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Fireworks Safety: How to Keep You and Your Eyes Protected

Posted on June 28th, 2021

Admiring a fireworks display is always a delightful, and often traditional, way to celebrate special occasions. But where personal safety is concerned, setting fireworks off by yourself is another thing entirely.

Fireworks safety is often dangerously ignored. People still tend to set off fireworks and sparklers in their homes and backyards rather than public parks and beaches, where it’s safest. While fireworks can be a blast (literally), both sparklers and fireworks are considered explosives, so you need to approach using them with caution.

Protecting yourself, and especially your eyes, should be the number-one priority. The most recent injury reports done by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission show that over 10,000 firework-related injuries occurred in 2019—and it’s no surprise that three-quarters of fireworks injuries happened between mid-June and mid-July, the high season for outdoor events and national holidays, like Canada Day.

Authorities in bigger cities like Toronto have noticed increased unpermitted firework use during the pandemic lockdowns and have been warning people against the dangers of operating explosives without licenses or training, stressing that fireworks safety is a priority.

Out of all the reported firework incidents, 15 percent are eye injuries. Roughly 34.3 percent of all injuries occur at home, and burns are the most common type of damage sustained; the head is said to be the most affected part of the body.

How to set off fireworks safely and prevent fireworks injuries

No matter how fun fireworks can be, remember that at their core, they are explosives and, therefore, come with all the dangers that handling explosive materials brings. Even sparklers can be dangerous, running up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Exercising caution is the primary takeaway, whether you’re the one putting on the show or one of the spectators. Did you know that 65 percent of individuals injured by fireworks have been bystanders?

At FYidoctors, we care about your eye health and safety. We’ve outlined some precautions below so you can avoid serious risks to yourself and others and know how to respond in case of a fireworks injury.

1. Never allow children to handle or play with fireworks

Children typically aren’t aware of the dangers of fireworks or sparklers and may cause injury to themselves or others around them. That’s why it’s important that any fireworks are kept locked up in a child-proof box or area.

2. Wear eye protection

As with any work environment, safety goggles are recommended anywhere near explosive or burning objects. If you don’t have those on hand, wear your own set of glasses.

3. Keep your distance

Respect any safety boundaries set out by those making the firework show. If none are in place, make sure to stay at least 150 metres away from the zone where they’re being ignited. If you’re asked to participate in an area that is too small, decline or move to a safe place. Fireworks should be set off in a large clearing, away from houses, dry leaves, and other flammable materials.

4. Know the difference between consumer, display and special effect fireworks

In Canada, fireworks are organized into three classes: Consumer fireworks are considered “low hazard” and are designed for recreational use; display fireworks are high-hazard and are for professional use only; special effect pyrotechnics are also high-hazard but include pyrotechnics for live performances in the TV and film industry. Remember, though consumer fireworks are easier to acquire, it makes them no less dangerous than their high-hazard counterparts.

5. Don’t try to relite a firework or pick it up

A dud is a dud. Malfunctioning fireworks that did not light up at first try can still be dangerous and may go off in your hands. Soak the firework in water and safely dispose of it.

6. Never point a firework at anything or anyone

This may be self-explanatory, but much as with a firearm, pointing a firework at a person or in the direction of something flammable can have disastrous consequences. Always have the firework pointing upwards.

7. Keep a bucket of water or a hose close by

Always be near a source of water to quickly put out a fire or explosive. A bucket or hose will help you put out a dud or a firework that exploded in unexpected direction. As with bonfires, a source of water will help put out a fire that may have started due to improper handling or malfunction.

8. Light fireworks one at a time

Never take out more than one firework at a time—the remains of one may be able to set off others around it, making it a danger to anyone standing near. This also ensures the safety of surrounding children, who may be compelled to play with any items that are left out.

9. Never carry fireworks in your pocket

When carrying fireworks of any kind, make sure they’re being transported in a sturdy box—preferably metal—and not in your pockets, a backpack, or flimsy bags.

10. Have a first aid kit on hand

Remember that no matter how small, the dangers of any burning flame or explosive getting out of hand will require immediate attention. Tend to any injuries immediately.

11. Don’t shoot off fireworks from glass or metal containers

Metal and glass can explode, break into pieces, and essentially behave in the same way shrapnel does, so they DO NOT make safe containers from which to ignite fireworks. The best solution is to have them imbedded in sand or soil, without using a container at all. 

12. After a firework finishes burning, douse it with water

When your firework performs, don’t just dispose of the shell. Make sure you’ve soaked it completely before disposing of it. Small particles may remain and light up unexpectedly otherwise.

13. Ensure your firework display is legal

Always ensure you’re purchasing fireworks from a licensed, trusted fireworks dealer. Since fireworks have to go through compliance, you’ll run lower chances of buying a firework that may be defective or dangerous. Have a further look at Legal & Illegal Fireworks, as determined by the government, and learn more about identifying illegal fireworks and regulations around explosives.

What to do in case of a fireworks injury to the eye

Emergencies related to firework use can be caused by blunt force trauma, heat burns or chemical exposure. Any eye injury caused by a firework should be considered a medical emergency. Follow the guide below if you or a family member has suffered any eye damage:

DO

  • Seek medical attention right away—don’t wait to call 911 for instructions.
  • Try to keep your eye as steady as possible, with little to no movement.
  • Rinse the eye with water only if you’re sure particles have not impacted the eye (i.e., are not stuck inside).
  • Try to keep the person calm and comfortable as you follow the emergency instructions.

DO NOT

  • Do not rub or touch the eyes.
  • Do not rinse the eyes if any particles have entered the eye. 
  • Do not apply pressure to the injury—keep the injury covered by a cup or bowl, ensuring nothing is touching the area.
  • Do not remove any objects lodged in the eye.
  • Do not apply ointments to the area.
  • Do not take any blood-thinning pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen, unless directed by a medical professional.

Are you ready for your next eye exam, or concerned about your eye health? Book an appointment at a FYidoctors location near you.