Remember, if purchasing an inflatable you are also purchasing ongoing servicing responsibilities.
However, there are added maintenance requirements that come with this style of jacket as well as the need for detailed crew and passenger briefing on their operation.
Before purchasing an inflatable life jacket, you must be aware that inflatable life jackets should be self checked by the owner and under the Marine and Safety (Motor Boats and Licences) By-laws 2013, (Clause 31(2) it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure they are serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. All manufacturers have different requirements. A receipt of service may be required as proof of service.
Care should also be taken when purchasing an inflatable jacket to ensure that it conforms with Australian Standards. Inflatable jackets conforming to Australian Standards meet AS 4758. This will be clearly marked on the jacket.
As life jackets spend much time in a harsh environment (particularly with saltwater boaters), it is important that jackets are serviced annually by an accredited service centre or the original manufacturer. This will ensure that the jacket is in good working order. When they are serviced, checks will be carried out to ensure the bladder, reflective tapes, buckles and straps are in working order, and that the inflation system and oral inflation tube are operating correctly. For safety sake, do this annually.
The jackets should also be checked regularly, prior to wearing. Make a visual check for damage and unscrew the gas cylinder to ensure it has not been pierced. If it has been pierced then replace it immediately. Without this occurring the jacket will not inflate.
Ensure that the cartridge is screwed in firmly. Cartridges can loosen from continual vibration whilst stowed in a car or boat. If a cylinder is loose, gas can escape through the thread upon activation.
It is also worthwhile to periodically manually inflate your jacket with the oral inflation tube, and leave it overnight. This will determine whether there are any leaks in the bladder. Remember that if the temperature in the room decreases overnight, this will affect the pressure in the bladder, so take this into consideration when assessing the air in the jacket the next morning.
Inflatable jackets are certainly very convenient but remember to be diligent with your checks and undertake regular servicing to ensure it will work when you need it.