Servicing inflatable lifejackets
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The emergence of affordable, comfortable and stylish lifejackets is a major step forward in boating safety. Inflatable lifejackets are rapidly gaining popularity because of their convenience and increasing affordability.
As lifejackets spend so much time in a harsh marine environment where they are often exposed to heat, sun and salt, they are subject to damage. One aspect of inflatables that boaters are often unaware of is that NSW regulations require inflatable lifejackets to be serviced at least annually, unless the manufacturer specifies and permits a longer period.
Some manufacturers require you to have your lifejacket serviced by them or by an authorised agent. This will ensure it remains in good working order and functions properly.
When the lifejacket is 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. Contact the manufacturer or the place of purchase for further details.
Some manufacturers allow you to 'self service' your lifejacket, provided you do so in accordance with their instructions.
If the manufacturer allows self servicing you should be competent to do so. Otherwise you should get it serviced professionally, which is a higher level of inspection and replacement of parts than 'self service'.
If you are self servicing, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. If there is a service record in the inside of the jacket, sign and date the service record with a permanent marker. If not, make a paper record of your own and keep a copy handy on board the vessel.
Keep all servicing receipts and certificates of servicing as documentary evidence of the service occurring. Failure to do so makes verifying servicing impossible and you could be in breach of the safety equipment requirements.
Keeping a safety equipment log for your vessel is a good way to record service or replacement dates. You can also visit Maritime alerts to register for a free email service reminding you when your safety gear needs to be serviced or replaced.
How to self check your inflatable lifejacket step by step guide
Self checking a lifejacket can be done at any time to ensure the jacket is functioning properly. If you want to 'self service' your lifejacket, follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific lifejacket model.
Check for visible signs of wear and damage. Ensure all fastenings and buckles are in good working order.
Following manufacturer's instructions, reveal the inflation system and oral inflation tube. Inflate bladder using the oral tube and leave overnight in a room with constant temperature. If the bladder loses pressure, immediately take jacket to an accredited service agent for further tests. Do not attempt to repair jacket yourself.
Use cap attached to the oral inflation tube to deflate bladder. Invert cap and press down on valve at the top of the oral tube. Do not insert other objects into top of tube as they may damage the valve. Roll or press jacket to deflate fully.
Remove CO2 cylinder and inspect. The cylinder should be intact with no rust or corrosion. Weigh cylinder on kitchen or letter scales, ensure weight corresponds to the minimum gross weight engraved on cylinder +/– 2g. If cylinder is rusted, corroded, has been pierced or is not the correct weight it should be replaced immediately. On auto inflation jackets also ensure auto components are armed and in date. Refit cylinder to inflation system, tightening it by hand until firm. Do not over tighten.
Repack jacket as per manufacturer's instructions. Ensure manual inflation toggle is accessible and unlikely to be caught when being worn.
For full details see https://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/maritime/safety-rules/safety-equipment/lifejackets.html