Children's life jackets

All children should wear a life jacket, when they are in any open area of a vessel. During an incident you may not have the opportunity to help children.

It should not be worn when a child is within a deck-house, cabin or secure enclosed space as it could stop them making a safe exit.

A life jacket must be securely zipped and clipped at all times to be effective. If not appropriately fitted, a child may slip out of the life jacket when in the water, or maybe forced into a dangerous face-down position when in the water.

Choosing a child's life jacket

  • If you’re not sure which lifejacket level your child needs, answer some quick questions to know before you go.
  • Do not compromise on quality.
  • It should be appropriate for your child's weight, fit them securely and not move around in any way that may impair its performance.
  • A crotch strap fitting will prevent the jacket bunching up around the child's neck and will prevent your child falling out of the bottom.
  • Choose a life jacket level 100 that complies with the requirements for all waters and will support your child in a face-up position if in the water in calm water conditions.
  • Remember that a life jacket level 50 or 50S may not roll your child into a face-up position in calm water conditions should they be unconscious.
  • Match the weight range of the jacket with the weight of your child.
  • Check that it complies with the appropriate standard for the type of life jacket being used - see Adult life jackets for more information.

It is extremely important that a life jacket is fitted correctly, as per the examples provided below.

This life jacket is the correct size
Personal flotation device that is the correct fit and is proportionate to the wearer’s body size.

The weight rating of 22-40 kg is appropriate for the child's weight of 24 kg, and the size appears to be proportionate to the child's body size.

This life jacket is too bigPersonal flotation device that is too big for the child wearing it. It is too loose and may come off if they fell into water.

If a child fell into the water they would probably fall straight through the bottom of this jacket.

This life jacket is too smallPersonal flotation device that is too small for the person wearing it. The fastenings can't reach across the wearer's body to secure it.

The child's weight may exceed the weight rating and if the child fell into the water it may not keep them afloat.

This life jacket is too big
 Personal flotation device that is too big for the wearer, the collar has too much floatation and would possibly stop the child wearer  from floating face up.

Even if the child didn't fall through the large fittings, it may be too bulky to keep the child afloat face up and out of the water.

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Page last updated 18 May 2021

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Department for Infrastructure and Transport
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