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Lifejacket Safety

  In the NWT, drowning accounts for 11% of deaths investigated by the Coroner's Office (all ages) and 17% of child deaths (age 0-14). More people die in the NWT from drowning than from vehicle collisions, but these numbers can be reduced if everybody is water smart. 

Wearing a lifejacket whenever you are near the water is a great and easy way to stay safe. Lifejackets can keep you afloat, protect you from cold water, and may save your life…if you wear them!  

How Do Lifejackets Save Lives?

  • When capsized in rough water
  • When sinking in unexpectedly heavy sea conditions
  • When thrown from the boat as a result of a collision
  • When injured by rocks or submerged objects
  • When tossed into freezing water
  • When thrown off balance while fishing
  • When unable to swim because of heavy or waterlogged clothing

Children’s flotation devices

There are approved PFD's and lifejackets designed especially for children. When you purchase a child’s approved flotation device, look for the following:

  • Canadian approval labels detailing the appropriate chest size or weight
  • A large collar for extra protection and support to the child’s head
  • A grab strap on the collar
  • Bright colors; yellow, orange or red are most easily seen
  • Sturdy, rust-proof buckles and zipper
  • Waist ties with snug-fitting drawstrings or elastic in front and back
  • A safety strap that fastens between the legs to prevent the device from slipping over the child’s head
  • Reflective tape and a plastic whistle
  • Make sure that the approved flotation device is comfortable, yet snug
  • Do not buy a PFD or lifejacket that is too large in the hope that the child will grow into it
  • Remember that a PFD can never replace adult supervision. Keep your child within arms length at all times when in, on or around the water

Click here for a safety diagram.

A lifejacket must fit properly to be effective:

  • Is it easy to put on and take off?
  • Is it comfortable?
  • Can you move your arms freely and bend at the waist?
  • Is it the right size for your weight?

How to Care for a Lifejacket

A lifejacket's safety value depends on proper choice, care and storage:

  • Avoid leaving lifejackets in the sun for long periods (sunlight may fade colours and weaken fabrics)
  • When drying, do not use direct heat of any kind (it can damage the flotation material). Rather, hang lifejackets on plastic hangers in a ventilated spot - in the shade if outdoors
  • Look for signs of waterlogging, mildew, and shrinkage or hardening of the buoyant materials
  • "Treat lifejackets like your own clothes, and they should last a long time"
  • Ensure they are totally dry before storing
  • If stowing them in your boat or a container of some sort, do not bend them or place heavy objects on top that might crush them
  • Check its buoyancy regularly in a pool or by wading out to waist-deep water and bending your knees to see how well you float

Lifejackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once each year. Waterlogged, faded or leaky jackets should be discarded.

To clean a lifejacket or PFD:

  • Use mild soap and water
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Air-dry out of direct sunlight and away from direct heat

Children should wear a lifejacket when in, on and around the water, and parents should lead by example and wear a lifejacket too!


Lifesaving Society - Water Smart Facts

TLC for PFDs

Transport Canada's Safe Boating Guide



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