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Lifejacket safety

A lifejacket can only save your life if you are wearing it

Lifejackets are the most important item of safety equipment on any recreational vessel. In NSW, 7 out of 10 people who drown while boating are not wearing a lifejacket.

It's recommended that you wear one at all times – it can only save your life if you are wearing it Lifejackets are also known as personal flotation devices (PFDs).

 

There are rules for when you must wear a lifejacket and what type. These rules depend on:

  • your age – there are special rules for children aged under 12 years
  • the level of risk
  • the type of vessel you're in
  • where you are – for example, enclosed waters, alpine waters, open waters or crossing coastal bars
  • what time of day you're on the water.

Lifejacket wear requirements on NSW waters

Category (age, boating activity or vessel type)Lifejacket requirements for enclosed watersLifejacket requirements for open waters
Children under 12 years of age.

Level 50S or greater:

  • At all times on a vessel less than 4.8m
  • When in an open area of a vessel less than 8m that is underway.

Level 100 or greater:

  • At all times on a vessel less than 4.8m
  • When in an open area of a vessel less than 8m that is underway.
On all boats less than 4.8m (unless specified).

Level 50S or greater at all times when:

  • Boating between sunset and sunrise
  • Boating on alpine waters
  • Boating alone (without another person 12 years of age or more on the same vessel).
Level 100 or greater at all times.
Personal Watercraft (PWC; e.g. jet skis), including tow-in surfer.Level 50S or greater at all times.Level 50S or greater at all times.
Crossing coastal bars.N/AAt all times as per open waters requirement for the applicable age, boating activity or vessel type.
Anyone being towed (e.g. water-skiing, wakeboarding or wake surfing).Level 50S or greater at all times.Level 50S or greater at all times.

Canoes and kayaks.

Sailboarding and kiteboarding (more than 400m from shore).

Off the beach sailing vessel.

Level 50S or greater at all times when:

  • Boating between sunset and sunrise
  • Boating on alpine waters
  • Boating alone (without another person 12 years of age or more on the same vessel).
Level 50S or greater at all times.
When directed by the master of the vessel.As per enclosed waters requirement for applicable age, boating activity or vessel type.As per open waters requirement for applicable age, boating activity or vessel type.

 

There are different types of lifejackets – for example, Level 50, Level 50S and Level 100.

Level 50 lifejackets are:

  • mainly used in enclosed waters
  • intended for people who can swim and are close to the bank or shore, or have help close by
  • designed to support you in the water, but do not automatically turn you to a face-up position
  • made in high-visibility colours to make it easier to see you in the water and increase your chance of rescue.

Level 50S lifejackets are:

  • the same as Level 50, but come in a wider range of colours and styles
  • they're popular for activities such as wakeboarding and water skiing.

Level 100 and above lifejackets have higher levels of buoyancy and help turn you to a face-up position. The different levels suit different situations.

Level 100 lifejackets are:

  • intended for use when the shore is in sight
  • not intended for rough conditions
  • helps turn you to a face-up position.

Level 150 lifejackets are:

intended for offshore and rough weather

helps turn you to a face-up position when unconscious.

More information on when you should wear a lifejacket can be found in the Boating Handbook.