20th October 2020

Firework safety campaign launches

With an expected rise in home firework displays this year, the public is being urged to stay safe.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
The market has changed in recent years. Fireworks have become more powerful and, if things go wrong, potentially more dangerous

With many public fireworks displays being cancelled this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the public is being warned to take extra care if they plan to put on firework displays of their own.

A joint campaign between CTSI and the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is advising on the safe purchase and storage of fireworks, as well as reminding retailers of their responsibility to conform to safety regulations and age restrictions on firework sales.

The campaign, which uses the hashtag #FireworkSafe, includes posters targeted at children and adults, videos (see below) as well as safety messages being broadcast on screens at doctor’s surgeries and Post Offices throughout the country.

According to NHS Digital, there were almost 2,000 hospital visits related to injuries from fireworks last year; with hospitals already under pressure from increasing coronavirus admissions, it is more vital than ever that this year people behave responsibly so as to protect their loved ones and safeguard those relying on NHS services.

First-time fireworks 

Robert Chantry-Price, CTSI Joint Lead Officer for Product Safety, said: “COVID-19 has meant that many public firework displays will be cancelled this year and that parents and carers will opt to buy fireworks and let them off in their back gardens. The growing popularity of public displays in recent years means that for many this will be the first time they will have ignited their own fireworks.”

Phil Owen, Service Director Profession Relationships at CTSI, said: “This has been a difficult time for the public, and we understand that many wish to unwind and enjoy themselves. There is, however, no excuse for lax safety procedures, and we encourage anyone intending to use fireworks to read the safety advice.”

Chantry-Price cautioned: “The market has changed in recent years. Fireworks have become more powerful and, if things go wrong, potentially more dangerous. A new category of firework has come on the market – ‘compound fireworks’ – which combine two or more different types of firework, each of which can provide a very different display.”

Compound fireworks typically have a longer duration than other types of firework, with one ignition leading to several minutes of explosions. They can also contain up to 4kg of powder.

Ian Hillier, CTSI Lead Officer for Explosives, said: “In recent years there have been increasing numbers of complaints of anti-social use of fireworks in some inner-city areas. Those involved may not realise that setting off fireworks in the street or other public place is a criminal offence and is extremely dangerous. There are also reports that smoke bombs and emergency flares are being set off in public places. Smoke bombs and emergency flares are not fireworks and possession of them by the public is an offence with serious consequences under explosives legislation.

“Bangers were banned some time ago, but they have illegally appeared on sale from white vans in the run up to November 5. Nobody should buy fireworks from vans or any other unlicensed source.

“Buyers should be wary of fireworks offered for sale on social media. Fireworks can be bought online but only from licensed sellers who use specialist delivery companies; fireworks must not be sent through the mail system.”

Simple steps

There are simple measures the public can take to stay safe, said Chantry-Price. “Read the instructions for use carefully in good light before the event takes place, rather than on the evening of the event when it is dark and difficult to see what is written on the packaging.

“Make sure that bystanders are kept at a safe distance from the firework when it is ignited,” he added. “If a firework fails to ignite, don’t try to reignite it. Doing so may cause it to ignite immediately, causing severe burns to the hands and face.”

Finally, “Plan your display in advance and identify the safety precautions that need to be observed by all concerned.”

The safety campaign advises the public to:

  • Buy fireworks from reputable retailers and ensure they are CE marked.
  • Store fireworks safely and as per instructions, ensuring they are away from those aged under 18.
  • Use fireworks as per safety instructions, ensuring they are not handled by those under 18.
  • Be considerate when using fireworks by informing neighbours that you intend to use them.
  • Ensure you are setting off fireworks within correct curfew hours.
  • Protect animals and vulnerable people from fireworks.

It also encourages people to understand the four different categories of fireworks: Category 1 comprises ‘throwdown fireworks’ such as firecrackers, bangers and party poppers which can be used indoors. Category two consists of ‘garden fireworks’ which must be used outdoors and be safely viewable from 5 metres away, while Category 3 must be safely viewable from 20 metres away. Category 4 are professional display fireworks available only from specialist suppliers and are not suitable for consumer use.



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