Can you tell the difference between buoyancy vests and life jackets? Believe it or not, this knowledge could be a life saver!

As you’ll hear many times on this blog, whether you’re swimming in a pool or a lake, wearing the proper floatation device is critical. For example, in boating-related drownings, 90% of victims were not wearing a life jacket. That said, when it comes to floatation devices, all are not made equal. It is essential that you understand the different purposes of both buoyancy vests and life jackets.

A Real-Life Example

Last summer, a well-meaning man bought what he thought was a life jacket for his granddaughter with the intent of teaching her how to swim in their family pool.  What happened when she entered the pool shocked him: the jacket caused her body to turn in such a way that positioned her face in the water. If her grandfather wasn’t there, she easily could have drowned.

The man created a video for Facebook to warn others of the dangers of this jacket.  In the video, he was sure to point out that his granddaughter fit the weight requirements, that the product was UL-listed and that he was putting it on her correctly.

You can watch the video here:

Only, there was just one problem.  The jacket that almost drowned his granddaughter wasn’t a life jacket at all.  It was a buoyancy vest.  While these two products look very similar, they have very different purposes.  However, innocently mistaking one for the other can cost someone their life. So let’s take a look at the difference between these two types of floatation devices.

Buoyancy Vests

The man in the Facebook video had seemingly done everything right, and it’s wonderful that he was taking proper precautions to learn about water safety and protect his family. However, the purpose of buoyancy vests is to aid an experienced swimmer. These vests are not intended for people who need protection from drowning.  Instead, they are meant as an aid for someone who might need to travel in the water. For instance, if you are in a boat that capsizes, this will allow you to swim toward shore.

Using Life Jackets for Toddlers

Life Jackets

We’ve talked about life jackets quite a bit on our Life Saver Pool Fence blog. In particular, we know that just any life jacket won’t do. For certain safety, you’re best off with one that is U.S. Coast Guard-approved.  As opposed to the buoyancy vest, a life jacket is meant for non-swimmers.  In this case, the jacket would help to keep the individual afloat and clear of the water without the need to swim.  In the example above, should a boat capsize, a life jacket would keep you safe until you could be rescued.

Buoyancy Vests and Life Jackets: Know the Difference

Buoyancy vests and life jackets both serve an important but different function. As long as you keep this distinction in mind, and implement it along with other safety measures such as active supervision, you are likely to have a fun and safe day in the water!