7 Points To Remember When Wearing and Using PFDs

Rescue Canada PFD Inst II Black FrontOver the past 15 years I have been designing and testing Rescue and Special Use PFD’s for manufacturers and clients around the world.

During this time I have gained a little insight into the PFD standards and certification process working with: Transport Canada / Canadian Coast Guard Standards and ULC in Canada, with the US Coast Guard Standards and UL in the US, and with the European ISO and CE approval systems in Europe.

Here are seven points to remember for people wearing and using these devices, and for risk managers who are responsible for their agencies’ safety and purchasing policies:

  • The Canadian Standards for PFD’s don’t have a Rescue PFD Standard and ULC doesn’t test to one. These standards have not been changed or updated for a number of years as Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard are working on a new ISO / North American PFD Standard in the very near future.
  • The US Coast Guard Standard is very active and is continually updated on an ongoing basis to keep current with new innovations and technique. It is has both a Recreational and Professional Rescue PFD Standard, and it is my understanding that the new North American ISO standard will generally follow the US Standard (where the current research and expertise lies regarding Rescue PFDs).
  • Certainly, any standard will do but in our world, I think an objective review would suggest that the US Rescue PFD Standards might be the best professional, performance qualified choice, specifically for the long term.
  • If your agency currently requires another standard for reasons other than performance, your safety / risk manager / legal officer may want to ask for a Variance.
  • It is my understanding that there has never been a case where someone wearing a US approved PFD was held to have been negligent in Canada, nor anyone likewise wearing a Canadian PFD in the US, let alone wearing a non-approved PFD.
  • For those with a third party rescue mandate including those, 1) who may have to contact a person who is not wearing a PFD or who is wearing a proven poor fitting PFD in swiftwater, or 2) who are operating in higher volume, more aerated water or with significant down drafting vertical currents, the US Coast Guard Professional Rescue Standard may be the best way to go and will be the most relevant.
  • For those without a rescue mandate, including those who are working in lower volume, less aerated water, with weaker down drafting vertical currents, the US Recreational Rescue PFD Standard may be worth looking at.
  • PS: It is my understanding that the first new PFD to meet the new US Professional Rescue Standard will be available this summer from Force 6, right here in Canada.

If you have any questions or ideas please email Jim at jiml@rescuecanada.ca.