faqs lifejackets

Frequently asked questions 

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Q: What is a lifejacket?

A: A lifejacket is a personal flotation device (PFDs) and found in the Personal Lifesaving Appliances (LSA) section of the Survitec marine and energy categories. There are various types of lifejacket on the market, each with specific features aimed at different applications. Our expert designers work closely with a wide range of professional organisations to refine every aspect of lifejacket design and construction. As a result all our lifejackets are designed, tried and tested with real life situations in mind. We learn from different markets and are quick to transfer innovations across our lifejacket ranges - ensuring what we supply includes nothing but the most up-to-date design technologies.


Q: What is the difference between a lifejacket and a buoyancy aid

A: Although both are called personal flotation devices (PFDs) they are quite different. A lifejacket is designed to support the wearer in the water face up and will also rotate them into a face up position - even if they’re unconscious. Lifejackets offer more buoyancy, which helps to increase the distance between the waterline and the airway (known as mouth freeboard). A buoyancy aid is not designed to fully support the wearer in the water face up, but is designed to provide buoyancy to help support the wearer in the water and reduce fatigue. Lifejackets are designed for swimmers and non-swimmers alike whilst buoyancy aids should only be worn by competent swimmers and where help is close to hand.


Q: How does a lifejacket keep you safe?

A: The key aim of a lifejacket is to protect the wearer’s airway. Lifejackets do this by working to rotate the wearer into a face-up position and by increasing mouth freeboard. The highly visible lifejacket bladder combined with reflective tape means that by wearing a lifejacket you increase your chances of being seen in the water.


Q: What is the difference between a Manual, Automatic and Hydrostatic lifejacket?

A: These refer to the lifejacket’s inflation mechanism which governs how it is activated to inflate.

  • Manual – Lifejacket must be manually activated by wearer
  • Automatic – Lifejacket will inflate automatically after the inflation mechanism has been in contact with water for a short period of time
  • Hydrostatic (aka Hammar’) – Lifejacket will inflate automatically after the inflation mechanism has been in contact with water for a short period of time and at a specified depth of approx. 20cm or more


Q: Will my lifejacket automatically inflate when I fall in the water?

A: No, some lifejackets are designed to be manually activated only. Always make sure you know what type you’re wearing and if it is suitable for the activity. All inflatable gas lifejackets will come with a manual override, make sure you know where this is and that it is accessible.


Q: What is lifejacket buoyancy measured in?

A: How much buoyancy a lifejacket has to offer is measured in Newtons or Lbs. The higher the number, the more buoyancy offered. For example, a 275N lifejacket contains more buoyancy than that of a 150N. For someone who is going to be in a remote area where help is not close to hand or the wearer is going to be wearing additional/heavy clothing, then it is recommended to opt for a higher level of buoyancy. Clothing, such as heavy weight foul weather gear will trap air between the clothing and can affect how the lifejacket rotates and holds the wearer in the water. The additional buoyancy of the 275N lifejacket will help overcome this affect.


A: Do I need to service my lifejacket?

A: As a lifejacket manufacturer we would always recommend an annual service, however depending on your operation and the approval authority you are governed by it may also be a legal requirement.   

  • Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS) – If you are operating under SOLAS, professional lifejacket servicing is a legal requirement and must be performed annually.
  • ISO – The MCA state that the owner should follow the manufactures guidelines for servicing, in this case this means performing a professional service annually.


Q: Where can I get my lifejacket serviced?

A: Survitec is the world leader in the supply, inspection, testing and maintenance of safety and survival equipment. Through our network of 500+ accredited service stations, we are able to offer a truly global service covering 2,000 ports worldwide.

We have a strong reputation for reliability of service and workmanship. Our work is always of a high standard and our technical ability is continuously being upgraded with the latest equipment, facilities and training. With over 160 years’ total experience to our name, we ensure your equipment receives only the very best care and attention throughout its entire safety lifecycle.


Q: Does the service station need to be ‘Survitec approved’?

A: All Survitec and 3rd party Survitec approved service stations are audited and approved to the highest standards of legislative organisations and government associations as well as the product original equipment manufacturer (OEM).    

When organising your lifejacket servicing owners should ensure they are using a fully approved service station for the brand of lifejacket owned. Authorised service centres will have access to the correct service manuals for your lifejacket and would have undergone all of the relevant product training.  These highly technical documents are a key tool for the lifejacket service engineer.

