What lifejacket am I required to wear

In most situations, you and your passengers are required to wear a lifejacket at all times. This includes hire and drive vessels. Use the table below to ensure you know when and where to wear a lifejacket. It won’t just save you a fine – it could save your life.

For it to be considered as being ‘worn’ a lifejacket must be fastened and secured as intended by the manufacturer. When not being worn, a lifejacket of a specified type must still be carried onboard a vessel for each occupant.

On powerboats over 12 metres in length, there is no compulsory requirement to wear a lifejacket at any time. However, an appropriate lifejacket must still be carried onboard for every occupant.

Each lifejacket type must conform to certain standards.

The Marine Safety Act 2023 (Vic) requires that a master of a recreational vessel or a hire and drive vessel must ensure that every person aged less than 12 years old who is on an open area of the vessel wears a lifejacket at all times. Safe Transport Victoria does not recommend taking infants on board a recreational boat.

AS4758 will be the only accepted standard from July 2028.

AS1512 will not longer be accepted from July 2028.

ISO 12402 will no longer be accepted from July 2028.

Type 1 is also known as Level 100+. Type 2 is also known as Level 50. Type 3 is also known as Level 50S.

VESSEL TYPE

COASTAL WATERS

ENCLOSED WATERS

INLAND WATERS

Powerboat up to and including 4.8m in length Level 100 Level 100 Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s
Powerboat more than 4.8m but not more than 12m in length (at times of heightened risk) Level 100 Level 100 Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s
Personal watercraft Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s
Towed sport A person who is being towed by a vessel must wear a lifejacket at all times.
Recreational tender Level 100 Level 100 or Level 50 Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s
Off-the-beach sailing yacht Level 100 if >2nm from coast, Level 100 or Level 50 if <2nm from coast Level 100 or Level 50 Level 100 , Level 50 or Level 50s
Yacht (at times of heightened risk) Level 100 Level 100 or Level 50 Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s
Kiteboard or sailboard Level 100, or Level 50 Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s
Canoe, kayak, rowing boat, raft, stand-up paddleboard, pedal boat or fun boat Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s Level 100, Level 50 or Level 50s
Please note: A person operating a stand-up paddleboard, kiteboard or sailboard no more than 400m from the shore, is not required to wear a lifejacket.
Scuba or hookah diving equipment (underwater breathing apparatus of a kind that is self-contained (scuba) or is surface supplied) A person who is wearing, or in the process of donning or removing, diving equipment is not required to wear a lifejacket.

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Children aged less than 12 years old are required to wear a lifejacket at all times when in an open areas of a vessel that is underway.

Special note should be taken with the type of lifejackets children are wearing. Children must wear a Level 100 Lifejacket on enclosed water, which includes Port Phillip Bay, Westernport, Gippsland Lakes and Mallacoota.

Lifejackets with crotch straps are crucial – especially for children – as they prevent the lifejacket from slipping off and ensure it stays securely in place, offering reliable buoyancy and protection in water activities.

In Australia, lifejacket laws differ from state to state. Since Victoria’s laws were introduced, there have been many lives saved as a result. While we also have one of the lowest rates of boating-related drownings, sadly, every year many boaters drown not wearing a lifejacket.

Lifejacket laws are enforced by marine authorities. Penalties apply if occupants are not wearing lifejackets when required. Penalties can also apply to the owner and masters of vessels. There must be enough lifejackets for everyone on board, and they must be correctly maintained.

The maximum penalty that may be ordered by a court for failing to carry or wear the legally required lifejackets is 20 penalty units. The on-the-spot fine issued by either a Safe Transport Officer or Victoria Police is two penalty units.


Heightened risk

Heightened risk is not only limited to when there is significant likelihood that the vessel may capsize or be swamped by waves or the occupants of the vessel may fall overboard or be forced to enter the water.

It also occurs when there is a restriction on the ability to anticipate such an event, such as when a hazard cannot be seen.

Lifejackets will continue to be required to be worn on vessels up to and including 4.8 metres in length and in circumstances of heightened risk.

Solo adults are considered to be boating alone and must comply with the heightened risk provisions which apply on powered boats up to 12m in length.

Sole adults boating with children aged less than 12 years old are considered to be boating alone and must comply with the heightened risk provisions which apply on powered boats up to 12m in length.

The Marine Safety Regulations 2012 (Vic) specify that a vessel will face heightened risk, in the following circumstances:

  • crossing or attempting to cross an ocean bar or operating within a designated hazardous area
  • being operated by a person who is the only person on board the vessel
  • being operated during the period commencing one hour after sunset and ending one hour before sunrise
  • disabled vessel
  • where no safety barriers lifelines, rails, safety harnesses or jacklines are in use on a yacht
  • being operated during a period of restricted visibility
  • operating in an area where a warning, that is current, of the following kind has been issued by the Bureau of Meteorology:
    • gale warning
    • storm force wind warning
    • hurricane force wind warning
    • severe thunderstorm warning
    • severe weather warning.

Port Phillip Heads (the waters within a radius of three nautical miles from Point Lonsdale) is a designated hazardous area and comes within the definition of heightened risk. Lifejackets must be worn on all vessels under 12 metres.


Definitions of waterways

The types of lifejacket you must carry and wear depend on the type of waterway you are operating on.

The table below provides a detailed definition of the three categories of waterway in Victoria.

