Public Consultation – AMSA Proposal for Mandatory Wearing of Lifejackets

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has released an options paper for consultation containing proposals to mandate wearing of lifejackets for domestic commercial vessels.

AMSA is seeking your feedback on this by 17 December 2021.

A discussion paper can be found at:

The discussion paper contains three options for industry consideration:

Option 1:

Mandate lifejacket wear requirements on all domestic commercial vessels at all timeswhen on deck.

Option 2:

Mandate lifejacket wear at all times on the following vessels:

  • vessels less than 7.5 m in length
  • vessels with only one person on board
  • fishing vessels of any length
  • unpowered barges that do not have rails or means to prevent a person falling overboard.

Plus – all domestic commercial vessel operators will also need to have a documented risk assessment and procedure on lifejacket wear in their safety management system.

Option 3:

Continue with lifejacket carriage requirements and do not introduce lifejacket wear requirements, however, all vessels must have a documented risk assessment and procedure on lifejacket wear in their safety management system.

AMSA advise that other countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand have also mandated lifejacket wear on selected domestic commercial vessels. Most Australian states and territories have already mandated the wearing of lifejackets for certain recreational vessels, although regulations on when a lifejacket must be worn differ between jurisdictions.

These proposals will address a key safety issue, as evidenced through the safety data and research findings. Since 1 July 2013, 34 reported domestic commercial vessel incidents resulted in 44 people drowning. A number of coronial findings from these incidents have concluded that the chance of survival would have been much higher had the person been wearing a lifejacket.

In 2020 alone, there were four fatalities, all involving a crew member going overboard. Three crew fatalities occurred on fishing vessels and involved (1) a solo operator, (2) a crew member working over the side and (3)a small tender vessel. The fourth fatality occurred on a charter vessel (class 2) and involved a person being knocked overboard by a sailing boom. In all these incidents none of the people who lost their life were wearing a lifejacket.

A number of Coroners have recommended that consideration be given to introducing mandatory lifejacket wear requirements for some commercial vessel operations, particularly in the fishing sector, and otherwise emphasised the importance of wearing a lifejacket. Many of these have occurred during adverse weather conditions, single-handed operation, or high-risk operations such as trawling.

Research shows that people will be more likely to wear a lifejacket if other people in their workplace are doing so and this choice is accepted by their peers. This suggests that if you wear a lifejacket, your colleagues are more likely to follow your lead and feel comfortable wearing a lifejacket. It is also an important step in overcoming the stigma associated with wearing a lifejacket.

Depending on the type of operation, wearing a lifejacket can sometimes be perceived as an additional risk. In the lifejacket trial conducted by AMSA, many fishers felt that wearing a lifejacket added increased risk due to the possibility of lifejackets becoming hooked up with other equipment on the vessel such as nets.

Another key concern amongst participants was the possibility of accidental inflation of the lifejackets. The potential of this occurring in an enclosed space or under a vessel during a rollover situation could be life-threatening due to the chance of becoming trapped and drowning. For this reason, wearing an inflatable lifejacket in an enclosed space is not advised.

Make an online submission here.

For any general enquiries about the consultation contact AMSA Connect on 1800 627 484 or +61 2 6279 5000 (outside Australia).

Feedback period closes 17 December 2021.