Fireworks, Sparklers and Bonfires – Mistakes to Avoid
Remember, remember the 5th of November.
Most residents of the United Kingdom will know the rhyme, but fewer will know more than the basic outline of the 1605 Gunpowder plot which inspired it. Bonfire night is a celebration which has repeatedly evolved over history from a politicised event, to a fun family celebration, then recently back to a political agenda with Guy Fawkes iconography being appropriated off the back of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.
The way we celebrate festivities often shifts according to cultural influence, while their origins are increasingly forgotten in the course of the fun; the majority of revellers burning ‘Guys’ and lighting fireworks are unlikely to pay much thought to what they are actually celebrating. For most the celebration is simply a good excuse to gather family and friends, brightening up the Autumnal gloom for a night.
In much the same way we can all remember a rhyme but forget its basis, we can often lose sight of why Health & Safety is so important on this occasion. We’ve all grown up on the fundamental safety warnings such as ‘never return to a lit firework’ but this sense of over familiarity and general weariness towards such precautions can be a danger in itself.
Ask yourself again and think about it this time; am I really being safe? Are you definitely considering all the dangers or half remembering childhood advice or a hazy school VHS?
Still confident? To make sure you all have a good time and stay safe we’ve created a check list of 20 safety mistakes to avoid on the night, covering fireworks, sparklers and bonfires.
Watch Fireworks, don’t become one
Big, loud, beautiful and extremely dangerous if you end up in the way, fireworks should always be handled with proportionate care.
Here are 10 bad mistakes to avoid:
- Wrong firework, wrong place: Check what category of firework you are using and consider it against the size of the space you are using. This number (according to British Standard) should be on the box and firework itself with most gardens being suitable for up to category 2. Category 3 should only be used in larger open areas such a playing fields while category 4 should never be used by non-professionals.
- Leaving flammable hazards in the near vicinity: Look around the launch area for your fireworks, are there any flammable materials or liquids nearby? There shouldn’t be.
- Forgetting to tell the neighbours: This is especially dangerous in the case of elderly residents and neighbours who own animals. Informing them in advance of a firework display is not only polite but should be essential to ensure they can make their own noise precautions as necessary.
- Who’s lighting again?: ‘Muddling through’ handling and lighting of fireworks is a terrible idea, liable to result in increased confusion and greater chances of someone making a serious mistake. One clearly designated adult should be responsible.
- Who needs instructions?: Don’t make assumptions about the fireworks you are using, each may be very different. Read the instructions for each type during daylight.
- Got the Fireworks? Done!: The bare necessities for a firework display are unlikely to conform to safety and will likely create additionally unnecessary hazards. Essentials should include a metal box with a lid for firework storage, a torch or another reliable electric light source, eye and hand protection, a bucket of water, available soft earth to firmly stick fireworks in, a proper launcher for rockets and a nearby first aid kit.
- Anyone got a cigarette lighter?: To reduce hazards to an absolute minimum you should use a taper to light fireworks at arm’s length. By comparison a cigarette lighter or match is likely to complicate matters, bringing you closer to the firework and increasing the probability of a mistimed ignition.
- I’ll just check that fuse again: No matter the justification NEVER go back to a lit firework, especially rockets. If a lit firework fails to go off don’t go in for a closer look or attempt to relight it. Consider it off limits for the remainder of the evening.
- Where are the kids? Letting children wandering off before or during a firework display could result in them being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Designate an adult or adult(s) to supervise them carefully throughout.
- It’s somewhere in my pocket: Handle fireworks with the care they demand, carrying them in your pocket or a loose bag with other items is incredibly dangerous. Similarly, they should only be ignited or launched straight up from an appropriate patch of ground or base, throwing is completely unacceptable with serious potential to injure or even kill.
Serious Sparkler Safety
An underestimated bonfire night hazard; sparklers can be extremely dangerous, potentially burning at temperatures of 2000°C.
Here are 5 common mistakes to avoid:
- Bare hands: This may be tempting for the added dexterity offered but gloves should be non-negotiable to offer basic protection.
- Multitasking: Don’t attempt to light multiple sparklers at once or use your spare hand to hold a baby or small child; you may need it.
- Fun for the whole family?: Sparklers should NEVER be held by under 5s and young children should be carefully supervised throughout usage. Remember that the temperatures created can burn and scar instantaneously.
- Out and about: Sparklers should never be brought to public displays, crowds present an unpredictable hazard which greatly increases the chances of an accidents.
- Hold this a second: Sparklers stay dangerously hot for a long time, don’t push your luck by attempting to pick one up again on the same night. Put them out in a bucket of water – hot end first – and leave them till the next day before disposal.
Light a bonfire, don’t get set on fire
The titular event of the night and perhaps one of the easiest of overlook for hazards.
Here are 5 silly bonfire things you shouldn’t be doing:
- Squeeze it in there: Whether it’s a shed, house, trees or foliage your bonfire shouldn’t be close to any of these things. There needs to be a safety area clear of flammable structures or plants for an absolute minimum of two meters in all directions, with additional consideration made for overhanging branches or objects. If your bonfire is particularly tall extra distance should be added to account for the possibility of falling kindling or complete collapse.
- Giving the fire a boost with flammable liquids: Petrol, paraffin or any other flammable liquid should NEVER be used on a bonfire. It’s near impossible to judge what the effects may be and you could quickly find yourself with an uncontrollable blaze spreading elsewhere.
- Anything goes: Plastics, tins, tyres, aerosols and spent fireworks have no place on a bonfire. Stick to wood and paper items for fuel.
- Assumption: A bonfire can make an appealing hiding place for animals and even unattended children. Don’t simply assume it’s clear, check thoroughly before you light it.
- Fancy a drink?: If you’re supervising the fire, alcohol should be off limits. If the fire spreads you’ll want to be clear headed to react quickly, while an intoxicated trip or fall could become life threatening. As a rule alcohol and fire should not be mixed at all.
Informed common sense is ultimately the greatest defence against harm. Should an accident occur or matters get out of hand it is critically important to stay calm, applying basic first aid and calling emergency services; for all but the most minimal of burns the person should go to hospital without question.
So, with that all out of the way, let’s all enjoy a blaze, a boom and maybe a baked potato.
Penny for the guy?