Buoyancy Aid or Lifejacket
A 50N bouyancy aid (Not life jacket) looks like a padded waistcoat and should be made of closed cell foam with a simple, secure zip or buckle. Buoyancy aids are ideal for use in sheltered or inshore waters to provide a degree of buoyancy in a light weight garment. Please note it is crucial to weigh the person and where necessary measure them to get the correct jacket.
Generally thought to be better for kayaking, canoe, windsurf etc.
A lifejacket has the advantage that, when fully inflated, it will turn an unconscious person to float upwards, with mouth and nose clear of the water. But as it will tend to float you on your back it also impedes swimming.
The disadvantage of a life jacket is that it can restrict your movements. When purchasing either type of jacket be sure that you are aware of how to fasten it securely and of its limitations.
These jackets a generally thought to be better for Boating.
Orange foam lifejackets offer 100N of buoyancy, bright orange colour, waist belt, signal whistle, 3M reflective patches, crutch straps and a foam collar to help keep the head upright.
Orange foam lifejackets are the modern equivalent of the original lifejackets which were constructed of cork sections.
The children’s version offers improved protection from bumps and knocks too plus plenty of grab points for those tricky moments. Please note it is crucial to weigh the person and where necessary measure them to get the correct jacket.
Inflatable Life jackets offer increased mobility as they can be inflated when you are in the water. Out of the water they lie flat against the body and you hardly know you have them on.
The manual version relies on you pulling a toggle to inflate
The Automatic version inflates within 10 seconds of you entering the water. This is a great advantage as if you were unconscious, it will inflate automatically. Personally I would ONLY chose the Auto version.
CE standards deal with various categories of buoyancy performance, the main four are shown below. The rating is for an adult size so smaller sizes have proportionally less buoyancy:
EN393: covers 50N buoyancy aids, providing a minimum of 5kg of buoyancy. Products that carry this approval include anglers vests, waterski vests, pwc vests, wakeboarding vests, and the various dinghy and canoe vests.
For use by good swimmers in safe waters only as long as assistance is at hand. Not safe for unconscious persons.
EN395: covers 100N lifejackets, providing a minimum of 10kg of buoyancy. Products that carry this approval include orange foam lifejackets for both adults and children.
These are suitable for adults and children who are swimmers for use in inland waters and safe areas. Only limited protection for unconscious persons, depending on clothing.
EN396: covers 150N lifejackets, providing a minimum of 15kg of buoyancy. Products that carry this approval include the majority of our Manual and automatic lifejackets for both adults and children.
These are suitable for swimmers and non-swimmers, for all waters. Only limited protection for unconscious persons wearing heavy waterproof clothing or in extreme sea states.
EN399: covers 275N lifejackets, providing a minimum of 27.5kg of buoyancy.
Lifejacket for offshore use and extreme conditions. Immediate protection for unconscious persons, with turnover guaranteed within 5 seconds. Adequate buoyancy even with heavy clothing.
What else does CE approval cover?
CE approval also covers other features not just buoyancy ratings. These include the design, performance, specification of materials used in manufacture, and even the information that the user guide provides.
Lifejacket / Buoyancy Aid Care
Never use your lifejacket as a pillow or cushion. Many automatic lifejackets operate by a chemical process with water, as such they are prone to inflating if stored incorrectly. Always store in dry conditions, if wet after use hang upright in a warm place to dry. Never put straight into storage without drying.
Lifejackets will provide many years of service, provided it is cared for correctly.
Generally they should be cleaned with a good quality mild detergent in cool water. Rinse well with clean water and allow to dry naturally. Sponge off any oil or diesel immediately with clean water.
We advise the rinsing with fresh water after immersion in salt water.
The fabrics have protective coatings, these will be damaged by household cleaning fluids, thinners, spirits or similar substances.
Regularly inspect your lifejacket for wear and tear.
I hope you have found this helpful, but I am not a safety professional. If in doubt about any purchase please seek additional advice. Anyone who feels that there is information in this article that could be improved please let me know.