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267 Twenty years of pfd non-wearing and wearing among child and youth boating immersion victims in Canada
  1. Peter Barss1,2,
  2. Karlyn Olsen1,
  3. Jane Hamilton1,
  4. Shelley Dalke1
  1. 1Canadian Red Cross Water Safety Program
  2. 2Division of Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada


Background Boating is the most frequent activity for water-related immersion deaths in Canada. Central in immersion/drowning is non-wearing of personal flotation devices (PFDs). Although most boating victims are adult males, wearing and compliance with regulations was assessed for children 0–14-years-old and youth 15–19 victims of immersion deaths. Indigenous were compared with other ethnicities.

Methods Annual Red Cross collection of 1991-2010 Canadian coroner data by structured questionnaire. Analysis included activity, purpose, personal, equipment, environment factors.

Results Among 2678 recreational and daily living boating victims during 1991–2010, included were infants less than 1 year old 4, toddlers 1–4 years old 18, 5–14 year olds 57 and youth 15–19 years old 219. By sex, all 4 infants were male, 13 toddlers male and 5 female, 40 of 5–14s male and 17 female, and 198 youth male and 21 female. 20% of 0–14-year-old victims were properly wearing a PFD, compared with 11% for youth 15–19 years. For 35% of child boaters, there was reportedly no PFD present, representing a violation of current legislation, and for another 27% it was unknown whether a PFD was present. Hence as many as 62% were in violation. For indigenous children, in 63% no PFD was present, and for 17% unknown, i.e., as high as 80s in violation, compared with other ethnicities where 21% were not present and 26% unknown. Concerning youth, for 40% no PFD was present, and for 28% unknown, hence as high as 68% in violation. Among indigenous youth, 58% had no PFD present and 36% unknown, i.?e., as high as 92% in violation. For other ethnicities, 41% had no PFD present and 26% unknown. 33% of 0–14-year-old non-indigenous victims were properly wearing a PFD, and 13% of 15–?19-?year-olds. Not a single aboriginal victim 0–19 years was properly wearing a PFD during the 20 year period, compared with 18% for other ethnicities. 25% of victims 0–14 years were alone or with minors only. For the remaining 75%, at least one adult was present. For 15–19-year-olds, 20% were alone or with minors only, 65% with at least one adult and 13% with others. Of the 17 victims 0–19 years alone at the time of the incident, only one was wearing a PFD. For 0–14 year olds with an adult, 25% were properly wearing a PFD, and for 15–19 year olds, 13%.

Conclusions Wearing of a flotation device was low among all child and youth immersion victims. Non-wearing was markedly lower among indigenous victims. Special effort is needed to address non-wearing and lack of compliance with regulations among indigenous peoples of Canada.

  • drowning
  • children
  • personal flotation device
  • indigenous

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