On Friday, 20 May the Department of Transport and Main Roads will be promoting Wear Your Lifejacket To Work Day – a day to celebrate and draw attention to the humble flotation device that, when worn around the torsos of mariners, has saved countless lives.
Ever since lifejackets first emerged as cork vests in the early 1800s no professional sailor in his or her right mind has considered abandoning ship in a storm-tossed sea without one. However, all too often in less troubled seas mariners – professional or otherwise – have been caught out.
In Queensland waters it is compulsory to have lifejackets stowed aboard vessels in most circumstances. But it is not compulsory to actually be wearing them except for children under 12 in open boats and for others in certain circumstances such as when crossing coastal bars.
Many Queensland boaties tend not to wear lifejackets where it is not compulsory to do so. It’s much like our attitude to wearing a seatbelt when taking off or landing in a jet aircraft. We wear it until the manoeuvre has been completed, then we unbuckle as soon as it is ‘safe’ to do so.
However, it is never truly one hundred percent safe to not be wearing your lifejacket when onboard boats. A sudden rogue wave, the wake from a passing vessel, or a loss of balance and you could suddenly find yourself in the water. Even worse, your boat could be capsized.
Once in the water it can be extremely difficult to get out again and it can be too late to be thinking about where you’ve stowed your lifejacket. You probably can’t reach it and, even if you could, it’s very difficult to put it on while in the water.
The reasons for Queenslanders not wearing their lifejackets usually centre around concerns about them being bulky and restrictive of movement or, in Queensland’s relatively warm and humid climate, the physical discomfort of having them on.
But today’s new lightweight, more breathable lifejackets mean this doesn’t have to be the case. We need to get the message out that wearing a lifejacket not only makes good sense, it is simple and comfortable to do.
That’s why TMR is marking International Lifejacket Day with our second “Wear Your Lifejacket To Work Day” on Friday, 20 May. The concept is simple – if you have a lifejacket wear it to work, and/or at work, on that day. Take a selfie of yourself doing it, post it to social media, include one of the hashtags #readysetwearit or #wearyourlifejackettowork or #lifejacketwearit in your message and invite your contacts to ‘share’ it.
Why? Because the more people see other people wearing lifejackets, the more will realise it’s an easy thing to do and are reminded of its lifesaving qualities. Some of those people will be boaties, while others will have friends or families who are.
Last year’s social media campaign on this (our first) generated quite a bit of interest, but we are looking to build on it this year – so keep an eye out for our Facebook and Twitter posts and other promotional materials and get your lifejacket out for work on Friday 20 May!
GM Maritime Safety Queensland