Every Decision You Make Affects your Children's Health and Well-Being
Please click on any of the links below to go directly to your specified topic within this document.
- What is the Difference Between a Lifejacket & a PFD (Personal Floatation Device)?
- When Should My Children Wear a Lifejacket?
- How Do I Know Which Lifejacket is Right for My Child?
- Is it Safe to Take My Baby on a Boat?
- Laws on Wearing Lifejackets in Canada
Be Safe on the Water
Follow safety precautions to ensure that you and your children have a happy excursion on the water. Parents and guardians should wear non-skid shoes. Having a solid footing on a boat is a preventive measure to enable a quick reaction to an emergency situation.
Wear your lifejacket
Make sure all children wear properly fitted lifejackets when on or near the water. There must be a Canadian-approved lifejacket of appropriate size for everyone on board a boat or any other water vessel. Remember, a lifejacket will not work unless you wear it!
Carry Proof of Competency
In Canada when you are operating a pleasure boat with a motor, the law requires you to carry a valid proof of competency* on board. This can be any of the following: a Pleasure Craft Operator Card, a boating safety course completion certificate issued before April 1999, or an approved marine certificate. If you don't already have a proof of competency, you'll need to obtain a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. You can get yours by taking a boating safety course. You should also carry personal identification, such as a Photo ID, and if the motor on your boat is 10 horsepower or more, a Pleasure Craft Licence. Proof of Competency is not required in the waters of Nunavut and Northwest Territories at this time.
Monitor the Weather
Before heading out, make sure you get the latest forecast for your area and that you understand what it means and how it will affect you and your family should you decide to be on or near the water. You should also be aware of local factors (like topography) that may cause weather conditions to differ from the forecast.
Know the Area
Make sure you're aware of local hazards, water levels and tides.
Share your Sailing Plan with Someone on Shore
A sailing plan includes your planned travel route and describes your boat. You should give this information to someone you trust before your departure even if you will only be gone an hour or two.
Inspect your Boat and Safety Equipment
Check your boat to make sure it's safe before leaving the dock. Ensure that all equipment (based on the type and length of your boat) is on board, in good working order and easy to reach. Carry a first aid kit, basic tools and spare parts.
Have a Safety Briefing with your Children
Show everyone on board where the safety equipment is located -- and how to use it. Make sure the communication equipment is in good working order and everyone knows how to use it.
Don't drink and boat
Mixing alcohol and boating is extremely dangerous. Alcohol intensifies with the effects of the sun, wind and the motion of the boat as well as impairs your motor skills and judgment.
Courtesy: Canadian Red Cross
- A lifejacket holds a person in the upright position while they are in the water. It turns the person over from face-down to face-up. A PFD will keep a person floating, but not necessarily face-up. A PFD is lighter and less bulky than a lifejacket. PFD's keep people warmer in the water because the floatation device is evenly distributed around the body.
- You can choose either a lifejacket or a PFD for your children, as long as it is designed specifically for children. Even if your children are wearing lifejackets or PFD's, you must actively supervise them when they are in or near the water.
- Make sure your child's lifejacket fits properly. Inflatable toys like water wings and blow-up rings are not safety devices and never to be considered as lifejackets or PFD's.
- Children have often drowned when they were playing near water and not intending to go swimming. Children can fall or slip into water quickly and silently without adults being aware. A lifejacket can help keep your children safe until someone can rescue them.
- Your child could slip out of a lifejacket that is too big or not buckled up properly so please make sure the lifejacket fits your child's weight. Buckle it up every time, and use all of the safety straps on the lifejacket.
- If your children are 5 years of age or older and cannot swim well, continue to put them in a lifejacket when they are in the water. Remember to stay close and supervise your children at all times.
- If you and your children will be visiting places near water bring a lifejacket for each child. Don't assume that the place you are visiting has lifejackets that fit your children properly.
- While you are on a boat make sure you and your children always wear lifejackets that fit properly.
- Make sure the lifejacket is the right size for your child's size and weight. Children's lifejackets have weight limits. Adult lifejackets are based on chest measurement and body weight.
- Make sure the lifejacket is comfortable and light, so your child will get used to wearing it. The fit should be snug and not ride up over your child's ears.
- Check the label to make sure it has been approved by at least one of the following:
- Transport Canada
- Canadian Coast Guard
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Young children's lifejackets should also have these special features:
- A large collar for head support
- A strap that buckles between the legs so the lifejacket will not slip over your child's head
- A waist strap that can be adjusted to make the lifejacket fit snugly
- Ties at the neck and/or a sturdy plastic zipper
- Bright colours and reflective tape
- At least once a year make sure the lifejacket still fits your child.
It is not recommended that babies travel by boat because there are no Canadian-approved lifejackets for infants who weigh less than 20 pounds (9 kilograms). Because of their level of physical development, lifejackets would not help to keep a young baby safe. Wait until your child is at least 20 pounds (9 kilograms) and can fit into a Canadian-approved lifejacket, before taking him on a boat. Many babies will reach 20 pounds (9 kilograms) around 9 to 12 months of age.
Canadian laws require that recreational boats have one properly fitting lifejacket for every person on the boat but there is no law requiring people to wear lifejackets. Since 9 out of 10 people that drown in boating incidences are not wearing lifejackets, it is clear that that the current law is weak. A lifejacket will only help keep you safe if you wear it. Make sure all children and adults wear a lifejacket while on a boat.
If you want more information on lifejackets please click on the following links.
- Canadian Red Cross or BoaterExam.com
- Office of Boating Safety, Transport Canada
- Canada Safe Boating Council
Overboard Recovery Techniques
Knowing and practicing the following procedures with your children on a boat will lessen panicked moments in an emergency.
If someone falls overboard, sound the alarm immediately and then:
- Slow down, stop if possible and throw something buoyant to assist the person (this will also mark the spot if the person submerges).
- Assign someone to monitor the person overboard.
- Carefully manoeuvre to recover the person overboard.
Use a buoyant heaving line, or a lifebuoy secured to the vessel with a line, and recover the person from the windward side. A heavy rope, chain or cable secured at both ends and draped over the side (almost touching the water) can provide a makeshift step if necessary. If the freeboard of your boat is more than 0.5 metres (1’-8”) you must have a re-boarding device.
To read more information on Boating Safety please click on the following links.
- Transport Canada's Safe Boating Guide (PDF Version - 3,170 Kb)
- Transport Canada's Office of Boating Safety
serves all Canadians by providing information and skills that promote safety in, on and around water. The Society is the Canadian authority in aquatic lifesaving education and lifeguarding. The Society is a leader and partner in the delivery of water safety education in Canada and around the world. Below please find the National and Branch Offices across Canada.
287 McArthur Avenue
National Office Staff
Alberta & Northwest Territories
11759 Groat Road
440 Wilsey Road, Suite 105
Fredericton, New Brunswick
Newfoundland & Labrador
P.O.Box 8065, Station A
St. John's, Newfoundland
5516 Spring Garden Road, 4th Floor
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Ontario & Nunavut
400 Consumers Road
British Columbia & Yukon
112 - 3989 Henning Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia
504-138 Portage Avenue East
Prince Edward Island
P.O. Box 2411
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
4545 Pierre de Coubertin Avenue
P.O. Box 1000, Station M
Telephone: 514-252-3100 or 1-800-265-3093 (Tool free in Canada)
2224 Smith Street