print header

Injury Prevention

The Differences Between a Lifejacket and PFD

A lifejacket is NOT the same as a personal flotation device (PFD), although in many cases they look very similar. The terms "lifejacket" and "personal flotation device (PFD)" are often used interchangeably but there are very important differences. See below for a chart on the differences between a lifejacket and PFD.


Personal Flotation Device (PFD)

  • A lifejacket is designed to turn an unconscious person from face down to face up in the water, allowing them to breathe.
  • Lifejackets have more buoyancy than PFDs. Most of the buoyancy material is in the front of the device.
  • Lifejackets must be red, yellow or orange, and must have a whistle attached. These features make it easier to be located in a rescue situation.
  • A lifejacket is the best choice if your child is unable to swim or is a weak swimmer. It will give your child the best possible chance for survival should they end up in the water unexpectedly.
  • A PFD is designed to keep a conscious person afloat in calm conditions.
  • PFDs have less buoyancy. The floatation material is on the back of the device. This makes them less bulky and more comfortable allowing for greater movement than a lifejacket.
  • Canadian-approved PFDs are available in a variety of colours. Bright colours allow a person to be seen easily in the water if help is needed.
  • PFDs were designed for use in recreational boating and are a good choice for people who are confident in the water.

For more information please visit Canadian Red Cross – Lifejackets and PFDs

Did you find what you were looking for today?
What did you like about this page?
How can we improve this page?

If you have any questions or concerns that require a response, please contact Health Connection directly.

Thanks for your feedback.
Failed to submit comment. Please try submitting again or contact us at the Health Unit.
Comment already submitted ...