CG Warns Of Unwearable PFDs

The U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis released a Marine Safety Alert last week to raise awareness among vessel owners and operators of common mistakes regarding the wearability of personal flotation devices (PFDs) on board vessels.

“During several inspections involving different vessels, Coast Guard personnel discovered a significant number [of Type 1 PFDs] that would have presented a problem for users if needed in an emergency,” the alert said.

The particular PFD style addressed in Marine Safety Alert 11-18 is a U-shaped foam device that goes over the head and is secured with straps. Under normal circumstances, a person slips the PFD over his or her head, brings the strap around the body and clips it to a D-ring, according to the alert. Then the wearer pulls the strap to tighten and secure the PFD.
According to the alert, inspectors have recently seen more than 100 problematic PFDs aboard vessels.

“During recent PFD inspections, inspectors discovered that the securing strap was secured at its bitter end and was also fused to the side of the PFD by what appeared to be the shell coating or color-matching material,” according to the Marine Safety Alert. “As a result, a user is unable to separate the halves of the PFD to open the gap and place over the head to wear.”

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The Coast Guard is urging vessel owners and operators to inspect their Type 1 PFDs and, if necessary, report problems to the Coast Guard Office of Design and Engineering Standards by email at

“Please include the name of the manufacturer, design number, lot numbers and quantity of PFDs impacted,” the alert said. “Also indicate if the coating had been touched up at any time and the total number of similar unaffected PFDs onboard.”

The Coast Guard has not released a specific PFD manufacturer’s name pending further investigation.