Many people enjoy fireworks and, asides from New Years, October-November is the most popular time for home firework displays in the UK, with Diwali and Bonfire Night following each other in close succession.

However, fireworks are dangerous if not used with care – they are explosives, after all. In 2017, almost 4,500 people attended A&E with firework-related injuries in England alone. This has doubled since 2009/10. Half of those hospitalised were 18 or younger. Injuries commonly occur to the hands, eyes and face, and typically involve burns but can also cause traumatic injury. Firework injuries can be life-changing, such as in the case of Antony Barry who lost his right eye.

Most injuries from fireworks occur at private displays at homes and in streets and other public places, by accident or because of misuse. The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to visit an organised display, which take place across the country at this time of year.

 

Safe Displays

If you do want to have a fireworks display at home, you should observe the following advice from the RoSPA:
  • Plan your firework display with safety as a priority and finish before 11pm
  • Only buy fireworks carrying the CE mark, keep them in a closed box and use them one at a time
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework carefully, 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
Only adults should handle fireworks. Additionally, the fire service recommend you should have:
  • A torch
  • A bucket or two of water
  • Eye protection and gloves
  • A bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in
  • Suitable supports and launchers if you’re setting off catherine wheels or rockets

Sparklers

Sparklers are also popular at this time of year. Although they are pretty and a firm favourite with children, don’t forget that sparklers get very hot - A sparkler can reach up to 2,000°C, or five times hotter than cooking oil. For that reason, it’s vital to follow this safety advice from the Child Accident Prevention Trust:
  • Hold sparklers at arm’s length at all times and wear gloves when handling them
  • Never hold babies or young children while you’re holding a sparkler
  • Don’t give sparklers to children under 5
  • Supervise older children with sparklers at all times. Instruct them not to wave sparklers near anyone else or run while holding them
  • Once sparklers are out, ensure they go into a bucket of water
Even if you’ve made all possible efforts to ensure your fireworks display is safe, accidents can still happen. You should definitely have a fully stocked first aid kit in your home, somewhere that’s easy to access in an emergency. In addition to regular first aid supplies, you may wish to consider Burn Stop or Water-Jel burns first aid supplies – these are especially designed to cool & protect burns and allow you to render the right first aid whilst transporting the casualty to hospital. Water-Jel products are so effective they are used by the US military and are used by medics at the British Grand Prix.

First Aid for Burns

If you don’t have burns dressings, you should stop the burning process (dousing or smothering any flames), remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt skin (unless it’s stuck to the skin), and then cool the burn as soon as possible with cool or lukewarm running water for 20 minutes. You must not use ice or iced water, or any kind of cream or greasy substance.

Be careful to keep the person warm whilst cooling the burn to prevent hypothermia. After the burn is cooled, place a layer of cling film over it. You should call an ambulance or take the injured person to A&E if the burn is:
  • Larger than the person’s hand or deep
  • Causes white or charred skin
  • Is to the face, hands, arms, feet, legs or genitals and causes blisters
Click here to see the NHS advice page about burns and scalds.

To shop for first aid kits for your home, click here. If you would like to buy specialist burns first aid supplies, click here.

About the author:

Dennis Outram is a senior first aid trainer and a Serving Brother in the Order of St John.
Find out more about Dennis.