My lifejacket inflated accidentally, fortunately not in a serious situation. However, on inspection I noticed that the yellow material that covers the bladder has separated – a significant risk factor. This is the first time that the jacket has been inflated under duress, rather than annual checks. It looks like that the process of sealing the yellow material has been poorly completed and that the fault lies with the sewing that attaches the whistle to the material. When the jacket inflated the pressure broke through at this weak area. I suspect there are many jackets with this fault.
The jacket was bought in 2004.
The reporter and CHIRP liaised with the manufacturer of the lifejacket. The manufacturer cooperated fully and inspected the lifejacket. This was of a type that has been in service for many years with a good track record. It transpired that the lifejacket had accidentally inflated in a small locker. It appears that as the bladder could not expand fully in the confined space, there was an abnormally high stress on a seam which failed.
On the general subject of lifejackets, we take this opportunity to highlight the importance of regular checks. As a user, look at the outer casing and straps for any obvious damage. Check that the gas bottle is properly screwed tight – this can be done without disturbing the stowage of the bladder. Remember that if a lifejacket is inflated, the bladder must subsequently be re-stowed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If in doubt on this, obtain advice!
It is important that lifejackets are inspected by a competent inspector in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation. The inspection will include examination and weighing of the gas bottle. The severely corroded bottle shown in the photograph was from a lifejacket that had been in service up to the time of the inspection.
The inspector will inflate the lifejacket from a gas supply to a prescribed pressure. It will subsequently be checked to make sure that the pressure has not fallen below a prescribed allowance, taking into account any change in temperature during the test.