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Will your old lifejacket still work in an emergency?

Kapok filled lifejackets or those with cotton straps are unsafe and cannot be sold.

25 February 2021

We’re pleased to support Maritime NZ get the message out that kapok life jackets and old lifejackets are unsafe. They may not float and save your life when you need them.

Sharyn Forsyth, the General Manager of Maritime Standards, advises:

“Any lifejackets with kapok filling or cotton straps or both should be replaced as soon as possible, and destroyed – do not use them or sell them. You should cut them or damage them so that they become unusable.

The standards ‘S’ logo does NOT mean these lifejackets are safe now. Please, destroy them.

These lifejackets are too old and won’t keep you afloat in the water. Even if they’re in original packaging, have never been used, look in perfect condition, or if they have been used previously and did float then, discard them and do not use them.”

Remember, just because you can swim, doesn’t mean you don’t need a lifejacket. In 2017, six people died on commercial vessels and 20 people died in recreational boating incidents in New Zealand. Maritime NZ says that research shows 60% of recreational boating deaths could have been prevented if lifejackets had been worn.

The bottom line: you need to wear a lifejacket that works.

Trade Me and Maritime NZ recommend that you check your lifejacket is safe to use before you sell it on Trade Me.

Signs your lifejacket should not be sold:

  • All ‘Kapok’ lifejackets are unsafe – made nearly 30 years ago, these should be destroyed as due to deterioration of the jacket any wet kapok buoyancy material will not be buoyant. Wet kapok fills with water and sinks.
  • Cotton straps are dangerous – cotton straps rot over time, even if a lifejacket is not used. In an emergency theses straps can tear or break off. When this happens, the lifejacket will come off.
  • Your jacket is older than 10 years – manufacturers say lifejackets older than 10 years usually need replacing. It’s wise advice to follow.
  • If you have any doubts, destroy it – if you want to know for certain, check in with the manufacturer, supplier or (for the commercial sector) a lifejacket servicing station

You can destroy unsafe lifejackets by making visible cuts in the jacket and then taking them to the dump.

Trade Me and Maritime NZ will keep an eye across the site, and any jackets deemed to be too old unsafe will be removed.

If you’re selling new lifejackets on Trade Me, they must meet the New Zealand Standard NZS 5823: 2005.

If you come across a jacket that seems old or unsafe, please let us know via the Community Watch function and the Trust and Safety team will get across it.