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Lifejacket law

Requirements for carrying and wearing lifejackets vary depending on the type of vessel being used.

All recreational vessels must carry an appropriate lifejacket for each person on board. Lifejackets must be the correct size for the wearer and must be in good working order. Inflatable lifejackets must be properly serviced.

Lifejackets must be stored in a location that allows quick and easy access. Lifejackets must be visible to passengers, or their location clearly marked by an unobstructed sign which states ‘LIFEJACKETS’ in red lettering against a white background.

Requirements for wearing lifejackets are outlined in the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 and are summarised in the following table.

Lifejacket wear requirements on NSW waters

What lifejacket am I required to wear on my recreational vessel?

Category (age, boating activity or vessel type)

Lifejacket requirements for enclosed waters

Lifejacket requirements for open waters

Children under 12 years of age.

Level 50S or greater:

  • At all times on a vessel less than 4.8m
  • When in an open area of a vessel less than 8m that is underway.

Level 100 or greater:

  • At all times on a vessel less than 4.8m
  • When in an open area of a vessel less than 8m that is underway.

On all boats less than 4.8m (unless specified).

Level 50S or greater at all times when:

  • Boating between sunset and sunrise
  • Boating on alpine waters
  • Boating alone (without another person 12 years of age or more on the same vessel).

Level 100 or greater at all times.

Personal Watercraft (PWC; e.g. jet skis), including tow-in surfer.

Level 50S or greater at all times.

Level 50S or greater at all times.

Crossing coastal bars.

N/A

At all times as per open waters requirement for the applicable age, boating activity or vessel type.

Anyone being towed (e.g. water-skiing, wakeboarding or wake surfing).

Level 50S or greater at all times.

Level 50S or greater at all times.

Canoes and kayaks.

Level 50S or greater at all times when:

  • Boating between sunset and sunrise
  • Boating on alpine waters
  • Boating alone (without another person 12 years of age or more on the same vessel).

Level 50S or greater at all times.

Sailboarding and kiteboarding (more than 400m from shore).

Off the beach sailing vessel.

When directed by the master of the vessel.

As per enclosed waters requirement for applicable age, boating activity or vessel type.

As per open waters requirement for applicable age, boating activity or vessel type.

# You must wear a lifejacket when directed by the master of a vessel. For example, when the master considers there is heightened risk of an incident occurring, or if it might be difficult for you to help yourself if an incident was to occur. Examples of heightened risk include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Boating in inclement weather, such as during a gale warning, storm warning, severe thunderstorm warning or other severe weather event warning issued by the Bureau of Meteorology;
  • When a yacht does not have safety barriers, lifelines, rails, safety harnesses or jack lines in use
  • Boating with the elderly, non-swimmers and people with serious medical conditions.
  • When a vessel has broken down;
  • When there is a significant likelihood that a vessel may capsize, be swamped by waves or vessel occupants may fall overboard or be forced to enter the water; and
  • Other similar circumstances.

* The above table is a summary only. For full details, see Marine Safety Regulations.

* Penalties apply for not carrying the required number of lifejackets and for not wearing a lifejacket when required.

*For more information on the lifejacket laws, see our FAQs.

Lifejacket standards

Your lifejacket must comply with:

  • The Australian Standard for lifejackets (AS 4758); or
  • The International Standard (ISO 12402); or
  • One of the approved standards for the lifejacket types listed below.

Lifejacket level 100+ (formerly known as Type 1)

One of the following recognised standards for lifejackets (or lifejacket type) that has been approved by a recognised appraiser:

  • European Standard EN ISO 12402-2,3,4
  • Underwriters Laboratories Standards UL 1180 – fully inflatable recreational personal floatation devices
  • New Zealand Standard NZS 5823:2005

Any standard or specification approved by Transport for NSW (including any standard or specification previously approved by Roads and Maritime Services).

Lifejacket level 50 (formerly known as Type 2)

  • European Standard EN ISO 12402-5
  • Any standard or specification approved by Transport for NSW (including any standard or specification previously approved by Roads and Maritime Services).

Lifejacket level 50S (formerly known as Type 3)

  • European Standard EN ISO 12402-5
  • Any standard or specification approved by Transport for NSW (including any standard or specification previously approved by Roads and Maritime Services).

A recognised appraiser includes any of the following:

  • A certifying body accredited by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand (JAS–ANZ); or
  • A laboratory with National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accreditation; or
  • A notified body in accordance with the European Union Maritime Equipment Directive, Module B (MED–B); or
  • A body approved by Transport for NSW (including anybody previously approved by Roads and Maritime Services).

The following lifejacket standards have been superseded. Lifejackets carrying these standards will continue to be recognised as acceptable where the lifejacket is in good working order, existed and was in use prior to the commencement of the Marine Safety Regulation 2016 (7 October 2016).

  • AS 1512-1996, Personal flotation devices - Type 1 (and any previous version of that standard)
  • AS 2260-1996, Personal flotation devices – Type 3 (and any previous version of that standard)
  • AS 1499-1996, Personal flotation devices - Type 2 (and any previous version of that standard)

For more information on the lifejacket standards, see our FAQs.