Lifejackets or PFD’s (Personal Flotation Device) are required by law to be onboard a watercraft for each passenger (including human-powered crafts). Recently the US Coast Guard issued a final rule entitled Personal Floatation Devices Labeling and Standards. This rule removes references to type codes in its regulations on the carriage and labeling of USCG-approved PFDs. A study conducted several years ago suggested that PFD users do not adequately understand PFD type codes. The rule is in place to facilitate future incorporation of new industry standards to better convey the safety information.
The existing type codes for PFD labels identify the performance of an approved PFD. Types I, II, and III refer to wearable PFDs in decreasing order of performance. Type IV refers to throwable PFDs (those that are meant to be thrown to a person in the water) and Type V refers to any PFD conditionally approved as equivalent in performance to another Type.
The new definitions for PFDs will be as follows:
Personal Flotation Device (PFD): a device that is approved by the US Coast Guard
Throwable PFD: a PFD that is intended to be thrown to a person overboard
Wearable PFD: a PFD that is intended to be worn or attached to the body
Any existing Type Code PFDs that are already in use may still be used if it is USCG-approved and still in good condition. There is no need to discard existing PFDs if they are still serviceable.
It is important to remember that when boating, there must be one wearable PFD per person onboard. Check out this article to find out how to choose the right life jacket/PFD, how to test them and how to take care of them.