Lifejackets need checking
New Zealand’s national Safer Boating Week, from October 12-19, has an important new message for boaties — check your lifejackets because old lifejackets can fail.
“Many boaties’ lifejackets are too old and will not help you float,” says Safer Boating Forum chairwoman Sharyn Forsyth.
Manufacturers say lifejackets should be replaced after up to 10 years.
“Seawater and sun are tough on equipment, and wear and tear can shorten your lifejackets’ lifespan to less than 10 years,” Sharyn says.
“Worryingly, we know many Kiwi boaties are still relying on kapokfilled lifejackets that are 30 to 50 years old.
“Kapok-filled lifejackets are dangerous, even if they look brand new and have been well looked after.”
Kapok is a fluffy plant fibre, similar to cotton. It has not been used in lifejackets since the 1980s because it can absorb water and cause wearers to sink. The cotton straps on these old lifejackets are also a serious risk. They rot over time — even if a lifejacket is not used.
Modern lifejackets of all types should be tested every time before they are worn. Simple tests to do every time before you go on the water:
■ Pull the straps, hard. If any of them stretch or tear, do not use the lifejacket, dispose of it, and replace it
■ Check for any existing tears or cuts in the straps. If there are any, do not use the lifejacket, dispose of it, and replace it
■ Check if it floats
More information about safety, storage, and for checking inflatable lifejackets is at www.maritimenz. govt.nz/lifejackets.