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Personal flotation device – wear it, care for it

1 April 2015

As you plan for your Easter long weekend boating trip, please remember the importance of personal flotation devices (life jackets).

The importance of wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) cannot be overlooked when enjoying a day out on the water.

South Australia has both mandatory and voluntary wearing requirements depending on the type of boat and boating activity.

A suitable PFD must be worn at all times when operating a personal watercraft (commonly referred to as a jet ski), when water skiing or kite surfing and by anyone in a canoe or kayak, sailboard or similar small unpowered vessel.

Where voluntary wearing requirements apply, it is recommended that at a minimum a PFD is worn by children and weak swimmers and in situations of high risk including boating alone, at night, at the first sign of rough weather and in an emergency. This of course only applies when in the open area of the boat.

High risk situations can happen very quickly and you may end up in the water unexpectedly and it is very difficult to don a PFD when you are in the water so why wait for an emergency, put your PFD on before launching the boat.

A PFD is often referred to as a lifejacket and not without good reason as it may well save your life in an emergency situation – but only if you’re wearing it.

The Government has also increased the number of standards for PFD and lifejackets that are approved for use in South Australia and the increased choice of more comfortable styles of PFD leaves the boater with no excuse not to wear one at all times.

Boaters are reminded that it is just as important to care for your PFD as wearing a faulty or poorly maintained PFD is the same as not wearing one at all.

Check the PFD for signs of damage before every trip and if you have inflatable PFD’s consider having a retailer check these each year.

If the skipper of a boat sets an example by requiring everyone on their boat to wear a PFD they will help change the culture of risk taking by many boaters and encourage the wearing of PFD at all times, and who knows, the life this saves could be your own.

Your PFD is your lifesaver – wear it and care for it.

For a free copy of the South Australian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook, the Personal Watercraft Safety Reference Guide or the Kayaks and Canoes Safety Reference Guide please telephone 1300 183 046, or email

Children's life jackets
Types of personal flotation devices
Video - choosing the right personal flotation device