Lifejacket Design

30th September 2012

Lifejacket Design

Initial Report

A mariner has reported concerns about the design of the lifejackets on his ship. His concerns are that:

  1. The lifejacket is very tight around the neck. If jumping into the water wearing the lifejacket, there would be a high risk of injuring one’s neck.
  2. The lifejacket is cumbersome in which to work. It is difficult to work in a lifeboat or to climb down a boarding ladder whilst wearing the lifejacket.

In response to the concern, the ship’s manager had advised that the lifejackets comply with regulations.

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CHIRP Comment:

The lifejacket bears the Wheelmark symbol which denotes that it conforms to the European Marine Equipment Directive.

CHIRP contacted the European organisation under whose authority the Wheelmark had been granted. They advised us to contact the manufacturer in Asia for details of the testing that had been carried out. This we did.

The manufacturer sent us details, including photographs, of the tests that had carried out in accordance with international regulations. These included thirteen persons jumping into the water from a height of 4.5 metres, with arms clasped over the lifejacket. None of the test subjects suffered adverse effect from the jump.

We have also obtained general advice from industry experts. They advise that a revised international standard for lifejackets came into effect in 2010. This requires the in-water performance to be measured against a “reference test device”. This features a tight neck aperture, as a tight fit around the neck and body ensures that the lifejacket is less likely to move, thus minimising physical stress. The 2010 standard does have higher requirements in respect of clearance of the mouth from the sea surface and turning performance. These requirements have tended to increase the bulk of the lifejackets. This makes them really suitable only for abandonment situations, rather than for regular use whilst working.

We understand that the subject of the test standard is currently being reviewed by the IMO.

If you have comments regarding the lifejackets on your ship, please do let us know.

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