A guide to Life Jackets by SeaSafe
We understand this is a lengthy piece of text about Life Jackets however we get asked on a daily basis for explanations on lifejacket safety. If you would like this in PDF document form please email us factory@seasafe you can use the information in your place of work or hand it out to your crew.
A Life Jacket inflates only when you need it to, as opposed to a buoyancy aid which is made of buoyant foam.
A Life Jacket is a Safety device which inflates when you need it; either on demand (Manual) or on contact with water (Automatic)
A good quality, well-chosen life jacket should be comfortable and you should hardly notice you are wearing it.
A Life Jacket keeps your head and neck supported and clear from water if you are incapacitated by injury or unconscious.
Life Jackets can also right your body if you fall overboard and land unconscious, face down in the water, providing a higher chance of successful rescue.
SeaSafe manufacture our own unique coats which have life jackets built inside and hidden away, these work the same way as any other Manual or Automatic life jacket that would be worn outside your clothing.
Life Jackets are designed with a specific shape which when inflated, and in an offshore situation, enables you to float above and with the direction of the waves, while still keeping you buoyant in a safe position. If a spray hood is fitted, the Spray Hood protects your airways from sea spray. A man overboard casualty can not only drown from immersion in water but can drown from inhaling the sea spray and mist. If you are likely to be offshore, a Spray Hood is vital.
A Buoyancy Aid is contains buoyant padding which helps keep you above water inshore situation or when water-skiing or participating similar activities. Buoyancy Aid are often bulky and cannot be relied on in an emergency as they only aid floatation, if you are unconscious or injured, they do not keep your face out of water and you do need a certain amount of ability to tread water and keep yourself safe. Buoyancy Aids are great when you are close to the beach or shoreline and are on a jetski or water-skiing or even riding an inflatable banana boat!
A Life Jacket consists of an outer cover and waist belt with crotch strap which contains a fluorescent inflatable lung which when required contains the ability to fill with gas, inflate and become buoyant. At other times it is worn deflated and in theory, close to the body.
One can have the option to have a “Manual” Life Jacket or an “Automatic” Life Jacket.
All Life Jackets, irrespective of whether they are Manual or Automatic, have the ability to Orally inflate using the Oral Tube on the lung.
All Life Jackets, irrespective of whether they are Manual or Automatic have manual pull cords.
A Manual Life Jacket will only inflate on demand when the manual pull cord is pulled. This pulling motion detaches a clip on the mechanism which breaks and activates the gas bottle, releasing the CO2 gas which then inflates the lung.
Manual Life Jackets are particularly effective for confident sailors or mariners who are familiar with the product; they could be inshore or on the dock. Manual jackets are also required when sailing small boats or dinghy’s when you will be in contact with a lot of sea spray and sitting low down in the water.
In our opinion, the last thing you need to worry about in a survival situation is manually activating your life jacket; however it really does depend on what situation you will be in.
If you are in an enclosed boat you will need to wear a Manual lifejacket, however imagine getting knocked unconscious on the way into the water, which is not uncommon on a yacht, if you were unconscious a manual life jacket will do nothing for you.
An Automatic Life Jacket can be inflated Manually, as above, or Automatically on contact with water. An Automatic Life Jacket can be relied on in an man overboard situation if you are not an experienced seaman, it will also still work if you are knocked unconscious or disorientated by the fall and are unable to pull the pull cord. The Automatic Life Jacket contains a mechanism which when wet activates a sensor which fires and activates the gas bottle, releasing the CO2 which then inflates the lung.
One argument for the use of an Automatic Life Jacket is that you may get concussed or knocked unconscious as you fall overboard, therefore an Automatic Life Jacket would be the best choice. When thinking about the reality of actually falling overboard into the cold waters of the UK, you may realise that in fact most people would panic and struggle to find the pull cord on a manual lifejacket.
On both Manual and Automatic Life jackets you can also top up the air within the lung with the oral valve.
There is a whistle fitted on the lung of every life jacket for attracting attention.
Make sure you always wear the crotch strap.
There is also an option for a SOLAS LIGHT which is imperative for night sailors or if there is potential for you to be still waiting rescue during dim or dark hours of the day; if you are offshore or travelling distances, even around the UK Coastline, you could be awaiting rescue in dim and dark conditions. The SOLAS light is also recommended to give you additional piece of mind.
The inflatable "Bladder" or "Lung" is constructed from marine grade High-Viz Yellow or orange fabric which has three bars of SOLAS approved reflective tape on, this would reflect your personal SOLAS Light or search lights which will attract attention.
There is also an option for a Spray Hood (Right) which is used for protection of the airways from sea spray and water whilst waiting for help in a search and rescue situation. There is a long black grab strap which you pull and this brings the hood over your head and the inflated life jacket. There is also 3-bars of SOLAS approved reflective tape on the spray hood.
If you cannot swim an Automatic Life Jacket with Spray Hood is imperative.
The majority of SeaSafe Life Jackets are 150N or 275N; Most people require a 150N Buoyancy Life Jacket for sailing, motorboating or Racing.
If you are a commercial user you may need a 275N due to heavy clothing or equipment.
Contact us for advice on the rules and regulations of commercial Life Jackets.