RoSPA's guide to staying safe on Bonfire Night

29/10/2017

November 5 marks another sparkling Guy Fawkes Night, and with this historic celebration comes the danger of burn injuries and tragedies – according to the latest figures from hospitals in England, firework injuries increased by 47 per cent from 2014/15.

The figures show that 168 people were admitted to hospital for firework injuries in 2015/16, of the 168, 27 of them were children between the ages of 10-14, and 16 were between the ages 5-9.

This year, RoSPA is calling for people to follow the firework code, to avoid injuries and get this figure down.

A family that knows all too well about the dangers of fireworks are the McCabes. Their bonfire night took a turn for the worse when a firework became trapped in Ben McCabe’s jacket, who, only four at the time, suffered life threatening injuries, and is still dealing with the repercussions to this day.

His mother Amy McCabe said: “Fireworks are more powerful than people understand. Even with safety instructions things can still go wrong. Ben has been left with lifelong scars, and will continue to receive treatment and surgery as he grows.

“If you want to stay safe this year, think before you decide to buy your own fireworks. It is a safer option to go to an organised display rather than put your family at risk by holding your own display.

“We will never forget what happened to our son. Don’t let it happen to your child.”

RoSPA recommends attending an organised firework display, but understands that people will hold their own celebrations at home. Here are some tips to ensure the safety of yourself and everyone around you when dealing with fireworks, bonfires, and sparklers:

Fireworks

  • Only adults should deal with setting up firework displays, the lighting of fireworks and the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used
  • Children and young people should watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance; make sure your audience is well away from the bonfire and fireworks
  • Make sure you have a torch, buckets of water, eye protection, gloves and a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in
  • If you see debris that you think might be a firework or something that could be dangerous, alert the relevant person, avoid it, or douse it with water from a hose.

Bonfires

  • One person should be responsible for the bonfire, with knowledge of how to do so safely, and making sure to cordon off the area
  • Children should be supervised at all times when around the bonfire
  • Choose a site away from wooden fences, sheds and where children will be playing
  • Never pour petrol, paraffin or meths on to a fire – it is safer to use fire lighters to prevent flare-ups.

Sparklers

  • It is recommended that sparklers are not given to under-5s
  • Make sure everyone handling sparklers wears gloves and holds sparklers at arm’s length while being lit
  • Never hold a baby in your arms while you are holding a sparkler, and don’t wave sparklers close to other people
  • When the sparkler has finished put it in a bucket of cold water.

Sheila Merrill, public health adviser at RoSPA, said: “Historically, around 1,000 people visit A&E for treatment of a firework-related injury in the four weeks around Bonfire Night, with under-18s suffering many of the injuries. A quarter of injuries are in the street or other public places.

“Burn injuries can be life-changing, not just for the injured but also their families, as they can leave just as damaging mental scars as they can physical.

“It’s even more devastating because these injuries can be avoided, through proper firework and bonfire conduct. We want people to understand the dangers, and follow simple safety steps to ensure everyone has an enjoyable, injury free celebration.”

For more information on staying safe on Bonfire Night, see our Firework Safety page.

Figures from ISD Scotland show there were nine admissions due to firework injuries in 2014/15, with eight of those being emergency, and of which four (44 per cent) involved under-18s.

Figures from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety show 15 people were injured by fireworks in 2015 in Northern Ireland, with nine of them occurring at family/private parties.

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