Royal Life Saving welcomes moves to improve boating safety

12 October 2021

Royal Life Saving WA welcomes today’s announcement from the Department of Transport, which aims to reduce the incidence of boating related drownings and keep West Australians safe in unprotected waters. The State Government has released the Recreational Vessel Safety Equipment Review Final Position Paper, accepting 23 proposals to simplify laws and keep people safe on the water.

There will be two sets of safety equipment rules for recreational vessels - one for registrable vessels and the other for non-registrable vessels. This is a strengthening of current arrangements which require vessels to carry lifejackets only in unprotected waters. It will also be mandatory to wear a lifejacket of minimum buoyancy of level 100 (type 1) for children aged one to 12 when on any vessel operating more than 400 metres from shore in unprotected waters, and for each person on board a registrable vessel less than 4.8m in length when operating more than 400 metres from shore in unprotected waters.

Royal Life Saving WA is deeply concerned about the tragic impact of drowning in the West Australians community and recognises that, while our long-term efforts to reduce childhood drowning has resulted in a significant improvement in childhood drowning statistics, reducing drowning among adults is a complex issue and limited progress has been made in this area.

Drowning statistics show that half of all drowning deaths recorded in Western Australia are adults aged 45 years and over. We know that Aussies have grown up around water and have their own tips and tricks to stay safe, but anyone can drown, regardless of age, skill or experience. In order to address this our Make The Right Call campaign has delivered messages through media and education initiatives urging all West Australians to ensure they know the conditions, know their own limits, know the gear (including wearing a lifejacket) and know what to do in an emergency.

A recent 10-year review of boating related drowning deaths in our state, covering the period July 2009 to June 2019, shows that there were 50 boating related drownings in this time, with those aged over 65 years most likely to drown. 90% of these incidents happened in coastal or ocean locations. Failure to wear a lifejacket, or the inappropriate or inadequate use of safety equipment was a factor in 70% of cases, with a majority of people entering the water unintentionally when they were swpet in by a wave, their boat capsized, or they slipped or fell. Wearing a lifejacket would have bought precious moments in these cases, giving the victims a far greater chance of survival.

Royal Life Saving WA is working hard to increase the use of lifejackets in our community, and since 2016 we’ve been running our Old4New lifejacket exchange program. Initially run in partnership with the Department of Transport, this program has removed thousands of old, damaged or obsolete lifejackets from the community and upgraded the to slim-fitting, self-inflating lifejackets at a heavily discounted price. Since 2018 40 Old4New lifejacket upgrade events have been held, with 1808 lifejackets upgraded. These events have taken place not only in the Perth metropolitan area, but regionally in Busselton, Bunbury, Port Hedland and Albany.

We’re also working to normalise the use of lifejackets amongst school aged children, ensuring this becomes a habit from an early age. Information and training on how to safely use a lifejacket is introduced in Stage 10 of our Swim and Survive program and continues until Stage 16 – Bronze Medallion. The Swim & Survive program is delivered throughout WA by our state-wide network of Endorsed Swim Schools and the Department of Education’s In-term and VacSwim programs.

Royal Life Saving supports the measures announced by the Department of Transport today, a believes this measured approach which mandates the wearing of a lifejacket when travelling in registrable vessels 400 metres or more off-shore strikes the right balance between our focus on drowning prevention while also still promoting the benefits of recreating in and around the water.

For more information on the Department of Transprt's new measures click the link below.

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