Casualty Review Panel concludes 16 lives lost last year might have been saved by lifejacket wear

Sixteen people’s lives might have been saved in 2020 if they had been wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid, according to findings from the Casualty Review Panel.
Safety 09 Jul 21

In 2020, 50 percent of the 32 cases reviewed by the panel concluded that a lifejacket could have saved a life.

This figure is slightly higher than the most recent figure of 11 lives (out of 22 fatalities) but is likely to reflect an increased incident count as a result of larger visitor numbers at our coasts last year.

The Casualty Review Panel, consisting of members from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), Maritime Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), RNLI, maritime industry, academia and sports governing bodies, meets once a year to discuss the circumstances surrounding fatal maritime incidents and makes a judgement about whether a lifejacket or buoyancy aid might have saved a person’s life. According to the Panel, over the past 14 years, more than 200 lives could have been saved by wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.

Recommendations from the Panel echo the key safety messages of the recent Maritime Safety Week:
Wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid appropriate to your activity – it will greatly improve your chances of surviving the shock of entering cold water.
Check the weather and tides.
Carry a means of calling for help, a personal locator beacon, phone or radio.
Wear bright, colourful clothing that helps you to be seen in the water.

This year the Panel mentioned that responsible alcohol consumption, in addition to lifejacket/buoyancy wear, is important in ensuring safety. It is also vital that people wear a lifejacket correctly and that it is properly fitted, well maintained with a light, sprayhood and a crotch strap. 

The RYA recommends that you wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid unless you are sure you don't need to.

You can base this decision on factors such as weather conditions, the type of activity you are doing and your level of experience. If you are a beginner or still relatively inexperienced, making these judgements is often not that easy, so if this is the case, wear one at all times.

The RYA strongly recommends that you should always wear personal buoyancy:

- If you are a non-swimmer and there is any possibility of entering the water
- When the skipper deems it necessary
- When abandoning ship
- When you feel you want to wear one or if you are not totally sure that you do not need to wear one

 You can find further information about maintaining and fitting lifejackets and buoyancy aids on the RYA's Safety hub.