Eleven people, who drowned in 2018, might be alive today had they been wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. This is one of the main findings of this year’s Casualty Review Panel [1] who met earlier this year to discuss last year’s maritime fatalities.   

The Panel, which includes representatives of the RYA, reviewed 22 fatalities from 2018 and agreed that 11 lives [2] may have been saved if they had been wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid, down on last year’s figure of 13 lives (out of 27 fatalities).  

In the 12 years that the Panel has been meeting, is has recorded that 200 lives may have been saved by wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid.  

The majority of incidents in 2018 involved commercial fishermen (including accidents at fish farms) and anglers, many of which happened in Scottish Sea Lochs.  

The Panel’s overriding advice was to wear a lifejacket or buoyancy aid appropriate to your activity which is proven to greatly improve your chances of surviving. The Panel also recommended that people consider the following additional safety measures dependant of their activity:  

  • Carrying a VHF DSC radio and knowing how to use it to contact the Coastguard or other vessels
  • Carrying a PLB or EPIRB [3] will help rescuers to locate you and even if you’re unconscious the alarm will be raised.
  • Downloading the RYA SafeTrx app on your phone and using it in an emergency could make all the difference.  
  • Wearing appropriate clothing and carrying the right safety equipment for your sport, particularly rock anglers and sport fishermen wading in slippery rivers.        
  • Making sure your equipment is properly fitted, for example wearing a lifejacket that is correctly sized with a crotch strap attached. This follows a case where a yachtsman died because he was wearing a lifejacket that was not properly fitted, had ridden up and did not keep his head above water.

RYA Safety Advisor Andrew Norton said: “The findings of this year’s Casualty Review Panel highlight the importance of wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid when on or near the water. 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.”

#MaritimeSafetyWeek is focusing on important safety issues such as lifejacket wear this year. Tomorrow (Wednesday 3 July) as part of this, Nusrat Ghani MP will be meeting with other ministers and the fishing industry to talk about fishing vessel safety, as well as visiting an RYA Recognised Training Centre to learn about sailing programmes for young people.

Visit RYA Safe Boating for information on lifejackets, buoyancy aids and other important safety matters.  

[1] The Casualty Review Panel comprises representatives from: Angling Trust, RNLI, Royal Yachting Association, Marine Accident Investigation Branch, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, National Water Safety Forum, British Canoe Union, the lifejacket industry, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and University of Portsmouth. The panel uses data supplied from Coastguard and MAIB databases and therefore covers mostly coastal incidents. Other inland fatal angling incidents, where a lifejacket might have saved a life may have occurred during 2018 but these are not included for this exercise.
[2] These figures refers to those people who probably or possibly could have been saved had they been wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid. Where it would have been appropriate for a person to be wearing buoyancy, this was recorded.
[3] Personal Location Beacon or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon