Belfast Telegraph

Lifejacket check reveals unseen dangers to users

by Fiona Rutherford

The vast majority of people in north Down who go sailing, fishing or just mess about in boats, may be using unsafe lifejackets, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has found.

The RNLI brought a mobile demonstration unit to Bangor Marina for the purpose of hosting a free lifejacket clinic on July 18.

Volunteers not only undertook lifejacket safety checks but also gave advice on what action to take.

In the course of the afternoon 102 lifejackets were checked for safety — and just three were considered not to have any potential problems.

“Over half of those checked had no crotch straps fitted.

“For a lifejacket to work properly it must be a snug fit and not ride over the wearer’s shoulders on entry into the water,” said an RNLI spokesperson.

“In most lifejacket designs, a crotch strap is the only way to ensure this does not happen.

“Therefore, it is possible that without a crotch strap the lifejacket may not perform its function properly.”

The modern lifejacket, unlike its foam filled predecessor, is inflated by a gas cylinder which is activated either manually or automatically.

The mechanism used to initiate the inflation process requires inspection on a regular basis.

If it is found to be corroded, damaged or out of date, it should be replaced immediately.

“Unfortunately many lifejacket owners seem to be unaware of how to look after their lifejackets to ensure their proper functioning,” continued the spokesperson.

“Almost half of the lifejackets had either rusty, loose or already fired gas bottles.

“Rusty bottles may have leaked gas already and therefore not inflate the lifejacket fully, and certainly loose bottles will leak gas when fired.”

Peter Bullick, the RNLI Sea Safety officer for Bangor and Donaghadee, said: “This has truly been a very successful clinic; we have helped numerous lifejacket owners identify defective parts and have offered them advice on what remedial action to take.

“Disappointingly a high proportion of those checked had one or more potential problems, but we were very happy to have this opportunity to offer potential life-saving advice to those owners.”

Peter added: “Being a volunteer for the RNLI promoting sea safety, it gives me great pleasure in seeing that all those going onto the water for enjoyment, are able to return safely to their loved ones.”

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