Off-the-Job Safety: Fireworks Safety

Fireworks account for a substantial number of preventable injuries and fires each year, especially during the weeks before and after the Fourth of July, and United States Fire Administration (USFA) is warning people celebrating the Fourth with fireworks to be extra cautious and to follow a few safety procedures.

Parents need to be especially vigilant during this period, ensuring children do not possess illegal fireworks or mishandle legal ones. Despite federal and state regulations on the type of fireworks available for sale to the public, even fireworks sold legally carry an elevated risk of personal injury. Because of this, the safest way to enjoy them is through public displays.

“Across the nation, residents will celebrate the birth of our nation with fireworks – both legal and illegal,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Gregory Cade. “These pyrotechnics become bigger, brighter and more dangerous each year. By taking some simple steps for safety, those choosing to use fireworks can ensure they will not end their celebrations by seeking medical treatment for injuries by their use.”

Statistics maintained by the fireworks industry indicate that last year, Americans used 280 million pounds of display and backyard pyrotechnics. Industry specialists once again have forecasted a growth in sales during 2008. The USFA recommends the following safety procedures when using fireworks during the days surrounding the Fourth of July:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them. Some states allow the sale of fireworks but make it illegal to set them off without proper permits.
  • Avoid buying fireworks that come in brown paper packaging, as this can often be a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and could pose a danger to consumers.
  • Adults should always supervise fireworks activities. Parents often don’t realize that there are many injuries from sparklers to children under five. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.
  • Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Move back a safe distance immediately after lighting.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not fully functioned.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • Light one item at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
  • After fireworks fully complete their functioning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding to prevent a trash fire.

Additional information regarding safety issues and the dangers of fireworks can found at http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/downloads/pdf/tfrs/v5i4.pdf.

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