Every year around 150 people die at the coast around the UK and Ireland

Nearly half of UK boaters don’t wear a Personal Flotation Device when on the water

Ed Barker
Authored by Ed Barker
Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - 16:08

Research released today by global sailing brand Helly Hansen, a partner of the RNLI, has revealed that UK boaters are not taking the right precautions while out on the water, and they believe experience and age are reasons to go without a suitable Personal Flotation Device (PFD).

Most respondents to the survey think they are a good example to others when it comes to water safety (81.6%), however, only around half (56.2%) always wear a PFD while on the water. Of those who do not always wear a PFD, only half (50.76%) say they wear one in bad weather, one fifth (22.84%) say they don’t need to wear one because they can swim, and only a third (29.44%) say they wear one if they’re sailing alone.  

Every year, around 150 people die at the coast around the UK and Ireland; last year, the RNLI launched over 8,000 times to those in need of help.  

Findings from the survey include:

• Less than half (47.6%) of respondents think that you should always wear a lifejacket when sailing no matter your age. 

• 17% thought it was acceptable to not wear one from 13 years old. 

• 64% said that when they were learning to sail, there were occasions when they were made to wear a lifejacket when more experienced members of the group didn’t – this was higher for the younger generation at 72.22% for 18–24-year-olds and much lower for the older generation at 29.55% for 55+.

To help raise awareness around the importance of wearing a lifejacket when out on the water, Helly Hansen and the RNLI have been placing lifejackets on statues across the UK. Over the last few weeks, lifejackets have been popping up on statues in coastal towns and cities across the country, please see imagery via the links below:

Another Place, Crosby Beach, Merseyside

Annie Moore, Cobh, Cork

Mrs Booth, Margate, Kent

Dr Salter’s Daydream, Bermondsey, London

Whitby Walk with Heritage Project, Whitby, Yorkshire

The Rescue, Seahouses, Northumberland

Gareth Morrison, Head of Water Safety at the RNLI says, “Our advice is simple, always wear a lifejacket when you’re on the water, as accidents can and do happen to anyone, regardless of your experience or ability. The results in this survey are worrying as they show people are putting their lives at risk, with many thinking the advice to wear a lifejacket doesn’t apply to them. Our brave volunteers rescue thousands of people every year, and unfortunately at times witness first-hand the effects that losing someone to drowning has on their loved ones. Research has proven that wearing a lifejacket can increase your chances of survival by up to four times if you’re immersed in cold water. Whatever your activity and whatever level of experience you have, wearing a well-fitted, well-maintained and suitable lifejacket or buoyancy aid could save your life.”

Pip Hare, a professional sailor and Helly Hansen ambassador, says, “Cold water shock can affect everyone. Even if you are an experienced sailor or a very confident swimmer, cold water shock causes an uncontrollable reaction which elevates your heart rate and breathing. This can lead to breathing in water and potentially drowning and it can affect even the fittest of people. Wearing a lifejacket with the correct buoyancy is vital to survival.”

Emma Russell, Marketing Manager for Helly Hansen in the UK, Ireland and Benelux, commented on the findings, “This research reveals something we have suspected for a while – that most UK boaters just don’t believe they need to wear a suitable PFD while out on the water. We also see an underlying danger that younger generations are inadvertently being taught that lifejackets are a precaution for less experienced sailors, rather than an essential piece of kit that should be worn at all times, as they are often made to wear lifejackets by experienced sailors who aren’t wearing one themselves.

Helly Hansen and the RNLI have been strategic partners since 2018 and are committed to working together to educate and influence those at risk from drowning. For advice on PFDs and how to keep safe while out on the water, visit the RNLI website: www.rnli.org/safety

For more advice on choosing the best lifejacket visit the Helly Hansen website: www.hellyhansen.com/news/how-to-choose-a-life-jacket/

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