Are lifejackets required on boats?

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Are lifejackets required on boats?

Different countries will have different legal requirements for whether lifejackets are required on boats. But irrespective of what is written in law, we would always recommend that each person on the boat has a lifejacket which is suited to the activity and the wearer’s weight. More importantly the jacket should be worn and not only be available ‘just in case’.

You can read more about the different types of jacket here >

Are lifejackets required on boats in the UK?

There is no legal requirement in the UK for anyone on the water for leisure purposes to wear a lifejacket / personal floatation device (PFD). The RNLI says: “Always wear an appropriate lifejacket or buoyancy aid unless it is safe not to do so… We believe that lifejackets save lives and are useless unless worn.” Read more here:

In Ireland, it is law that all leisure craft carry a PFD for each person on board; when a vessel is under 7 metres PFD’s must be worn and people under 16 years of age must wear a PFD when on an open vessel or on deck, irrespective of the size of vessel. 

In the UK and Ireland commercial fishermen are required by law to wear a PFD when on an open deck (unless there is a risk assessment in force that shows they cannot fall overboard). 

Are lifejackets required on boats in Europe?

The European Boating Association (EBA) recommends that as a minimum everyone on board a leisure craft has an appropriate lifejacket / Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Anyone on board a recreational craft should wear an appropriate PFD if they:

  • are told to by the person in charge; or
  • want to wear one

Are lifejackets required on boats in the USA?

General laws:

In the USA, laws stipulate that there must be a properly fitting life jacket available for every person on board a recreational vessel which is Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition and the appropriate size for the intended wearer. If a jacket is not in good condition it won’t be classed as approved. Additionally, a boat 16’ in length or greater, except canoes and kayaks must have a throwable flotation device.

Each state may have additional requirements, such as for water skiing, personal watercraft operation, white water boating activities and during certain cool-weather months.

You can see state specific requirements on the US Coastguard website here >

Lifejacket laws for Children under 13:

The law in the US (US Coast Guard) requires that all children under 13 wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket while aboard recreational vessels underway, except when the children are below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

The rule only affects States that have not already established their own laws for children’s use of life jackets. For the remaining states, the rule recognises and adopts the existing state regulation even if it is less rigorous.

Lifejacket laws for Children under 16:

Inflatable lifejackets are not approved for Children under 16.


About Tornado Lifejackets
Tornado Lifejackets are passionate about safety on the water and we want you to enjoy your activities with peace of mind. We therefore sell quality jackets that are affordable and accessible for adults and children. Our lifejackets are all from Europe's largest manufacturers complying to the highest standards for safety include ISO accreditation and CE approval. Our knowledgable team of experts are always on hand to answer any water safety questions you may have.


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