UK Government

Maritime And Coastguard Agency: Don’t ignore the risks – Wear a Lifejacket

Press Release   •   Jan 13, 2010 10:47 GMT

People aren’t wearing lifejackets because they underestimate the risk of falling into the water and don’t appreciate the danger of cold water shock, according to new research commissioned by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

The research, conducted by User Perspective, looked at why people don’t wear lifejackets and explored ways to encourage them to change their minds.  The MCA and RNLI hope to use this information in their lifejacket awareness campaigns.

According to the study, those going afloat did not believe there was a high risk of falling into the water and therefore felt that a lifejacket was unnecessary.

Geoff Matthews, HM Coastguard Search and Rescue Operations Officer, said: ‘Lifejackets are lifesavers. No-one intends to end up in the water, but as we all know, accidents can happen at any time in any weather. Good training and common sense help, but the facts are that several people’s lives could be saved every year if they wore a correctly fitting, well maintained lifejacket. We urge everyone going afloat, working around water or fishing to wear their lifejacket.  Lifejackets are useless unless worn.’

The study found that, even if they did fall in, people expected to climb out easily or survive for a long time in the water.  They thought lifejackets would not increase their survival time significantly.

Peter Chennell, RNLI Sea Safety Manager, said: 'People underestimate how difficult it is to get back onto a boat and they overestimate how long they can survive in the water. Water temperatures around the UK are classed as 'cold'. Wearing a correctly fitted lifejacket with crotch straps and sprayhood could double your chances of survival and significantly increase your chance of being found.’

A general lack of awareness about the effect of cold water shock was also highlighted in the report. Sudden immersion in cold water can cause increased blood pressure, a rise in heart rate and risk of gasping in water. People did not consider cold water shock as a risk and instead saw hypothermia as a greater threat.
The RNLI and MCA encourage all who go afloat in their leisure time to always put their lifejackets on when going to sea. Wearing a lifejacket has been shown to double a person’s chance of survival.  A lifejacket will buy you vital time in the water and could save your life, but only if you're wearing it.  

Lifejackets need regular maintenance checks too. They should be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area when not in use. To keep your lifejacket in full working order it should be given regular checks throughout the boating season. Lifejackets should have a full service in line with the manufacturers recommendations.

* O'Connor, P.J. & O'Conner, N. (2005). Causes and prevention of boating fatalities. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 37, 689–698

Notes to editors

* To find out more about more information and advice on lifejackets from the RNLI visit

* To find out more about more information on lifejackets from the MCA visit

Media contacts

* For more information about the MCA, contact Joanne Groenenberg, MCA Public Relations Officer, on 023 8032 9279 or 07703 584024 or by e-mail at

* For more information about the RNLI, contact Isla Reynolds, RNLI Public Relations Officer on 01202 663127 or 07899 076224 or by email at

A message from the MCA

* Stay safe - before heading out on the water get trained, check weather and tides, wear a lifejacket, avoid alcohol and keep in touch.

* The MCA is a partner in the Sea Vision UK campaign to raise awareness and understanding of the sea and maritime activities.  Sea Vision promotes the importance and economic value of the sector and works to highlight the exciting range of activities and career opportunities available to young people within the UK growing maritime sector.

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