four lifejackets lined up on the edge of a boat 

Q. What is a lifejacket?

A. Any garment worn on the body to assist with flotation is called a lifejacket. Lifejackets include devices previously known as personal flotation devices, buoyancy vests or buoyancy garments. 

Q. How are lifejackets classified?

A. Lifejackets are usually classified by the level of protection they offer the wearer and the wearer’s needs, according to Australian standards. 

Q. Are there different types of lifejackets? 

A. The six categories of lifejackets are classified by their intended use and buoyancy levels:

- Level 275 – intended for offshore use and by people carrying significant weight.
- Level 150 – intended for offshore use and rough weather where a high standard of performance is required.
- Level 100 – intended for use in sheltered water.
- Level 50 – intended for use by competent swimmers close to shore or means of rescue.

The other lifejackets are designed either for special purpose or are SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) lifejackets intended for use on sea going ships. 

Q. How do I choose a lifejacket?

A. Lifejackets should be chosen to suit the activity or conditions it will be worn in. They should be comfortable and fit securely. Always choose the correct size for children, not one they will ‘grow into’. It is important that it fits correctly to be effective.

Q. I am a competent swimmer… why do I need a lifejacket?

A. Even competent swimmers should wear a lifejacket when they are in open water or involved in activities such as fishing, boating and jet skiing. Should an accident occur you may have to spend a great deal of time in the water before getting to shore, you may have to swim to shore, you may even be unconscious. A lifejacket will keep you buoyant, particularly should you get tired. Additionally, if you are out on the water your lifejacket should be on. Should an accident occur, a lifejacket that is stowed away will be of no use to you.

image of young boy standing by a river, wearing a lifejacket and carrying an oar, inflatable boat in the background

Lifejacket Safety Checklist

Practise your lifejacket skills before you need it.  Can you:

  • put on a lifejacket on land or in water?
  • share a lifejacket as a flotation support?
  • get in and out of the water while wearing a lifejacket?