Life Jacket Rules in QLD

Life jackets are important safety equipment for anyone undertaking boating activities. In Queensland, Australia, specific regulations govern the use and requirements for life jackets (also known as personal flotation devices or PFDs). This blog post aims to provide a clear and straightforward summary of these regulations to ensure safety and compliance for all boaters and water enthusiasts. For more information please visit the official govt website here

Life Jacket Rules in Queensland

The Queensland Government, through Maritime Safety Queensland, enforces mandatory life jacket regulations to enhance safety on the water. Here are the key rules you need to know:

  1. Compulsory Wearing Situations:
  • When crossing a designated coastal bar in an open boat less than 4.8 meters in length.
  • If under 12 years old (aged 1 year or more but less than 12 years) in an open boat less than 4.8 meters long and underway.
  • When on a personal watercraft (a ‘jet ski’).
  1. Boat Owner/ Skipper Responsibilities:
  • Everyone on board must be informed about where the safety equipment is kept, with clear signage indicating where life jackets are stowed. Signage must feature the word ‘life jacket’ in red text on a white background or white text on a red background.
  • Ensure life jackets comply with Australian Standard (AS) and display information about which Australian Standard (AS) they were manufactured. The current standard is AS 4758, which has replaced AS 1512-1996, AS 1499-1996, and AS 2260-1996.
  • Life jackets that comply with old standards (AS 1512, AS 1499, or AS 2260) can only be used if a ship was equipped with them before 1 September 2016 and are within their serviceable life.

It is important to note that Different types of waterways require specific life jackets for safety. In calm waters, like shallow lakes and gentle rivers, a basic life jacket is enough. These lifejackets are for safer conditions with a low risk of incidents.

However, areas like coastal waters and large lakes, which can be somewhat calm, require life jackets with better buoyancy and safety features. These places can have moderate risks, such as stronger currents and sudden weather changes.

When heading out into rougher waters, like offshore or open oceans, strong lifejackets are paramount to safety.  These lifejackets need to offer maximum buoyancy, durability, and extra safety features to handle the risks of rough seas, strong currents, and longer rescue times. It’s important to assess the water conditions and make sure everyone on board has the right life jacket for safety.

Types of Life Jackets

All life jackets must be marked with the appropriate label indicating the life jacket level. The manufacturer marks this label, and it should be visible at the time of purchase. Here are the types based on the waters where they can be used:

  1. For Open Waters:
  • ‘Level 100’, ‘Level 150’, or ‘Level 275’ life jackets. These can also be worn in smooth and partially smooth waters.
  1. For Partially Smooth Waters:
  • ‘Level 50’ life jackets help keep you afloat, but do not have a collar to keep the head above water. They can be used by skiers or people being towed in smooth or partially smooth waters and by PWC riders.
  1. For Smooth Waters:
  • ‘Level 50 special purpose’ or ‘Level 50S’ life jackets may be specified buoyancy wetsuits for use in smooth water where the user is likely to be in the water for a short time.

Coastal and SOLAS Life Jackets

These life jackets are designed for more demanding conditions and are mostly carried by commercial boats. They offer more flotation than a Level 100 life jacket, are bulky, are designed to keep the body afloat for long periods, and come equipped with reflective tape and a whistle to attract attention.

Inflatable Life Jackets

Inflatable life jackets must comply with the same standards as foam life jackets, be gas-inflated (not rely solely on oral inflation), and display the level of buoyancy provided. They must show an expiry date and be serviced by the manufacturer or an authorized service agent before this date.

Servicing Inflatable Life Jackets

Servicing is important for maintaining the effectiveness and reliability of inflatable life jackets. Always ensure your life jacket is serviced according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.


Compliance with life jacket regulations is a legal requirement in Queensland and a critical component of water safety. By understanding and adhering to these rules, boaters and water enthusiasts can enjoy Queensland’s beautiful waterways safely and responsibly. If you’re looking for regulations in other states, please read our article on Life Jacket regulations for Australia.

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