PPE Selection >> Lifesaving Equipment and Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs)

Figure 1: Life boat with stokes basket and life ring buoy
Figure 1: Life boat with stokes basket and life ring buoy.

The OSHA Hierarchy of Controls

  1. Engineering Controls
  2. Administration Controls
  3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

If there is a danger of falling into water and drowning as identified through the Hazard Assessment required in 29 CFR 1915.152(b), employees must be protected from falls by the use of personal fall protection equipment. [29 CFR 1915.152(a)] Guard rails or personal flotation devices (PFDs) may be used in lieu of personal fall protection, even though they are not required in shipbreaking. Lifesaving equipment such as life ring buoys with ropes and ladders must be provided when working from floats, barges, or vessels. [29 CFR 1915.158(b)]

Figure 2: Working on barge with PFDs

Potential Hazards

  • Unable to self rescue or be rescued from ladder
  • Drowning

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Personal flotation devices (PFDs) such as life preservers, life jackets, and work vests must be United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved. [29 CFR 1915.158(a)(1)]
    • Note: PFDs designed only for recreational use must not be used.

  • PFDs must be inspected for defects before each use. [29 CFR 1915.158(a)(2)]
  • Defective PFDs must not be used. [29 CFR 1915.158(a)(2)]
  • PFDs should be worn and fastened properly.
Figure 3: Worker holding PFD and life ring with attached rescue line

Potential Hazards

  • Drowning
  • Hypothermia (due to delayed rescue)

Requirements and Example Solutions

  • Life ring buoys (such as life rings) must be US Coast Guard approved, be 30 inches in diameter, and have 90 feet of line attached. [29 CFR 1915.158(b)]
  • Three life rings must be provided when work is performed on a floating vessel 200 feet or more in length. [29 CFR 1915.158(b)(1)]
  • At least one life ring must be provided when work is performed on a floating vessel less than 200 feet in length. [29 CFR 1915.158(b)(2)]
  • One life ring must be provided on each staging alongside a floating vessel. [29 CFR 1915.158(b)(3)]
  • At least one portable or permanent ladder must be in the vicinity of each floating vessel on which work is being performed. The ladder must be long enough to help workers reach safety if they fall into the water. [29 CFR 1915.158(b)(5)]