29th October 2015
Sadly you cannot buy a lifejacket that will last forever, but if you take good care of your lifejacket, it is more likely to take good care of you.
When buying a lifejacket, make sure it is manufactured to an approved standard, such as ISO 12402. Take a look at the date marking to ensure it has been manufactured recently.
Inflatable lifejackets must be checked annually. It is best if this check is done by the manufacture’s recommended service agent, but if that is not viable, the owner should check the lifejackets.
The gas cylinder must be removed and the weight checked – good kitchen scales can be used for this. The required weight will marked on the cylinder.
The firing mechanisms may have components which expire and need to be replaced – they will be marked with a date. It is important to ensure that you buy the correct replacement parts for your specific lifejacket. Take the parts you are replacing to the shop to ensure you buy the right parts and brands.
If you can, inflate the lifejacket bladder and leave it for 24hrs to make sure that it does not have any leaks. This can be done using the tube provided to top up the air, which is also used to deflate the bladder at the end of the test. A note of caution, do not use your breath which contains moisture and may affect the bladder. The protective cap that sits on the valve may be reversible and fit into the valve to help the air escape. Be careful, not insert anything into the valve that may damage it.
Over time the bladder material will degrade and the seams may give way. If your lifejacket is still serviceable past its 10th Birthday, you have done well. Mistakenly, many believe that it is the trigger mechanism that fails. This is actually very rare.
Lifejacket servicing can be encouraged by clubs by arranging a servicing day. A local service agent could be involved and make sure the participants conduct the tests correctly and use the correct spare parts.
Older style non-inflatable lifejackets must also be checked. Visually inspect the exterior, straps and closures for damage?
If you are in any doubt that your lifejacket is OK it is probably time to buy a new one!
Your life Jacket must fit you and be worn properly.
Photographs courtesy of Carl Gerstroem and Reidar Kjelsrud.
Article by Carl Gerstroem – Dansk Sejlunion / EBA Secretariat.