Spending time water skiing, boating or tubing isn’t a bad way to spend a summer day. Although if conditions turn, you may find yourself struggling to stay afloat.

That’s where a life jacket comes in. It’s important to stay Flotation Fit — http://www.safebee.com/flotation-fit/ — and know how to best use a life jacket.

For a life jacket to be effective, it has to be worn correctly. Chris James, UL’s principal engineer for personal flotation devices, said that a common misuse is people wearing an incorrectly sized device or wearing a device around their legs, instead of their arms, when leisurely floating in the water. Although there are some devices that have been tested for use around the legs, most have not, so avoid it. Unless specifically tested for use around the legs, if an emergency occurred, wearing all of the flotation around your legs will not assist with keeping your head above water.

Check the fit

When you do wear a life jacket correctly, it’s important to make sure it fits. For adults, this means to find a jacket with the correct chest size and weight. For children, look at the weight the jacket is rated for.

Whether you shop online or in a brick-and-mortar store, make sure your life jacket fits before you throw away the receipt. To do that, put the life jacket on and have a friend or family member put their fingers between your shoulder and the device and gently lift up. If the device covers your mouth, nose or eyes, then it’s too big.

Also, the front pads need to touch. If they don’t, you need to choose a life jacket with a larger chest size.

Test it, don’t regret it

Testing whether or not the life jacket actually fits you properly could save your life. At the beginning of every swimming and boating season, each life jacket should be put on correctly and tested in a safe situation, such as a shallow pool, to check to see if they continue to fit you properly.

Use life jackets properly

While it may be apparent, the best thing you can do with a life jacket is wear it properly and not use it for reasons not intended by the manufacturer. James cautioned against people attaching life jackets to the sides of their boats to use as improvised boat fenders.

“That kind of impact on the foam is not tested during certification,” James said. “You could actually damage the foam so that the life jacket wouldn’t provide the amount of flotation necessary to save your life.”

For more information about life jackets, look to UL’s social media channels for Flotation Fit information and this article for the different kinds of life jackets.

SafeBee Top Three

  1. Wear your life jacket correctly
  2. Don’t use a life jacket for anything other than a personal flotation device
  3. Try your life jacket on and test it before you put it to use

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