Most life jacket manufacturers will recommend having their products professionally serviced annually, although it is good practice to inspect them yourself more frequently – at least once every three months to ensure they will perform in a worst-case scenario.
The first check to make is a simple visual inspection. Check that there are no obvious signs of damage to seams, straps, cords, lights and whistles, as well as rusting to CO2 canisters. Weigh the canister and compare against the weight stated on the bottle – if underweight, it will need to be replaced. Another simple visual check to perform is to check your automatically inflating life jackets for replace-by dates or condition indicators on the inflation mechanism.
Another simple test to perform is to orally inflate the life jacket as much as you can and leave it for at least 12 hours. If the life jacket deflates at all within this time, it will need to be replaced.
Another consideration is that your insurance policy will most likely restrict cover if the helmsman is not wearing a flotation device, however this pales in comparison to the potential loss of life that could occur if not wearing a properly functioning life preserver.
It is the skipper’s responsibility to ensure all crew and guests know where to find and how to use the life jackets. Having your equipment serviced is not an expensive process, and it is vital to the safety of all those on board.