The Power Guide to Buying the Right Life Jacket

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The Power Guide to Buying the Right Life Jacket

If you enjoy watersports and other water-based activities – deep-sea fishing, skiing, paddling, or tubing – never underestimate the importance of a life jacket! This essential piece of safety equipment saves lives, so be sure to choose one that’s SAMSA-approved, fits comfortably, and is designed for your type of water activity. Here’s what you should know before getting onto a boat without one…

Life jacket regulations in South Africa

The South African Marine Safety Authority (SAMSA) has a set of life jacket requirements for seagoing, extreme offshore, inland, and close-to-shore conditions, all of which must carry the SAMSA approval…

  • A level 275 life jacket is required for extreme water conditions, and provides enough buoyancy to support users wearing additional clothing or weights.  It’s designed to keep the wearer in the correct position with their mouth and nose clear of the water surface
  • Level 150 life jackets – for general seagoing applications and instances where the wearer has extra clothing on in extreme weather conditions. The jacket should automatically turn an unconscious wearer into a safe position.
  • Level 100 where a quick rescue can occur in calm or sheltered waters. The jacket should support the wearer’s head, and turn an unconscious person face up
  • Level 50 – For limited use in inland water and must be used by competent swimmers. This life jacket is ideal for waterskiing, jet-skiing, yachting, canoeing, etc.

Life jacket accessories

Accessories such as emergency lights, multi-chamber systems, and overpressure relief valves will apply for certain commercial vessels, pleasure, or passenger vessels operating outside a harbour or at night. However, all levels of life jacket must be fitted with:

  • Retro-reflective tape on the front and back and placed high for visibility (excluding inflatable life jackets)
  • Whistle
  • Centre lifting loop

How should a life jacket fit?

Once you decide on the type of life jacket  required, it’s time to choose the right fit. A general rule of thumb – the more straps the jacket has, the easier it is to customise to the contours of your body, adding more comfort.

  • Adults – The right fit for an adult is based on chest size and not weight, so measure your chest! The jacket should fit snuggly but comfortably and allow for easy arm movement.
  • Children – The size is based on the child’s actual weight – for example, an infant life jacket will suit a small child ranging between 3.6 -13.5kgs, a child size 13.5–22kgs, and a youth size 25–40kgs. Ensure the jacket is a comfortable fit and be sure to check that the jacket is not too big for the child – if their chin or ears slip through, the jacket is too big!

Taking care of your life jacket

Your life jacket can provide you with many years of water safety so:

  • Rinse with water after each use and allow it to dry thoroughly
  • Store in a cool, dry area away from direct sunlight
  • Keep sharp objects away from the life jacket to prevent unnecessary damage or punctures

Fun and safety

At Natal Power Boats, your water safety is important to us. If you’re looking for life jackets, jet skis, boats or other boating equipment, simply browse our website or contact us today!