Label Information Regarding Dynamic Strength Testing
Inherently buoyant lifejackets have information on the label that states “strength tested at XXX MPH.” The minimum speed for any approval is 35 MPH, but manufacturers can choose to have their product tested at 50, 75 or 100 MPH. If the manufacturer wants to label the product for use as a lifejacket for PWC, waterskiing or similar towed uses, the devise must be tested at a minimum of 50 MPH.
The device is tested by attaching it to a metal frame dropped in various positions into the water from a boat or helicopter. To pass the dynamic strength test, the device cannot show any signs of mechanical damage -- such as tears, rips, loose seams, or broken or distorted hardware -- sufficient to affect its performance.
This test IS NOT an evaluation of what sort of protection the device might give the wearer in falls at those speeds. This is a common misunderstanding. The test is only intended to evaluate the integrity of the materials and construction. In fact, the label also says, ”NOT TESTED FOR PERSONAL PROTECTION FROM IMPACT.”
Lifejacket manufacturers and retailers are not allowed to use any marketing information that implies impact protection. As an example, manufacturers can not use “100 MPH “ as part of their product markings or name, nor can they use words like “impact” which might imply impact protection.
To qualify for PWC, waterskiing or similar towed uses, a lifejacket must be dynamic strength tested (also called strength tested) at 50 MPH or greater, as already noted. In addition, these vests must have three front closures, two of which must be body encircling. An example would be a front zipper and two body encircling belts, or two body encircling belts and a chest strap. This type of closure system would provide for a more secure fit in case of a fall.
When a lifejacket design does not meet the requirements of strength testing and approved closure system for a waterski device, the label must state: “Not Approved for personal watercraft, waterskiing or similar towed uses.” The goal is to have people wear vests that will not come off or tear apart in a fall. This information is now in the text of the label and the user needs to read the label carefully when choosing a lifejacket for waterskiing. However, the inclusion of this statement was introduced in 2003, so it is possible to have two identical lifejackets -- one with the statement and one without -- determined by when they were made.
The message to the user should be to read the lifejacket label of any lifejacket to see if it has any exclusions for their intended use. It is equally important to ensure the lifejacket is of the proper size so it will not come off in a fall.
As a final note, remember that no inflatable is approved for PWC, watersking or similar towed use.