Update on Life Jacket Suitability Project

This has been a very busy and exciting year for the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety

More than 181 lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts have tested nine different PFD designs during the last year while 262 took part in a phone survey. NECOHS photo.

life jacket/PFD project with commercial lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts. An overview of the project so far:

  • 181 lobstermen from Maine and Massachusetts agreed to trial life jackets while working, and to provide feedback on comfort and workability.  
  • Life jackets in the study were a diverse range of styles and types, from buoyancy aids to offshore life jackets. Lobstermen chose nine different models to be tested.
  • Participation in the study has been extraordinary, with a recruitment rate of 90.5% and a study completion rate of 88.4%.
  • An additional 262 lobstermen participated in a telephone survey, and 205 (77.5%) indicated that yes, they would like new types of life jackets.
  • 530 lobstermen have shared their challenges and solutions to wearing life jackets since the project began.
  • Manufacturers have received design feedback and have indicated they are already changing designs and creating new design plans to respond to the needs identified.

Lobstermen have indicated that a life jacket should be: comfortable, flat/not bulky, with no straps or buckles to snag, easy to clean, easy to use, bright in color, and for many, integrated into something already worn.
We anticipated that one or two life jacket designs would be considerably more popular and address most of the barriers to regular use. Instead, we found that personal choice featured strongly in the results. While the ratings of all nine life jackets were generally favorable, what is clearly most important is finding what you can, and will, wear comfortably while working. The best life jacket is a life jacket that you will wear consistently.
Over this coming year, we will be sharing information with lobstermen about life jackets and survival systems and increasing access to a range of life jackets at special events and dockside.
We hope this project will ultimately increase your ability to find something that you are comfortable wearing while working, and thus increase your chances of survival at sea.

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