Not using an authorised service centre could potentially increase the risk of your lifejacket failing to perform at a critical moment.  Unauthorised service centres may not use genuine parts from your lifejacket manufacturer, and these may end up damaging your lifejacket – all lifejacket spare parts are not made equal.  If you do use a non-approved service station please note that this will not only invalidate your warranty and any liabilities, but crucially will leave you and your crew at serious risk.


Q: What happens during a Survitec lifejacket service?

A: All lifejackets serviced at an approved Survitec service station will be subjected to a rigorous inspection by a fully qualified technician to ensure it is fit for purpose and maximise its performance if needed in an emergency. Please visit our ‘Lifejacket Servicing’ page for further details.


Q: In addition to getting my lifejacket serviced, is there any other recommended checks that I should be doing?

A: Yes, your lifejacket is an important item of technical safety equipment. The working life of the lifejacket will be prolonged by following the care and maintenance guidelines highlighted in your user manual. If you’re not confident in how to do any of the checks or suspect your lifejacket may be damaged, then please refer to your user manual or your closest Survitec approved service station for advice.


Q: What does my ‘Product Serial Numbers’ mean?

A: Product serial numbers will be allocated to all products after final assembly, testing and inspection and will conform to the following standard format. Example below:




Year: 13 = 2013 Month: 09 = September Unique Serial Number: 12345


Q: What does the number mean on my inflation chamber?

A: This is positioned along the bottom edge of the left-hand side of the bladder when worn. In addition, every batch will carry an identification number which is applied after testing. This number will conform to the following standard format that enables traceability of the product.


Q: What is included on an inflatable SOLAS lifejacket as standard?

  • SOLAS approved reflective taping
  • SOLAS approved light
  • Twin Automatic inflation chambers
  • Whistle
  • Buddyline
  • Crotch straps
  • Load bearing lifting becket/s


Q: What is included on an inflatable ISO lifejacket as standard?


  • SOLAS approved reflective taping
  • Whistle
  • Crotch straps
  • Load bearing lifting becket/s


Q: What other additional extras* can you find on a lifejacket?


  • Emergency Breathing Systems (EBS)
  • Personal Location Beacon (PLB)
  • Automatic Identification System (AIS)
  • Accessory pockets
  • Surface lifejacket light / strobe
  • Crotch straps
  • Spray hood
  • Safety knife
  • Safety line
  • Fall arrest harness
  • Quick release belt

*Any additional equipment added must be approved for use with the specified lifejacket


Q: What standard components of an inflatable lifejacket have expiry dates?


  • Automatic capsule – Located on automatic lifejackets. 3 years from manufacture. Replace component as per the date shown or if it has been fired
  • Hydrostatic capsule – Located on automatic lifejackets. 5 years from manufacture. Replace component as per the date shown or if it has been fired
  • Surface light – 5 years from manufacture. Replace component as per the date shown or if it has been activated for an extended period of time
  • Cylinder – No expiry date, only change once used or if there is sign of damage or corrosion. Ensure there is no corrosion on the thread or main body of the cylinder. There is minimum weight stamped on the cylinder, as long as the cylinder weighs at least this, it is fine. Just as importantly please check that the correct gas charge is used, the size will be marked on the bladder next to the firing mechanism.



Aviation Lifejackets

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Q: What is the difference between a marine lifejacket and an aviation lifejacket?

A: Lifejackets for use on commercial aircraft are always approved to recognised Technical Standard Order (TSO) issued by EASA, FAA or other local aviation regulators. Marine lifejackets must adhere to different approvals, such as ISO or SOLAS, created specifically for those operating in marine environments, such as offshore platforms, vessels or ports.

Both aviation and marine lifejackets have two separate means of inflation - one primary means and a standby oral inflation system capable of repeated use. The primary means of inflation on all aviation lifejackets will be manual activation. Automatic activation is not permitted in aviation lifejackets. This is to prevent the risk of inflation inside the aircraft cabin which would impede escape in an emergency situation. A marine lifejacket, on the other hand, still needs to have two seperate means on inflation, but there is a choice of manual, automatic or hydrostatic activation in addition to the oral inflation. For more, visit the FAQ on firing mechanisms in the marine lifejacket FAQ section.

The performance level of a marine lifejacket is measured in Newtons (as set by the International Standards Organisation standard), which is an indicator of the lifejacket’s buoyancy and subsequent in-water performance. Aviation lifejackets are not governed by these standards, however you may see these buoyancy ratings included in an aviation lifejackets’ description. In this case, it would be for operator guidance only.


