Most countries' waterway regulations require Lifejackets to be carried on all boats, with evidence that they have been recently serviced. On boats of 20m+, the Community Certificate (TRIWV) EU Directive requires a lifejacket for each person regularly onboard.
What sort do I need?
Most Lifejackets are rated at or over '150N', sufficient flotation to support an unconscious adult. However TRIWV specifies a minimum of 100N and, for smaller boats, France simply calls for 'positive buoyancy'.
Manual or Automatic?
It goes without saying that an unconscious 'man-overboard' (MOB) cannot ativate a manual jacket. In locks or when mooring there is a higher risk of hitting one's head while falling in.
Safety jackets come in many styles - e.g. as a basic harness, a gilet / waistcoat or as a full coat. Some examples are shown here
The difference between Buoyancy Aids and Life-jackets is well described here. Some take the view that a buoyancy aid gives a conscious MoB more mobility in the water. ALife-jacket will support an unconscious MOB with their head out of water: a Buoyancy aid will not!
describe the generally accepted practice in the UK and requirement in most countries - I.e. check each jacket yourself at least once a year and get them serviced by an expert every two years.
For boats of 20m+ this is a clear requirement (in TRIWV). Smaller boats are covered by each country's national legislation standard applies as far - but the same
The French Government page
describes the required security equiment on inland craft......
Recreational craft with a length of 2.50 to 20 metres and that the product of the length, width and draft is less than 100 cubic metres sailing in inland waters must be equipped with a mandatory safety equipment (Decree of April 11, 2012) depending on the type of boat and sailing area.
Pleasure boats whose length exceeds 20 meters or that the product of the length, width and draft is at or above 100 meters cubic sailing in inland waters (including registered vessels at sea) must be equipped with a mandatory safety equipment (Decree of January 19, 2009) depending on the type of boat and sailing area.
See the article on the new regulations as of 1 July 2012
Download the fact sheet Safety equipment for pleasure craft in inland navigation
Some examples of the EU and national regulations.
Community Certificate or TRIWV:
- A personalised, automatically inflatable lifejacket in accordance with European standards EN 395: 1998 or EN 396: 1998 shall be within reach of every person who is regularly on board a craft.
- Non-inflatable lifejackets in accordance with these standards shall also be admissible for children.
- Lifejackets shall be inspected in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
( EN 395:1998 - Have buoyancy of no less than 100 Newton for the average adult. EN 396:1998 - Have buoyancy of no less than 150 Newton )
"The protective suits on board pleasure boats meet at least the following characteristics:
- when used up to 3700 meters from the shore: positive buoyancy; when used beyond 3700 meters from shore: 50 N positive buoyancy, intrinsic or by adding an individual buoyancy equipment." Hence, a 50N buoyancy device is sufficient.