Personal Safety – Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

Operating A Boat Alone In The Offshore Environment

Recently a number of marine related incidents have occurred with mariners falling into the water from their vessel.

Those persons who operate boats in the offshore environment, in particular, those who operate boats alone the Bermuda Safety Council would like to make them aware of the following:

  • Mariners would be well advised to know how to swim
  • If operating or working alone, wear a safety tether/harness and or a buoyant work/life vest
  • When fishing consider hanging a knotted rope or ladder over the side of the boat so that in the event that someone falls overboard they can climb back into the boat unassisted
  • Approved work/life vest are exempt from Customs Duty and can be imported into the island dduty-free

Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

  • Always wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) and ask how to secure and inflate it.
  • Do not get on board if the craft appears overloaded or unstable.
  • Ask what safety measures are in place in the event of an accident. Do not partake if the answer is unsatisfactory.
  • If you can’t swim – do not partake.
  • If equipment on offer looks worn – don’t use it.
  • Never go on the water alone.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before going on the water in any craft.
  • If you feel that the equipment owners are not professional do not use the facilities.
  • If the person in charge of the craft looks inexperienced or intoxicated do not get on board.
  • Remember – any rough or white-water activity can be risky.
  • Don’t take part in any water sport activity at night.
  • Never participate in adventure sport that you have not received training in.

Personal Flotation Devices (PFD)

  • when you are on or near the water always have a PFDs (often called lifejackets) or a suitable buoyancy aid. They must be worn at all times of heightened risk. This may include, for example: rough seas, non-swimmers, alcohol consumption, emergencies and distress.  It is compulsory for a PDF to be carried on all recreational craft.
  • How Many PFDs Do I Need?  You must have at least one, wearable PFD for each person onboard, and it must be the appropriate size. It is also wise to have throwable device (Type IV PFD).  Mandatory Safety Equipment
  • A wide range of PFDs is allowed in the rule to suit all types of boating activity. The skipper must ensure that a correctly sized serviceable PFD is available for every person on board. See PFD Basics
  • In some sports and ceremonial events the PFDs may be carried in another boat which stays in the immediate vicinity.
  • size. If your boat is 16 feet or longer (generally excluding canoes and kayaks but check your state’s regulations) you must also have one

PFD Basics

  • What kind of PFD do I need? 
  • PFDs come in a variety of shapes, colors, and materials. The most important thing to remember is to choose the right one for you. Consider what kinds of boating you may be doing. You may need more than one PFD. Try on your selection and have everyone who boats with you try on theirs. Is it comfortable? Can you adjust it for a snug fit? Will the color be visible when you are in the water? (Your best choice is a bright color, or at least a PFD with reflecting tapes. These are easiest for rescuers to spot against dark blue or green water.)

PFDs are categorized by Type, i.e. Type I, II, III, IV or V. Types I, II and III are commonly worn by recreational boaters, while Type IVs are throwable devices such as life rings and buoyant cushions. Type Vs are for special uses, as will be discussed later.

Type I

Type II

Type III
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Type IV

Type V

  • When considering a Type I, II or III – remember that, generally, the lower the number the better the performance. (A Type I is better than a Type II.)
  • Types I, II or III may be inherently buoyant, that is, they will float without action by the wearer, or they may be inflatable (oral and manual inflation at a minimum), or a combination of both (hybrid).
  • Select a PFD based upon your planned activities and the water conditions you expect to encounter.

  • Read the PFD label to be sure it is made for people of your size and weight and it is made for the type of boating you plan to do. Labels may show recommended use but manufacturers are not required to state categorically a specific use for a particular PFD. If a PFD is labeled with an “Impact Class” (“Effective on impact at speeds up to [XX] MPH”) you know that it has been tested by water impact for strength at the speed stated. This, however, does not mean it will give you personal protection. It only means the PFD will withstand that impact.
  • Never select a PFD based solely on fashion or price — never choose one in a hurry. The question is which one is the right one for you? The one you will actually wear while on board may be the best answer. You may, however, want to choose more than one type of PFD if you use your boat for a variety of purposes, such as on Paradise Lake one day and deep sea fishing another.