Q: What is the difference between a lifejacket used for helicopter purposes and for commercial airline purposes?

A: Commercial airline lifejackets are much simpler in design - they are fundamentally a bladder with no cover and are only donned and inflated in the event of an emergency.

Alternatively, aviation lifejackets such as the Halo, are designed for use by helicopter crew and passengers operating to or from offshore structures. These are worn for longer periods of time during transit over water and are classed as ‘constant-wear’ lifejackets. These offshore transfer aviation lifejackets feature a bladder cover that usually employs performance textiles, such as fire retardant or abrasion resistant fabrics, and can often contain additional capability such as storage for equipment and use with immersion suits. New regulations in certain regions, namely the UK, also require the use of an integrated emergency breathing system (EBS) for both passengers and crew.

Survitec’s new aviation lifejacket, Halo, incorporates over 60 years’ of market-leading experience in lifejacket design, coupled with extensive industry insights to offer the very best in comfort, style and performance. Click here for more Halo insights.


Q: What approvals do Survitec’s aviation lifejackets hold?

A: Survitec’s aviation lifejackets hold FAA, CAA or EASA approval. Since 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and EASA have reciprocal acceptance for TSOA and ETSOA approvals, meaning Survitec ETSO approved products can be supplied and used globally.


Q: How often should a commercial airline lifejacket be serviced?

A: On a five or ten year basis - depending on the type of valise.


Q: How often should Survitec’s aviation lifejackets be serviced?

A: Survitec’s offshore transfer aviation lifejackets have annual servicing requirements for operators - with a more frequent regime suggested for the OPITO training provider network on the Halo training lifejacket.

Every 5th year the lifejacket’s EBS (where included) is required to undergo a hydrostatic test. All offshore transfer aviation lifejackets (and EBS) also require daily checks as part of the required servicing methodology to ensure it remains in an action-ready condition.


Q: What does an aviation lifejacket service typically involve?

A: The lifejacket is completely unpacked, and all parts are inspected for wear or damage. Any items that may be out of date such as a lamp battery would be replaced as would any rubber seals in the inflation mechanisms. The lifejacket will be inflated and checked for integrity before being re-packed, service record card updated and place back inside the valise. Any additional equipment found on helicopter lifejackets including air bottles will be assessed to damage and replenished if necessary.


Q: Out of Survitec’s 300+ service stations, how many can service the aviation lifejackets?

A: Any station that has the necessary approvals to service TSO approved commercial aerospace components. This may also involve Part 145 approval.


Q: Where can Survitec’s aviation lifejackets be used?

A: Survitec’s offshore transfer aviation lifejackets are suitable for use in a variety of different environments - including offshore transfer to platforms and wind farms, air-sea search and rescue and private transfer.


Q: What are the compatibility requirements between an offshore transfer aviation lifejacket and immersion suits?

A: With the introduction of additional European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) regulations in 2006, Survitec commenced development on a new generation of immersion suit. The result was the 1000 Series range. Utilising the latest in anthropometric research and technical textiles, the 1000 Series set a new standard in materials integrity, thermal performance, sizing methodology, donning and consistent performance. This range of immersion suits are fully compatible with Survitec’s offshore transfer aviation lifejackets.


Q: Are there training alternatives of operational offshore transfer aviation lifejackets available for training providers?

A: Yes - the Halo training lifejacket has been developed to meet a market demand for lifejackets capable of withstanding the repetitive rigours of training programmes. Based on customer feedback from leading global OPITO approved training providers (TPs), this training option is an authentic reproduction of the Halo lifejacket.


Q: Are there any requirements for product user training for personnel travelling offshore?

A: Yes - Survitec supported OPITO with the development of its ‘Compressed Air Emergency Breathing System (CA-EBS) – Initial Deployment Training’ course during 2014 with the world’s first Cat A CA-EBS. This training standard was developed and produced as part of Survitec’s Halo’s certification process. The course is designed for personnel travelling to or from offshore installations/vessels via helicopter where a CA-EBS will be provided for use in the case of an emergency ditching. It provides the delegate with the knowledge and understanding of the particular hazards and properties of a CA-EBS and appropriate emergency response actions

to take should the requirement for emergency use arise. Delegates must hold BOSIET/FOET or T-BOSIET/T-FOET OPITO approval prior to attending this course.



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