We asked experts RoSPA to give us the low-down on firework safety. A very important read if you’re planning your own display this year. If you are building your own bonfire, be mindful of sleeping hedgehogs and other small animals. The entire pile should be re-sited before being lit, if not possible, use broom handles to lift from the base of the pile, and shine torches, looking and listening carefully for any
signs of life. Have fun!
Bonfire Night is an exciting time of year and a great family occasion with plenty of whizz-bangs and toffee apples to keep the kids entertained.
I’m sure that many of you will be attending an organised firework display this year and while this is the safest option, I understand that not everyone can attend such events, so take time to brush up on the Firework Code, especially if you have chosen to have a firework display at home.
Each year, RoSPA hears about people being injured by fireworks and the traumatic experiences victims have gone through, including lifelong scarring and years of treatment. This is why it’s important that families ensure that fireworks are handled only by adults and treated with respect.
About half of these injuries happen at family or private parties and about a quarter in the street or other public place. A much smaller proportion – around 10 per cent – of the injuries happen at large public displays.
Data collected across Britain in previous years shows that, on average, around 1,000 people visit A&E for treatment of a firework-related injury in the four weeks around Bonfire Night, with half of the injuries being suffered by under-18s. The minimum age for buying fireworks is 18 across the UK, so it is important for adults to help children and young people to understand the dangers and to stress that fireworks are not toys or missiles, but explosives which have the power to maim if handled incorrectly.
It is also important that families have the necessary safety preparations in place if they are thinking of staging a fireworks party at home. Ask yourself, is your garden big enough for the fireworks you are buying and seriously consider if your garden is big enough to have a bonfire? Lighting it too close to a fence or shed could spell disaster. Do you have a safety plan in place in the event of an emergency? Have you set up an appropriate cordon? Young people should watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance and follow the safety rules for using sparklers.
Amy McCabe, whose son Ben was injured at a street firework display, has called on the public to choose the safer option of attending an organised display. Ben was four-years-old when he was left with permanent scarring after he was hit by a firework at the display held in a residential cul-de-sac in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow.
The rogue firework exploded from inside his jacket, setting his shirt on fire in the process. The firework, which had fallen over in the wet grass after being lit, flew off into the crowd at such speed, that initially spectators were none the wiser. It was not until Ben started screaming in pain that people realised he had been hit. Despite Ben’s jacket being zipped up to his chin moments earlier, the firework had somehow found its way inside. Surgeons told Ben’s mother Amy, 37, that her son would be scarred for life after suffering third degree burns to his chest, neck, under his right arm and behind his left ear. Ben who is now six-years-old has since undergone seven skin grafts and is continuing to receive steroid injections to help stretch and soften the skin.
RoSPA’s fireworks website – www.saferfireworks.com – has everything you need to know about planning a safe fireworks display. It provides details on UK law, tips for setting up a display and the Firework Code:
- Plan your fireworks display to make it safe and enjoyable
- Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
- Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
- Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back
- Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
- Never return to a firework once it has been lit
- Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
- Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
- Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
- Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.
Remember, only buy fireworks from a reputable retailer and ensure the packaging carries the ‘CE’ mark or is marked with ‘BS 7114′.
All that’s left for me to say is – have a wonderful time and enjoy the spectacle!
By Sheila Merrill, public health adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).