A lifejacket holds the person wearing it upright. It can turn the person over from face-down to face-up. A personal flotation device will keep a person floating, but not necessarily face-up. A PFD is lighter and less bulky than a lifejacket. PFDs keep people warmer in the water because the foam in the vest is evenly distributed around the body.
In Parachute's safety information for parents, we use just the word "lifejacket" when we are talking about all approved safety vests for the water (including PFDs). We do this to keep our information as clear and simple as possible.
You can choose either a lifejacket or a PFD for your child, as long as it is designed for children. Remember: even if your child is wearing a lifejacket or PFD, you must actively supervise her when she is 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.
Children have often drowned when they were playing near the water and were not intending to go swimming. Children can fall into the water quickly and silently without adults being aware. A lifejacket can help keep your child safe until someone can rescue him.
For young children, the lifejacket should also have these special features:
While there are “infant-sized” lifejackets on the market, there are no Canadian safety standards for these devices. Therefore there are no Canadian-approved lifejackets for infants who weigh less than nine kilograms (20 pounds). Wait until your child is at least nine kilograms (20 pounds) and can fit into a Canadian-approved lifejacket, before taking him on a boat. Many babies will reach nine kilograms (20 pounds) around nine to 12 months of age.
Currently, 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 the lifejackets. Nine out of 10 people who drown in boating incidents are not wearing lifejackets. A lifejacket will only help keep you safe if you wear it. Make sure all children and adults wear a lifejacket when on a boat.
Canadian Red Cross
Office of Boating Safety, Transport Canada
Canadian Safe Boating Council