What is the difference between a lifejacket and a buoyancy aid?
A Lifejacket is designed to fully support the wearer in the water and work to rotate them into a face-up position, even if they’re unconscious.
A buoyancy aid just provides some additional buoyancy to support the wearer and help reduce fatigue in the water.
Swimmers and non-swimmers can wear lifejackets but, it’s best a buoyancy aid is only worn by confident swimmers, in sheltered waters and where help is close by if needed.
An easy way to remember the difference is a buoyancy aid will aid and assist you in the water whereas, a life jacket can save your life.
How do they work to keep you safe?
As mentioned above, a buoyancy aid will give you some extra support while in the water so, if you do fall in, it’ll help you stay on the surface while treading water.
However, a lifejacket can keep your airway open by rotating your body, increase your chances of being seen in the water via reflective tape and contain a whistle to help draw attention in an emergency. Some lifejackets will contain additional features such as a light, sprayhood and lifting becket so, it’s important to consider what features you’ll need before purchasing.
How much buoyancy do I need?
There are 4 CE categories for buoyancy: 50N, 100N, 150N and 275N. The buoyancy you need will depend on the activity you are doing, the conditions, location and your swimming ability.
For most surface watersports (kayaking, paddleboarding, dinghy sailing) a 50N buoyancy aid will provide the support needed.
Non-swimmers should opt for 100N of buoyancy.
150N of buoyancy should be worn for yachting, sportsboats and powerboats, and for use all but the most severe conditions.
275N is designed for people in severe conditions, where maximum protection is needed or where heavy waterproof clothing is worn.
Do’s and Don’t’s
- DO Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid
- DO Make sure you’re wearing the right PFD for you and your activity
- DO Get your lifejacket serviced at an approved service station – at least annually
- DO Understand how your PFD works
- DO Look after your lifejacket so, it can look after you
- DON’T Wear a damaged lifejacket
- DON’T Wear an ill-fitting lifejacket
- DON’T Wear clothes over the top of your lifejacket
- DON’T Wear a lifejacket that shows a red status indicator