Reading the Label (New)

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Size ›

Performance Level Icons ›

Warnings ›

Maintenance ›

Approvals ›

Classification System ›



The size of the device is shown on the label, (usually near the back of the neck) stated as a measure of mass (weight). A chest measurement or height may also be indicated.

The label is a general guideline only as body type and size vary greatly.

Most devices are adjustable for GOOD FIT!

Try it on! Try it out in the water!

Did You Know?

• Try on your device. Choose a GOOD FIT!

• Pay particular attention to GOOD FIT for children.

• DO NOT choose a size bigger for children to 'grow into'. This is dangerous as the device may come off over their head in the water.

Performance Level Icons

Devices are designed, constructed and tested under controlled conditions and assigned a Performance Level that indicates the conditions of use for which it is intended.

Performance is a combination of factors:
- buoyancy, freeboard, turning, stability and visibility.

The icons on new labels are international symbols that are adopted from the International Standards Organization (ISO) sub-committee for lifejacket standards.



Level 50 (click on image to play)
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    - swim skills expected of user

    - not recommended for weak or non-swimmers

    - close to shore and immediate assistance

    - no turning ability


Level 70 (click on image to play)
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    - calm or sheltered waters

    - close to shore or help near to hand

    - no turning ability


Level 100 (click on image to play)
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    - calm or sheltered water

    - some time to wait for rescue

    - some turning ability


Level 150 (click on image to play)
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    - offshore waters with waves

    - turning ability


Level 275 (click on image to play)
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    - offshore emergency situations

    - used with weight of extra tools, equipment or clothing



The warnings panel on the label includes important information for the user about the device and its intended use.

Icons are used to inform the user that a device may not be appropriate for certain activities, such as water-skiing, towed sports or personal watercraft.

(Some jurisdictions may have regulations about what device design is required).



The maintenance panel on the label includes information on the care and use of the device.
Icons are used to inform the user about cleaning and drying the device.

Reminders about fastening the device for GOOD FIT and the importance of inspecting for damage before use and storage are included here, with reference as well to reading manufacturers information.



The approval panel indicates that the device has been approved by the United States Coast Guard and Transport Canada.
Other important information includes:

    - approval codes

    - certification by testing laboratories

    - manufacturer's name, contact info, device lot and model numbers.


There are many different designs of devices to assist a person floating in the water. The features they offer and where they are to be used influences how they are named.


What's in a name?

Lifejackets, life vests, personal flotation devices, PFDs, float coats, life belts, lifesavers, life preservers, Mae Wests, inflation vests, buoyancy aids, etc. are all terms that have been used to describe something you wear to keep yourself afloat. Most people casually call it a lifejacket and you know what it means.

Type System (US)
The old US Type classification system called everything a PFD, a Personal Flotation Device Type I through V. In Canada they distinguished between PFDs and lifejackets (with turning ability).

Performance System (new Can/US)
The new Performance Classification System refers to a numbered scale with Buoyancy Aids at the lower range and lifejackets at the upper end.

Recent improvements to standards for lifejacket design, construction and testing have led to changes that will offer more choice to users.


Why the change?

Canada and the United States have worked together to harmonize their lifejacket standards in order to:

    - improve safety choices and encourage innovation

    - allow new approved devices to be used across borders

    - expand markets and streamline regulations


Current / Old Labels - Legacy devices

All current approved lifejackets and PFDs (personal flotation devices) will continue to be legally approved for carriage as long as they are still in good condition, readily available and of the correct size to be worn for each person on board.

US approved devices are acceptable in the USA, and Transport Canada approved devices are acceptable in Canada.

New devices with new labels under the new performance classification system are acceptable in both countries. New devices tested to new standards will be phased in as introduced by manufacturers.