Introduction: Accidental immersion in cold water is an occupational risk. Work suits and life jackets (LJ) should work effectively in combination to keep the airway clear of the water (freeboard) and enable self-righting. We hypothesized that inherent buoyancy, in the suit or LJ, would be beneficial for enabling freeboard, but its distribution may influence LJ self-righting. Methods: Six participants consented to complete nine immersions. Suits and LJ tested were: flotation suit (FLOAT; 85 N inherent buoyancy); oilskins 1 (OS-1) and 2 (OS-2), both with no inherent buoyancy; LJs (inherent buoyancy/buoyancy after inflation/total buoyancy), LJ-1 50/150/200 N, LJ-2 0/290/290 N, LJ-3 80/190/270 N. Once dressed, the subject entered an immersion pool where uninflated freeboard, self-righting performance, and inflated freeboard were measured. Data were compared using Friedman’s test to the 0.05 alpha level. Results: All suits and LJs enabled uninflated and inflated freeboard, but differences were seen between the suits and LJs. Self-righting was achieved on 43 of 54 occasions, irrespective of suit or LJ. On all occasions that self-righting was not achieved, this occurred in an LJ that included inherent buoyancy (11/54 occasions). Of these 11 failures, 8 occurred (73% of occasions) when the FLOAT suit was being worn. Discussion: LJs that included inherent buoyancy, that are certified as effective on their own, worked less effectively from the perspective of self-righting in combination with a work suit that also included inherent buoyancy. Equipment that is approved for use in the workplace should be tested in combination to ensure adequate performance in an emergency scenario.
- clothing combinations