Meteorology
  • When a yacht does not have safety barriers, lifelines, rails, safety harnesses or jack lines in use
  • Boating with the elderly, non-swimmers and people with serious medical conditions
  • When the vessel has broken down
  • When there is a significant likelihood that the vessel may be capsized or swamped by waves, or the occupants of the vessel may fall overboard or be forced to enter the water
  • Other similar circumstances
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