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Check Inflatable Life Jackets Regularly

Staying safe on the water


The Labor Inspectorate warns against occupational accidents that may occur because inflatable life jackets do not work when falling into the water. The challenge applies, among other things, to workers in the aquaculture industry.

Inflatable life jackets are personal protective equipment that will prevent workers falling into the water from drowning. Such vests have a trigger mechanism that activates a gas cartridge, which in turn helps to blow up the vest. As a rule, the life jacket is blown up automatically, but the blower mechanism can also be triggered manually.

Employer is responsible

In order for an inflatable lifejacket to work for purpose, it must be maintained and stored properly.

"Inflatable vests that do not work can lead to fatal accidents. As with all other personal protective equipment, the employer must provide good routines for inspection and maintenance, and to provide good information and training in the use of the inflatable vests, "says Stig Magnar Løvås, Regional Director of the Norwegian Working Environment Authority Norway.

The Labor Inspectorate supervises the need, use, training and maintenance of personal protective equipment in the work.

"Take care of the user information that accompanies the vests and review it with employees who will use them"says Løvås.

The blow mechanism may fail

To allow the vest to blow up in case of falls in the water, the gas cartridge attached to the vest must not be loosened. A loose or damaged gas cartridge may cause the life jacket to not be released and thus does not provide protection against drowning as intended. The problem is known through the inspection authorities' tests and experiences in Norway, Sweden and Europe as well. Norwegian and Swedish control authorities have tested inflatable vests and have found that the gas cartridge can loosen.

"Workplaces that use inflatable life jackets at work should check the vests regularly and keep them properly. Sloppiness with this can cause a life to be lost" warns Løvås.

Checklist for inflatable lifejackets:

  • Regularly check if the gas cartridge is unused and seated.
  • Check that the air bladder is full.
  • Ensure that release tablets or other release mechanisms are replaced as often as the vest manufacturer requires. Incorrect storage of the vests may cause the release tablet to be damaged and the life jacket does not work.
  • Provide thorough training and ensure that employees know the vest and know how to manually trigger it. Try to float in the vest by disconnecting the release mechanism and blow the vest with the manual nozzle.
  • Keep the vest in a dry place when not in use.
  • Contact the supplier for more information on requirements for storage, use and maintenance of the vest.

See also Safety Day: How to maintain the inflatable life jacket

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The Labor Inspectorate is the coordinating body for oversight agencies with oversight responsibilities for internal control regulations on land. Establishment heads of Labor Inspection and includes regulations The emergency (DSB), FSA, Industrial Safety Organi...