Over 550 children under 16 are taken to A&E in the four weeks surrounding bonfire night alone. Many more boys than girls are injured by fireworks – especially boys aged 12 to 15 years.
Children need to know that fireworks are dangerous if they are not used properly. Each year, over half of all firework injuries are suffered by children. Did you know that sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil? Sparklers are not toys and should never be given to a child under five. Fireworks are also not toys and should never be handled by children.
Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to British Standards. They should have BS 7114 written on the box. Whatever you do, don’t buy fireworks from anywhere you’re not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall, or a pop up shop.
Adult members of the public can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under Categories 1 to 3. Always read the packet carefully and make sure that the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.
Some fireworks can only be bought and used by firework professionals. These include: air bombs; aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar; all bangers; mini rockets; fireworks with erratic flight; some Category 2 and 3 fireworks which exceed certain size limits; and all Category 4 fireworks.
One responsible adult should be in charge of fireworks, they should read all instructions, make preparations in daylight and not drink any alcohol. On the night they will need:
- 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.
If you want to be safe on bonfire night take your child to your local organised event. If you are holding your own or going to a friend’s, it’s good to remember the following things:
- Children need careful supervision. Have a marker, like a rope, for the children to stand behind at a safe distance from the display.
- Avoid noisy fireworks late at night, especially after 11.00pm.
- Use a torch – rather than a naked flame – to carefully read the instructions. Remember the rule to light a firework, hold the firework at arm’s length and light it with a taper or firework lighter.
- Store fireworks in a metal box until you are ready to use them.
- Never throw spent fireworks onto a bonfire.
- It’s best to be fully in control when you’re lighting fireworks. Avoiding alcohol until you’ve set them all off is the safest option.
- Don’t go back to it once a firework has been lit. Sometimes they can be very slow to get started and may take you by surprise.
- The safest place for a bonfire is at least 18 metres (60 ft) away from the house and surrounding trees and hedges, fences or sheds.
- After you’ve finished the display, make sure that anyone who is helping you to clear up uses tongs or gloves to collect all the spent fireworks to avoid burning themselves.
If someone is burnt or otherwise injured by a firework:
- Cool any burns immediately with cold water. Keep the burn under the running water for at least 10 minutes.
- Don’t touch the burn or pull at any clothing that might be stuck to it.
- If someone’s clothing catches on fire, get them to stop and drop to the ground and roll them any heavy material (like a curtain).
- Get advice from a doctor, the A&E department at your local hospital, or call the NHS for advice on “NHS 111” in England and Scotland and NHS Direct (0845 4647) in Wales.
- Get medical advice for any burn on a child larger than a postage stamp.
- If the burn involves a child’s face, hands, feet, joints or genitals, it should be seen by a doctor.