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Regulator identifies neglect of lifejackets putting people at risk


One of the greatest risks for boaters and paddlers is unexpectedly entering the water. This risk is particularly high in Victoria, as the waters generally remain cool over summer and are now getting even cooler.


Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV) and Parks Victoria – who encourage safe use of their waterways - are urging boaters and paddlers to wear a lifejacket. It’s also vital to maintain your lifejackets in good condition, for the best chance of survival should you suddenly end up in the water.


A growing concern is the number of lifejackets observed to be in disrepair - including inflatable jackets with rusty or missing gas cannisters, which will not inflate in an emergency, rendering the jacket useless.


MSV safety officers also often see lifejackets packed away on boats. The advice is to wear a well maintained one at all times. But if you chose not to, at least make sure you can get to it easily.


MSV Acting Director Cameron Toy said wearing a lifejacket is a key part of surviving a boating or paddling trip gone wrong.


“A lifejacket can keep your head above water while your body recovers from the shock of falling into cool water – especially important if you are unconscious.


“Wearing a lifejacket is the first step in surviving but by no means the last. Your lifejacket buys you time to try to get back onboard and to raise the alarm – two other key steps in getting home safely.


“Only lifejackets in working order can help in a crisis – make sure you inspect yours regularly and maintain inflatable jackets in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions,” Mr Toy said.


Victorian outdoor guide Louie advises: “It’s important to know the history of your lifejacket and be confident that it’s in good repair.


“Things are fine when they are fine, but you don’t know when things are going to go wrong – that’s when you need your safety gear on already.


“It’s going to be too late to put your lifejacket on when things have gone wrong.”


‘Wear a lifejacket’ is one of five steps to safety in MSV’s campaign ‘Prepare to survive: Know the five’.


Prepare to survive: Know the five

  • Know the weather
  • Practise getting back on
  • Carry a distress beacon
  • Lock in a buddy plan
  • Wear a lifejacket.

Watch Louie tell his story, and get more advice from MSV and Parks Victoria at msv.vic.gov.au/prepare/lifejacket


Lifejacket safety and enforcement guidance:


Boaters are advised to wear a lifejacket at all times, and are legally required to wear one when in the open area of a boat underway that is 4.8 m or less, or at times of heightened risk.


Paddlers, including those using a sit-on-top kayak, are legally required to wear a lifejacket at all times.


Officers from MSV and Parks Victoria have the authority to issue fines to boaters and paddlers found in breach of the law.