An immersion suit, also known as a survival or rescue suit, is a specialized body covering designed for flotation and survival during emergencies at sea. It is an essential safety gear on ships and oil rigs, providing protection against cold water, rough seas, and hazardous situations.
Types of Immersion Suits and Their Features
These suits are particularly crucial for sailors, commercial fishermen, and crew members onboard cargo vessels, as they enhance visibility and prevent drowning. Made of waterproof material, typically neoprene, immersion suits offer hypothermia protection and safeguard against extremities. Some suits are equipped with harnesses and adjustable ankle fittings to ensure a snug fit.
The neoprene material used in immersion suits is completely waterproof and capable of withstanding extreme temperatures, both in water and fire. When worn, the suit fully covers the person’s body, leaving no part exposed to the water. It also features a protective hood to cover the head and comes with integrated gloves. The suit’s inflatable head pillow and air bladders contribute to increased buoyancy, aiding in floatation.
Regular maintenance and inspection of immersion suits are vital. They should be checked for any holes, tears, or damage, and all components such as inflatable hoses, zippers, straps, mitts, and face shields should be examined. After exposure to salt water, the suits must be rinsed with fresh water and dried away from direct sunlight.
Ensuring Compliance with SOLAS Regulations for Immersion Suits
To ensure easy identification and immediate attention during rescue situations, immersion suits are designed in bright, fluorescent colors, commonly red or orange. These colors enhance visibility and help paramedics or rescue teams quickly spot individuals in distress.
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) provides regulations regarding immersion suits. Each person onboard a ship must have access to an immersion suit, and extra suits should be available for watchkeepers. The suits may come in insulated, un-insulated, or wearable with a life jacket versions, and they must be made of waterproof material. Immersion suits should be capable of quick donning within 2 minutes without external assistance and should provide full body coverage except for the face. They must also feature retro-reflective tapes for improved visibility.
Moreover, immersion suits must meet specific requirements, including fire resistance, the ability to perform everyday tasks while wearing the suit, capability to climb up and down a vertical ladder, and the capacity to swim a short distance. These suits are intended for use in cold weather conditions, maintaining body temperature even in freezing water. Additionally, wearers should be able to turn from a face-down to a face-up position in under 5 seconds and, if needed, wear a lifejacket over the immersion suit without assistance.