Watching an organised fireworks display on Bonfire Night or lighting your own fireworks can be exhilarating for children and adults alike. The interplay of light, colours, and sounds make for a magical experience. However, this is one of those times when you cannot afford to drop your guard and soak up the magic of the moment.
By their very nature, fireworks pose an inherent risk. As innocuous as they might look, fireworks are explosives. They can reach speeds of up to 150 mph and have a burning temperature of up to 2,000 degrees Celsius. This combination makes them extremely dangerous. Being injured in a firework accident can result in life changing consequences.
Safety Precautions While Attending Organised Public Fireworks Displays
Organisers of public fireworks displays should be fully aware of their liability and their legal duty of care towards spectators as well as staff. They will usually go to great lengths to put safety measures in place to prevent any accidents. You can also do your part to minimise the risks by respecting the safety barriers that are erected and staying at a safe distance from where the fireworks are being exploded.
While you may not have complete control over events that transpire at public fireworks displays, you can and should observe safety measures if you are hosting a private party that involves fireworks.
15 Tips To Stay Safe At A Private Fireworks Display
- Plan your firework display well in advance taking great care to identify potential risks. As part of your risk assessment, look for inflammable items nearby that could catch on fire and cause it to spread. If there are items such as piles of dry leaves, a wooden shed or fence, dry shrubbery, or electric wiring, look for an alternate, safer location.
- Only buy fireworks from a reputable retailer and check that they are marked BS 7114. This mark certifies that it complies with the Firework Regulations 2004
- Keep all fireworks in a closed metal box out of reach from children till it is time to use them. Unpack the fireworks carefully while staying well away from any naked flame, flammable material or open flame.
- Light fireworks one at a time to minimise the risks. Lighting too many at the same time can be distracting and dangerous.
- Read the instructions on each firework before use and make sure to follow the instructions exactly. Never generalise or assume you know how to use any firework. Each one has its own specific instructions for lighting and its own safety warning too. Use a torch if there is no natural lighting around. Do not use a naked flame to read the instructions. The heat of the naked flame may set off the firework while it is still in your hand.
- Enforce a ‘no naked flames and no alcohol’ rule at the display site. This means no cigarettes either.
- When lighting a firework, hold it away from you at arm’s length and light it with a taper or firework lighter.
- Make sure children are supervised at all times during the display. Keep an adult in charge of the unlit fireworks at all times to make sure no smaller child gets hold of them. As an additional safety measure, put up a rope or other barricade for children to stand behind so they are a safe distance away from where the fireworks are being lit.
- If you have rocket fireworks as part of your display, take care to direct them away from spectators.
- Never go straight back to any firework once it has been lit. If it has not gone off, leave it where it is but keep an eye on it. Avoid the temptation to pick it up in an attempt to re-light. It might still be live and just slow to get started. A delayed explosion could cause serious injuries. Thirty minutes is the bare minimum time you should wait before approaching it again.
- Do not put fireworks in your pockets at any time and do not throw them anywhere.
- Keep at least one if not more buckets of water handy to put off any accidental fires and to soothe accidental burn injuries.
- Pets can be a risk to themselves and to the spectators. Keep your pets indoors for their safety and everybody’s safety.
- After the display is done, check the area and make sure the fire is out and the surroundings are safe before leaving. Use tongs or a pair of strong gloves to gather up all spent fireworks so the site is safe for other people and animals.
- Pay attention to the weather on the night of your display. If it is a very windy night, you must consider putting off the display altogether. With a strong wind, you have no control over the direction of the fireworks, increasing the risks to your guests and the surroundings. It may be disappointing but better safe than sorry.
A Special Note Regarding Sparkler Safety
Most people tend to get careless around sparklers in particular and that’s because they seem like harmless fun. They aren’t. Sparklers are explosives, just like any other firework. They burn at up to 2000 degrees Celsius, which is 20 times the boiling point of water.
As a rule, children under five should not handle any fireworks on their own, including sparklers. They are too young to understand the risks and are more likely to get careless in their excitement.
Children over the age of five may be a little more responsible, but they still need to be supervised at all times. Before you hand any sparklers to an older child, take time to explain the rules to them with special emphasis on no running around while holding a lit sparkler and no waving it near anything or anyone.
Anybody handling a sparkler should wear gloves to reduce the risk of being burned.
Avoid holding lit sparklers while holding a baby or toddler. They may reach out unexpectedly to grab it, creating a dangerous situation for both of you.
Put all spent sparklers in a bucket of water to douse them out completely and cool them down instantly.
When it comes to lighting fireworks, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Following the basic safety tips above and staying vigilant at all times can help minimise the risks involved.