6/19/2018: Marine Safety Alert – A PFD that’s unwearable makes an emergency situation worse

The Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis released Marine Safety Alert 11-18 to raise awareness of potentially dangerous circumstance involving Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). During several inspections photo showing discrepancy on pfdinvolving different vessels, Coast Guard personnel discovered a significant number (>100) of unwearable type 1 PFDs that would have presented a problem for users if needed in an emergency. Owners and operators are reminded that regulations require PFDs onboard vessels to be wearable and in serviceable condition.

Normally, when a wearer dons the type of PFD shown, a person grabs both sides of the vest to pull the sides apart and the waist band strap moves freely through a slit opening (see photographs 1 and 2). The user is then able to easily don the PFD by placing it over the head, passing the strap around the body, clipping the end onto the securing D-ring, and tightening the strap securely.

During recent PFD inspections, inspectors discovered that the securing strap was secured at its bitter end, and was also fused to the side of the PFD by what appeared to be the shell coating or color-matching material (see photographs 3 and 4). As a result, a user is unable to separate the halves of the PFD to open the gap and place over the head to wear.

Based on the number of problematic PFDs discovered, the Coast Guard is strongly recommending that owners and operators using this type of PFD inspect each one for this condition. If problematic PFDs are discovered, owners and operators are encouraged to report their findings to the Coast Guard Office of Design and Engineering Standards via email to: TypeApproval@uscg.mil. Please include the name of the manufacturer, design number, lot numbers, and quantity of PFDs impacted. Also indicate if the coating had been touched up at any time, and the total number of similar unaffected PFDs onboard.

Note: The Coast Guard is deliberately not indicating the manufacturer’s name until additional details and the scope of the potential problem are fully known.

This safety alert is provided for informational purposes only and does not relieve any domestic or international safety, operational, or material requirements. Developed by Coast Guard Sector New York Inspections Department and distributed by the Office of Investigations and Analysis. Questions may be sent to HQS-PF-fldr-CG-INV@uscg.mil.

Visit CG-INV’s website for the full library of Marine Safety Alerts.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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