Personal Flotation Devices
Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs), also referred to as lifejackets and buoyancy aids, are categorized as "Commercial PFDs", "Recreational PFDs", or "Throwable PFDs" (e.g., Ring Buoys, Cushions, etc.). For additional information on PFD selection, use, wear, and care, please see the information at the bottom of this page.
Commercial PFDs are lifejackets intended for use on uninspected passenger vessels, uninspected commercial vessels over 40 ft (12m), and for inspected vessels. Lifejackets may rely on inherently buoyant material, inflatable chambers, or a combination of the two.
Recreational PFDs are buoyancy aids intended for use on uninspected commercial vessels under 40 ft (12m) not carrying passengers for hire and recreational boats. Buoyancy aids may rely on inherently buoyant material, inflatable chambers, or a combination of the two.
Throwable PFDs are flotation devices intended to be thrown to a person in the water, and include SOLAS ring buoys, non-SOLAS ring buoys, and throwable cushions. SOLAS ring buoys are intended to be carried on commercial vessels engaged on international voyages. Non-SOLAS ring buoys are intended for use on domestic commercial vessels. Throwable cushions and other throwable PFDs are intended for use on recreational boats.
APPROVAL FOR ALL DEVICES. All PFDs (with the exception of standard ring buoys meeting the requirements of 46 CFR 160.050) must be evaluated and tested by a Coast Guard recognized laboratory. The recognized laboratory evaluates the product, conducts the necessary testing, certifies compliant devices, and conducts factory inspections. Almost all applications for Coast Guard approved PFDs should be submitted directly to the applicant’s chosen recognized laboratory.
The Coast Guard does not review PFD design, construction, or performance; however, we will conduct a pre-approval review of any new or novel PFD. prior to submission to the recognized laboratory. The purpose of the pre-approval review is to identify serious and obvious design problems and to determine if any special testing or coordination with the laboratory may be required.
SUBMITTAL PACKAGE: Applicants should submit applications for approval directly to a recognized laboratory. The submittal package should include documents and samples in accordance with the instructions from the chosen recognized laboratory. Please contact the recognized laboratory directly for their submission requirements.
As a condition of Coast Guard approval, manufacturers must comply with the recognized laboratory’s follow-up services production inspection program.