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Choosing the right lifejacket
Lifejackets are grouped into safety levels based on their buoyancy, performance and what they're intended to be used for.
These levels help you choose a lifejacket that suits your situation, the type of activity you choose and the conditions you might experience, and that meets the legal requirements for when you must wear a lifejacket.
These levels have replaced the old type 1, 2 or 3 lifejackets used before the introduction of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 in 7 October 2016. You can still use the old types as long as they're in good condition and well maintained. However, it's recommended that you upgrade to the newer lifejackets with improved safety features. All lifejackets must meet certain standards.
Recreational vessels must carry a lifejacket for each person on board. They must be the right level, the right size, in good condition and easy to find.
Similar to the former Type 2.
Level 50 lifejackets are:
- mainly used in enclosed waters
- intended for people who can swim and are close to the bank or shore or have help close by
- designed to support you in the water, but do not automatically turn you to a face-up position
- made in high-visibility colours to make it easier to see you in the water and increase your chance of rescue.
Similar to the former Type 3.
Level 50S lifejackets are the same as Level 50, but come in a wider range of colours and styles. They're popular for activities such as wakeboarding and water skiing.
Level 100 and above
Similar to the former Type 1.
Level 100 and above lifejackets have higher levels of buoyancy and help turn you to a face-up position. The different levels suit different situations.
- intended for use when the shore is in sight
- not intended for rough conditions
- helps turn you to a face-up position.
- intended for offshore and rough weather
- helps turn you to a face-up position when unconscious.
- intended for offshore and rough weather when you're:
- wearing clothes that could trap air and stop the lifejacket turning you to a face-up position, or
- carrying heavy items that mean you need extra buoyancy.
- helps turn and keep you in a face-up position with your mouth and nose above the water.
Inflatable lifejackets use carbon dioxide (CO2) for buoyancy, which makes them lighter and less bulky.
Inflatable lifejackets are either inflated manually, by pulling a tab, or automatically when they come into contact with water. Excess spray can accidentally activate an auto-inflating lifejacket.
A person wearing a manual inflatable lifejacket needs the ability and knowledge to activate it in an emergency.
Inflatable lifejackets are therefore not recommended for:
- children aged under 12 years
- personal watercraft (PWC) drivers and passengers
- anyone being towed.
Manual inflatable lifejackets are not recommended for people who cannot swim.
As the skipper, you must make sure your passengers know how inflatable lifejackets work. You must also make sure lifejackets are in good working order and serviced regularly – see Looking after your lifejacket.
Non-inflatable Level 100 and above lifejackets have foam buoyancy with neck support. They're bulkier to wear than inflatable ones, but they do not need servicing.
A Level 100+ lifejacket must conform to at least one of the following standards:
- AS 4758 – Level 275
- AS 4758 – Level 150
- AS 4758 – Level 100
- ISO 12402-2: 2006 – Lifejackets, performance level 275
- ISO 12402-3: 2006 – Lifejackets, performance level 150
- ISO 12402-4: 2006 – Lifejackets, performance level 100
- New Zealand Standards NZ5823: 2005 Type 401
A Level 50 lifejacket must conform to at least one of the following standards:
- AS 4758 – Level 50
- ISO 12402-5: 2006 - Buoyancy aids (level 50)
A Level 50S lifejacket must conform to at least one of the following standards:
- AS 4758 – Level 50S
- ISO 12402-5: 2006 – Buoyancy aids (level 50)
Recognition of older lifejacket standards
- EN 399-1993 Series has been replaced by the ISO 12402-2006 Series.
- The following lifejacket standards have been superseded. Lifejackets carrying these standards will continue to be recognised as acceptable where the lifejacket existed, and was in use, prior to the commencement of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 (7 October 2016).
- AS 1512-1996, Personal flotation devices – Type 1 (and any previous version of that standard)
- AS 2260-1996, Personal flotation devices – Type 3 (and any previous version of that standard)
- AS 1499-1996, Personal flotation devices – Type 2 (and any previous version of that standard)
- Lifejackets carrying the standard UL 1180 will continue to be recognised as acceptable where the lifejacket existed, and was in use, prior to the commencement of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 (7 October 2016).
There are no rules that dogs (or other pets) must wear lifejackets.
You may want to consider investing in one to keep your pet safe. Find one that's a good fit, so your pet does not slip out of it. One with a grab handle can be useful to pull them out of the water.