Wearing a lifejacket correctly could save your life
by Loretta Spridgeon, RYA 4 Aug 09:00 BST
13 people, who drowned in Britain in 2017, might be alive today had they been wearing an appropriate and correctly fitted lifejacket or buoyancy aid.
These are the findings of this year's Casualty Review Panel. The panel meets annually to discuss relevant maritime fatalities in the fishing and boating sectors and to consider whether those who died might otherwise have survived had they been wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. This year, panel members looked at 27 fatalities and concluded that 13 of these might have been saved if they been wearing a lifejacket.
The panel also advises on other measures which might increase survivability.
In 2017, 14 of the 27 fatalities had been drinking alcohol. The panel believes this figure serves as an important reminder that boaters should behave responsibly and understand how alcohol can affect their safety and the safety of others.
Accessing boats whilst in harbour was also an issue that concerned the panel, as 8 of the 27 fatal incidents involved people accessing boats without wearing a lifejacket. Over recent years many harbours have introduced lifejacket lockers, making it easier for people to wear lifejackets whilst using tenders to get to the shore and the panel strongly recommends that boaters consider using them.
In 2017, two people's lives might have been saved had they been carrying a means of communication. Having the right means of calling for help, and keeping it on you, can mean the difference between life and death. What you need to keep in touch will depend on the type of boat you have and where you are intending to go boating. Day to day communications and plans for calling for help in the event of an emergency both need to be considered.
Carrying a means of communication and knowing how and when to use it can make a real difference, in particular:
· Carrying a VHF radio and knowing how to use it will help rescuers to find you
· Carrying a PLB or EPIRB will help rescuers to locate you and even if you are unconscious the alarm will be raised
· Downloading the RYA SafeTrx app on your phone and using it in an emergency could make all the difference
Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager, said: "In reality, the vast majority of watersports are safe and fun – that's how it should be – but it's also clear that accidents can and do happen.
"If we want to change these statistics, we need to build on the preventative work of the Casualty Review Panel's members. A safe mindset and the ability to learn from others are also vital if we are to achieve this."
Reflecting on the tragic loss of those who might be alive today had they been wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid, Stuart added: "The RYA recommends that you wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid unless you are sure you don't need to. You should consider factors such as weather conditions, the type of activity you are doing and your level of experience.
"If you are a beginner or still relatively inexperienced, making these judgements is often not that easy, so if this is the case be sure to wear one at all times. Worn correctly a personal flotation device could save your life."
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