March 25, 2019 4:05 pm
Updated: March 25, 2019 5:45 pm

Building a better life jacket: UNB engineering students hope new design will save lives

WATCH: A group of four engineering students at the University of New Brunswick has designed a new smart life jacket they believe could help save the lives of Canadian fishermen lost at sea. Shelley Steeves brings us that story.


A group of senior engineering students at the University of New Brunswick has designed a fishermen friendly smart life jacket they believe could help save the lives of Canadian fishermen lost at sea.

“We have grown up in these coastal communities hearing about tragedies happening in the marine industries,” said Bridget McCloskey, a senior electrical engineering student at UNB who helped design the life vest with four other engineering students at the university.

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McCloskey said after discovering how many fishermen were lost at sea in Canada last year, they wanted to design a life vest that fishermen may actually wear.

The four UNB students who designed the life jacket call their product the LifeTrack Outlast lifejacket.

READ MORE: Record number of fishing industry deaths, employee fatigue highlight 2018 TSB safety watchlist

In 2018, the number of fishing fatalities in Canada hit a record high according to the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) which indicated that of the 17 fishermen drowned at sea last year, none were wearing a life jacket.

After consulting with the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia to find out exactly what kind of personal floatation devices fisherman may actually wear, Amy Andrews, a senior mechanical engineering student, said she believes their life jacket design is not only safe but functional.

“We have designed a life jacket that has a tighter fit and is comfortable and does not restrict mobility in working,” Andrews said.

The idea is that fisherman won’t get bogged down wearing the life jacket when hauling in their catches.

Kaitlin MacIsaac tests out the students’ prototype in the pool.

Shelley Steeves/Global News

The vest, which the students sewed themselves, is supposed to be hassle-free and inflate upon impact with the water.

It also contains an automatic GPS tracking device embedded within the vest to help search and rescue teams find fishermen who have fallen overboard.

“Once it senses that inflation, it will send out an emergency message over the distress channel of marine radio,” said McCloskey.

WATCH: Safety board says commercial fishermen should be required to wear life-jackets

Statistics from the TSB show that in almost half of Canadian fishing fatalities, no distress signal was ever sent.

McCloskey says there are other tracking devices on the market but their research shows that fishermen tend not to wear them as the devices have to be pinned on and a button needs to be pressed to activate the emergency signal.

“Which obviously would be hard if you are unconscious. So our life jacket has it built-in so that as soon as you hit the water you can send it out,” she said.

READ MORE: Transportation Safety Board figures show rise in serious rail, pipeline accidents in 2017

Electrical engineering students Pheonix Bard-Cavers and Kaitlin MacIsaac were also part of the four-person team,

The team is still tweaking their design but hope to take their fishermen friendly life vest to market so that more Canadian fishermen can be saved while at sea.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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