CSBC to Explore Mandatory PFD Wear

At its next annual symposium set for fall of 2010, the Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) plans to reopen the discussion of whether or not legislation should be created making it mandatory for PFD wear aboard vessels less than six metres in length.

“We've actually decided to promote the concept of mandatory or legislated wear,” says says John Gullick, a past chair of the CSBC. “At our symposium next year we're going to have open-forum discussions, so at the end of the day we have some kind of consensus or vote statement on how we should proceed. We have much additional information, studies and background information about coldwater emersion that makes an even stronger case for mandatory wear. But we still want to see what kind of response we get from our members after we do a recap.”

Barbara Byers, chair of the Lifejacket/PFD Task Force for the CSBC, explained what the council's official position is on the issue.

“The CSBS has a best-practices position,” says Byers. “The CSBC believes that all operators and passengers of vessels should wear a lifejacket or PFD when they are in all sizes and types of kayaks, canoes and self-propelled vessels and all other types of craft that are six meters or less in length, while passengers are on deck and while the boat is underway. Our plan at the moment is to present that position to various groups and organizations and ask for their feedback for or against. Then we want them to send us a letter stating their position so we can document it.”

Presently, the CSBC has a growing list of supporters for mandatory wear legislation that includes organizations such as the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Ontario Provincial Police, CanoeKayak Canada, Lions Bay Search & Rescue (in BC), Search and Rescue Society of British Columbia and Sureté du Quebec to name a few.

“At my job with the Lifesaving Society, I've seen drowning statistics for twenty years,” continues Byers. “There is no question that the most significant contributing factor to a person drowning when boating is the absence of a PFD. Ninety percent of people who drown when boating did not have a lifejacket on. Lifejackets are the single most influential factor in a person not surviving that fall into the water. Over eighty percent of these fatalities involve people in small vessels under six metres.”

Next year's CSBC Symposium will be held at the Delta Centre-Ville in Montreal, QC, September 23 to 26.

To express your organization's opinion on the issue of mandatory PFD legislation, contact the Barbara Byers at barbarab@lifeguarding.com