Term Meaning
Inland waters Rivers (inside the seaward entrance), creeks, canals, lakes, reservoirs and any similar waters either naturally formed or man-made and which are either publicly or privately owned but does not include any navigable rivers, creeks or streams within declared port waters.
Enclosed waters
  1. The declared port waters inside the seaward entrance of the following local ports:
    1. the Port of Apollo Bay
    2. the Port of Anderson Inlet
    3. the Port of Gippsland Lakes
    4. the Port of Snowy River
    5. the Port of Mallacoota
    6. the Port of Port Fairy
  2. The declared port waters of the Port of Barwon Heads upstream of the Barwon Heads–Ocean Grove road bridge
  3. The declared port waters of the Port of Corner inlet and Port Albert east of a line between Port Welshpool shipping pier and Bentley Point (inside the entrances)
  4. The waters of Shallow Inlet
  5. The declared port waters inside the entrance of the Port of Portland
  6. The declared port waters of the Port of Port Phillip
  7. The waters of Western Port landward of its western entrance joined by a straight line drawn between West Head to the southern tip of Seal Rocks to Point Grant and landward of its eastern entrance joined by an imaginary line drawn between Cape Woolamai and Griffith Point as shown on the chart AuS 150 Australia – South Coast – Victoria – Western Port, published by the Australian Hydrographic Service from time to time
  8. The waters between the seaward entrance of Tamboon inlet and the northerly boundary of a straight line drawn between Flanders Track and the creek on the eastern side of the inlet
  9. The waters between the seaward entrance of Wingan Inlet and the northerly boundary of a straight line drawn between Rocky Creek and the bank directly opposite to the west
  10. The waters between the seaward entrance of Sydenham Inlet and the mouth of the Bemm River.
Coastal waters All waters other than inland waters or enclosed waters.

Lifejackets for your lifestyle

Modern lifejackets cater for just about every boating situation, from kayaking or kite surfing in sheltered waters to offshore fishing or sailing on the open sea.

With a wide range of styles and colours available, there’s a lifejacket to suit your specific needs. So be safe and wear yours.

See a breakdown of lifejackets below:

This category includes lifejackets where the nominal buoyancy level exceeds 100 Newtons. Many coastal jackets have levels of 150N or above.

Level 100 Plus lifejackets provide a high level of buoyancy and are designed to turn the wearer onto their back and keep them in a safe floating position. They usually have a collar to support the back of the head. They are highly visible, with bright colouring and retro-reflective patches. They often have additional safety features such as lights and whistles.

These lifejackets may provide buoyancy by an inflatable bladder, or by foam filled panels.

Activities

The Level 100 Plus lifejackets are not usually considered suitable for activities where the wearer may hit the water at speed. Wearers should be aware that a lifejacket will suddenly try to ‘ride up’ when the person enters the water.

For this reason, it is important for a lifejacket to be a good fit and crotch straps are strongly recommended. A badly fitted lifejacket may become dislodged by going over the wearer’s head. All straps should be secure to ensure the optimum performance of your lifejacket.

Level 50 lifejackets provide less buoyancy than the Level 100 Plus jackets. They are not designed to turn the wearer onto their back, but they will keep the person afloat and have high visibility features.

Activities

The Level 50 lifejackets are generally designed for specialised activities such as water skiing and operating personal watercraft, where there is a high probability that the wearer may impact with the water at speed.

They also allow for a greater degree of activity and flexibility than foam-filled Level 100 Plus jackets and so are used in kayaking and canoeing.

These have similar characteristics to the Level 50 Lifejackets, except they do not have the high visibility features. They are often black or dark in colour.

Activities

The Level 50S lifejackets are generally only suitable if assistance is close at hand and there is unlikely to be a need to search for the wearer.


Looking after your lifejacket

It is important that boaters check their jackets regularly, prior to wearing. Remember, inflatable lifejackets are not lifejackets until they are inflated and all it takes is a fish hook, or a loose or damaged CO2 cylinder to prevent them from inflating.

It is a requirement that inflatable lifejackets must be serviced per manufacturer recommendations.

Lifejackets that provide buoyancy by foam rather than inflatable bladders require less maintenance but must still be kept in good condition. Check the condition of the jacket and fastenings, and wash down after use. And create a written record whenever you service a lifejacket.

1. Check for visible signs of wear and damage. Ensure all fastenings and buckles are in good working order.

2. Following Following the manufacturers instructions; Open up the lifejacket and reveal the bladder check the oral inflation tube is not cracked and the one-way valve functions.

3. Use cap attached to the oral inflation tube to deflate bladder. Invert cap and press down on valve at the top of the oral tube. Do not insert other objects into top of tube as they may damage the valve. Roll or press jacket to deflate fully.

4. Remove CO2 cylinder and inspect. The cylinder should be intact with no rust or corrosion. Weigh cylinder on kitchen or letter scales, ensure weight corresponds to the minimum gross weight engraved on cylinder +/- 2g. If cylinder is rusted, corroded, has been pierced or is not the correct weight it should be replaced immediately. On auto inflation jackets also ensure auto components are armed and in date. Refit cylinder to inflation system, tightening it by hand until firm. Do not over tighten.

5. Repack jacket as per manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure manual inflation toggle is accessible and unlikely to be caught when being worn.

Set a reminder in your mobile phone, computer or calendar to alert you when it’s time to have your inflatable lifejacket serviced.

You can also register your inflatable lifejacket online to receive servicing tips and reminders. Learn more at lifejackets.org.au