Why Wearing a Lifejacket or Buoyancy Aid Is So Important


It’s Maritime Safety Week and we are joining forces with other agencies and organisations in sharing top tips to help keep you safe whilst you are out on the water.  It was announced by the Casualty Review Panel (1) that eleven people who drowned in 2018 may have been alive today if they had worn a lifejacket or personal floation device (PFD).

The Panel reviewed 22 fatalities from 2018 and agreed that 11 lives could have been saved if they had been wearing a lifejacket.  This figure is slightly lower than last year’s figure of 13 lives (out of 27 fatalities).  In the twelve years that the Panel has been meeting, is has recorded that 200 lives could have been saved by wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.

The majority of incidents in 2018 the Panel discovered  involved commercial fishermen (including accidents at fish farms) and anglers, many of which happened in Scottish Sea Lochs.


The Panel’s overriding advice was to wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid appropriate to your activity which is proven to greatly improve your chances of surviving the shock of entering cold water. 

The Panel also recommended an additional package of measures to keep you safe for your activity:

  • Carrying a VHF DSC radio and knowing how to use it to contact the Coastguard or other vessels
  • Carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB will help rescuers to locate you and even if you’re unconscious the alarm will be raised.
  • Downloading the RYA SafeTrx app on your phone and using it in an emergency could make all the difference.
  • Wearing appropriate clothing and carrying the right safety equipment for your sport, particularly rock anglers and sport fishermen wading in slippery rivers.
  • Making sure your equipment is properly fitted, for example wearing a lifejacket with a crotch strap attached. This advice comes after the panel looked at a case where a yachtsman died because he was wearing a lifejacket that was not properly fitted, had ridden up and was not keeping his head above water.


(1) The Casualty Review Panel is made up of representatives from: Angling Trust, RNLI, Royal Yachting Association, Marine Accident Investigation Branch, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, National Water Safety Forum, British Canoe Union, the lifejacket industry, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and University of Portsmouth. The panel uses data supplied from HM Coastguard and MAIB databases and therefore covers mostly coastal incidents. Other inland fatal angling incidents, where a lifejacket might have saved a life may have occurred during 2018 but these are not included for this exercise.

More useful lifesaving links

Lifejackets – how to choose one

Lifejackets – which one should I buy?

Calling for help at the coast – which device should I get?

RYA SafeTrx

Find out more about Maritime Safety Week 2019


To all the agencies involved in the Casualty Review Panel and in particular HM Coastguard for the infographic and stats