A British Columbia newspaper wraps up a series on float plane safety today, but I'm writing this after reading the first installment only. According to that article, British Columbia is home to twenty percent of all commercial float plane operators in Canada. It misrepresents the situation a little by saying that BC movements represent 97 per cent of all float plane traffic at Nav Canada staffed facilities, because BC is the only place in Canada where there are floatplanes taking off and landing under the clearance of a control tower. Hundreds of flights a day take place across the country to and from places that don't even have names, let alone control towers or FSSes.
British Columbia is especially vulnerable to float plane accidents, even if they don't really have the lion's share of float plane movements, because BC float planes service remote coastal areas, where in most other provinces float traffic is in and out of remote lakes and rivers. The coastal inlets in BC are in close proximity to mountainous terrain, prone to fog and heavy rain, and often out of range of conventional nav aids. Salt water, even just moist salt air, is exceptionally hard on aircraft, so I wouldn't be surprised of airplanes operating in that environment suffered more equipment failures.
The introduction to the series criticizes existing regulations governing float planes, including the safety briefing a reported received on a Harbour Air flight, as it did not describe how to operate the exit doors. Last time I flew on a float plane I don't remember if the pilot detailed the operation of the exits, but he did give a demonstration of putting on the life jacket. The briefing card in both cases would have diagrams showing how to open the door.
The idea of passengers routinely wearing lifejackets inside the airplane brings to mind a couple of scenes from Six Days, Seven Nights (which, by the way, I first saw as an in-flight movie). When the engaged couple first travel in Harrison Ford's character's Beaver, they are asked to wear life jackets, and this effectively emphasizes their discomfort with the small aircraft. In later scenes, even ones where the protagonists are flying a bullet-ridden aircraft on a set of makeshift floats, they do not wear life jackets. Life jackets are perceived as a symbol of fear and discomfort.
I'd like to see some testing--not too hard to do in dunk tank egress trainers--on whether wearing lifejackets inside the cabin actually helps passengers escape. A lifejacket, even uninflated, impairs mobility and flexibility, and it could get caught on things. One passenger who became confused and inflated the jacket could impede the exit of others. It may be that these concerns are as silly as the argument people used to make against wearing seatbelts in cars, afraid that they would be trapped in the vehicle by their seatbelt. I'd just like to see it tested, on passengers who have had a standard briefing, including some with simulated injuries.
The safety briefing I give does include step-by-step door opening instructions. I don't fly over water sufficient to trigger a regulatory requirement for lifejackets to be present and briefed.