Tips for Fireworks Safety

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Mike Henry

Fireworks displays on Canada Day and other important holidays are a beloved tradition. While many cities can be expected to put on impressive pyrotechnical displays, many families (especially those with young children) may choose to set off personal fireworks displays in their back yards. While private gatherings offer a convenient way to celebrate a long weekend while avoiding crowds, back yard fireworks displays are not risk-free.

Fireworks are not toys. They are very powerful pyrotechnical explosive devices and for this reason their sale and purchase are regulated by the federal government. Natural Resources Canada routinely tests fireworks and approves them for sale and use. Never attempt to make or discharge your own fireworks.

Consumer fireworks are also regulated at the provincial and municipal levels. Your municipality may prohibit their use, or may limit personal fireworks displays to specific holidays and locations. Before considering using fireworks, check with your local municipality to see what if any restrictions there are, particularly when and where fireworks can be used. Bear in mind that fireworks are often restricted by outdoor ‘burn bans’ during forest fire season and other dry periods. As vaccination rates increase in Canada, restrictions on the number of people allowed at private events are also easing. Be sure to review the current group size limits for your area, and follow appropriate masking and social distancing protocols.

When using fireworks, simple safety procedures must be followed. Choose a wide and clear site away from any obstacles or overhangs. Any fireworks that do not have a base should be buried halfway either in the ground or a container of earth, unless the label indicates otherwise. They should be set into the container at a ten degree angle, pointed away from people. Often firework labels will indicate a minimum safety distance for spectators, and it is good practice to follow those guidelines.

Fireworks should not be used by individuals under 18 years of age unless they are supervised by an adult. Alcohol and fireworks are a dangerous mix – anyone lighting or supervising fireworks should be sober. Read all instructions on the fireworks in advance of their use, and decide on the order of firing before beginning the show. Any unused fireworks should be kept in a cool and dry area out of reach from errant sparks and secured away from children until they are to be used.

Never try to light a firework in your hand or hold it unless the instructions indicate that it is designed to be handheld. To light the firework, always light the fuse at its tip and then clear the area. Do not light fireworks in windy conditions. It is recommended that safety glasses should be worn by the person lighting the fireworks.

If a firework does not go off, it is recommended that you wait 30 minutes before approaching, and then douse it with water. Never try to relight or repair a firework that did not go off – it should be considered defective and be disposed of safely.

Children should never play with fireworks without direct adult supervision. If a child is allowed to use hand-held fireworks such as sparklers, they should be used outside and kept away from clothing, hair and the face. Never throw a firework at a person. Never use any fireworks when there is a fire alert warning in effect. It is estimated that fire departments respond to more than 50,000 fires caused by fireworks each year.

After the fireworks display is finished, the area should be checked for any fireworks that might still be simmering. Some might not have ignited completely and may still be active and at risk for exploding at any time. All debris and used fireworks should be soaked in water before being thrown into a suitable trash bin.

Think about your pets when using fireworks. They are very sensitive to noise and they can become afraid, and distressed. Pets should be kept indoors and away from the fireworks in order to reduce their risk of running into the fireworks, or being hit by falling debris.

Should anyone be injured by fireworks, immediately call a doctor or go to the nearest hospital. Eye injuries are unfortunately frequent. You should not touch or rub the injured eye as it may cause more damage. Do not flush it out with water or apply ointment. Instead, cut off the bottom of a paper cup and place it around and over the eye area and immediately seek medical attention. If you have been burned, remove the clothing from the burned area and run cool water over it. Do not use ice.

Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed by everyone, but an accident will take the fun out of it. Fireworks are much more enjoyable when everyone knows that they are being used safely. Whether your back yard pyrotechnic display is a one-off response to pandemic restrictions, or a beloved annual tradition, taking the appropriate precautions will keep your night safe and memorable.

At Howie, Sacks & Henry we represent all manner of accident victims, including those who have been injured by fireworks or other explosives. If you or a loved one have been the victim of an injury as a result of a fireworks mishap, please contact Michael Henry at 416-361-0889 or by e-mail mjhenry@hshlawyers.com.


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