Revised Marine Order 504

Lifejacket wearing

A new version of Marine Order 504 is now in effect.

Lifejackets on domestic commercial vessels (DCVs)

On 1 August 2023, lifejacket wear requirements must be addressed in your safety management system’s risk assessment and written procedures. Vessel owners are also required to consider the management of lifejackets to ensure that they are readily available if needed. 

These changes follow extensive consultation with industry around the revised Marine Order 504 (Certificates of operation and operation requirements - national law) which will come into force on 1 August 2023.  

Get on board with lifejacket wear
lifejacket infographic
Learn more about lifejacket safety

What do I need to consider in my risk assessment?

You will need to consult with your master and crew (if you have crew) in the development or review of your risk assessment. 

Some examples of onboard operations which may require a person to wear a lifejacket include, but are not limited to: 

  • Single person operations – how likely is it that the person will be able to get back onto the vessel after they have gone overboard? What if they are injured? How will they call for help (use of a EPIRB or PLB)? Will the vessel stop (kill switch with lanyard)? 
  • Tender vessel operations – could they fall into the water when embarking/disembarking from the tender vessel? How far are they from the parent vessel and could someone else reach them in time if they do go overboard? 
  • Vessel transfers – could they fall into the water during a vessel transfer? What if the weather conditions make the transfer more dangerous? 
  • Night-time operations – will anybody know if they’ve fallen overboard? How long would it take to find them?  
  • Working over the side of a vessel – could they lose balance and fall overboard? What if the sea conditions are rough? Is the rail height sufficient to prevent them from falling overboard? 
  • Coastal bar crossings – does your state/territory have laws mandating lifejacket wear when undertaking coastal bar crossings? Is anybody on deck and not seated during a crossing? 
  • Rail height – is the rail height sufficient to prevent a person from falling overboard? What about in rough weather? Is anyone working over the side of the vessel? 
  • Emergency situations – have you included lifejacket wear in your emergency procedures where the possibility of ending up in the water is likely (e.g., collision, flooding, capsize)? 
  • State/Territory law – does your state or territory have any mandatory requirements for lifejacket wear on a DCV (e.g., coastal bar crossings, vessels less than a certain length)? These need to be included in your risk assessment and written procedures 
  • AMSA requirements – Do you operate under an exemption (e.g., EX41 – unpowered barges) or certain parts of the NSCV (e.g., Part C1 - Wearing of lifejacket when on special purpose/ special working deck or Part G – non-survey vessel with basic flotation and not carrying life raft or dinghy) that have mandatory lifejacket wear requirements? These need to be included in your risk assessment and written procedures 
  • Embarking/disembarking - what is the risk of falling overboard when embarking/disembarking? Is there a gangway, and does it have handrails and a mounted safety net? 
  • Inclement weather – is your vessel suited for operations in only certain weather conditions? Do you have sufficient rail height and non-slip decks to prevent a person falling overboard? Is it necessary for crew to be on deck in inclement weather? 
  • Setting or retrieving gear e.g. fishing, mooring – how do you safely set and retrieve gear so that a person doesn’t fall overboard? Do you use a manual or mechanical system? 

Risk assessment example

This table gives you an example of a risk assesment tool.

HazardRiskControls  Controls in place: Yes or No  
  • Person overboard – single person operation 
  • Drowning 
  • Injury 
  • Exposure to elements 
  • Remain seated while in motion 
  • Three points of contact 
  • Lifejacket always worn  
  • Anti-slip decks 
  • Avoid bad weather 
  • Wear a PLB (registered with AMSA) 
  • Notify emergency contact where going and when due back 
  • Yes

What do I need to include in my written procedures? 

Key onboard operations need to have documented procedures, including how they are reviewed when conditions change. This could include standard operating procedures (e.g., operation of tender vessels, crew transfers, use of emergency equipment etc.), checklists or simple procedural statements. 

Your procedures for key onboard operations procedures must include a risk assessment to demonstrate they are carried out safely.  

When developing your written procedures, you may want to consider the following: 

  • What are your key onboard operations? 
  • What level of documentation do you need? 
  • What do you expect from your master and crew for each procedure? 
  • How rough does the sea have to be before operations will be stopped? 
  • What will the crew be told in each procedure, for example health and safety issues, lifejackets to be worn, procedure steps, procedural outcomes?