Every year, from the middle of October until early November supermarkets in the UK start stocking sparklers, ‘Catherine Wheels’ and rockets, among other fireworks, to cater for occasions like Diwali and Bonfire Night. Fireworks are also widely available in other festive periods such as in the run-up to New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year in February.
However, in a recent announcement, Sainsbury’s said that it would no longer be selling fireworks in any of their 2,300 branches in the UK. This makes it the first major British retailer to ban the sale of fireworks.
Thus far competitors such as Asda, Tesco, Waitrose and Aldi have all indicated that they will continue to sell fireworks.
Some animal welfare charities, such as Dogs Trust, have welcomed the move saying "although they can look beautiful, fireworks can be very distressing for dogs when let off unexpectedly, and because they are so easily accessible all year-round, dog owners are on tenterhooks as to when their beloved pooch will next be frightened".
Calls are growing to limit access to fireworks. Last year, a petition to ban the public sale of fireworks to protect animals, children and people with a phobia attracted more than 300,000 signatures. More recently a Scottish Government consultation published earlier this month, which surveyed 16,420 people, revealed that 87 per cent of respondents would welcome a ban on the sale of fireworks to the public in Scotland.
So far, the discussion following Sainsbury’s ban of fireworks has ignored the vital aspect of safety. The consequences of a firework display that goes array can be horrific.
Take for example, the story of Amelia
. On New Year’s Eve, 2017, Amelia was stood with her dad when a firework fell over and hit the teddy she was holding. Immediately the teddy and Amelia’s clothes were in flames. Luckily, Amelia’s parents knew how to give first aid for burns and were able to get to her to hospital quickly. The brave little girl had to have treatments for her burns for a further 10 months.
However, what happened to Amelia is far from an isolated event. According to the Children’s Burns Trust
, over 550 children under 16 are taken to A&E in the four weeks surrounding bonfire night. Most injuries caused by fireworks are to the eyes, head or hands and occur at private or family displays.
The safest way to enjoy firework shows is to attend a licensed public event. However, if you are going to put on your own display we recommend following RoSPA’s Firework Code.
The Firework Code
Only adults should deal with setting up fireworks, the lighting of fireworks and the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used (and remember, alcohol and fireworks don't mix!). Children and young people should be supervised, and watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance. Follow these top 10 tips for a safer fireworks party:
- Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable, and ensure it finishes before 11pm
- Only buy fireworks which carry the CE mark, keep them in a closed box and use them one at a time
- Read and follow the instructions on each firework 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.
To ban or not to ban?
It is possible that other retailers will follow Sainsbury’s example and public support for this move may well grow.
In any event, it is RoSPA’s view that to prevent serious injury and even death, safety should be at the heart of this debate. This is because we all want to remember firework displays for the spell-binding way they light up the night sky - not because of a tragedy.
Ashley Martin, public health adviser
Posted: 10/18/2019 4:27:42 PM