Modern Outdoor Water Safety Gear Made Possible by Plastics

Two young children wearing life vests

We all know that kids love the water. Bodysurfing in the ocean. Cannonballing into the swimming pool. Diving off the pier into the lake. Waterskiing with the family. Kids and water go together like summertime and ice cream.

But sometimes they forget about safety. As an adult, it’s difficult to relax and enjoy the water when you’re concerned that kids might get hurt. That’s where a bit of planning—plus some modern safety gear—can help. While safety gear is never a substitute for adult supervision, it can help you prevent accidents and respond in emergencies … and provide a bit more piece of mind.

Water safety gear, thankfully, has come a long way over the years. Did you know the original life jacket way back in the 1850s was made with cork? Lightweight, durable, water-resistant plastics are now the norm in modern safety gear for swimming, boating, and other water fun. Here are a few ways to help keep safe around water.

  • For backyard swimming pools, a fence may not provide adequate safety for kids and pets. A well-secured, heavy-duty plastic cover can help prevent accidental drowning when the pool is not in use. And no matter how old children are, it’s a good idea to keep a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life preserver—usually made with foam plastics—readily accessible in case of an emergency. (Check with your insurance company for emergency equipment recommendations and requirements for a home pool.)
  • At the beach, rolling waves are hard for kids to resist, but sharp rocks and prickly sea creatures may lurk underneath. Plastic water shoes can help remove the worry of cut feet and pinching crabs. And high-quality, fog-resistant plastic goggles protect eyes from saltwater sting during a long ocean swim. Snug-fitting goggles can even make it possible for contact lens wearers to swim underwater without losing a lens.
  • Heading out above water? Whether pleasure cruising, fishing, or water skiing, it’s essential to wear a personal flotation device, better known as a life jacket. Every person, large or small. And sitting on it doesn’t count. The Coast Guard has determined that nearly 80 percent of recreational boat drowning occurred with no life jacket. (State laws vary, so check with your state boating law administrator or the U.S. Coast Guard for specific requirements.)
  • Life jackets have advanced significantly in recent years: today they often feature contoured plastic foam panels and easy-to-use plastic zippers, straps, and buckles for greater comfort and better fit. There are even life jackets designed for pets, many of which can get rather skittish around open water and noisy, rocking boats.
  • All boaters also should wear plastic water shoes or boat shoes with skid-resistant soles to prevent slipping on slick decks. (Well … maybe not the pets.) It’s also a great idea to have a cellphone handy in case of an emergency—bring a sealable plastic bag to help protect it from water.
  • And finally, don’t forget the importance of staying hydrated. Shatter-resistant plastic water bottles and cups are well suited to boating, beaches, and pools. Remember to stow them carefully, keep them out of bodies of water, and recycle what you can.

Swimming and boating are great summer fun when safety is given proper consideration. A bit of preventative planning and modern safety gear can help make sure your family’s outdoor fun stays fun.