Fireworks Explosion in Washington.

Sad news in the fireworks industry today.

Entertainment fireworks in Washington State reportedly had an accident while some of their crews were prepping for an upcoming display, taking one life and injuring two others.  Entertainment fireworks has been in the business for decades with an excellent safety record and some of the most experienced operators in the business today.  In fact, they offered one of the more respected safety training classes in the western U.S. and have successfully fired many high profile displays.  As respected, active members in all facets of the pyrotechnic industry our heart goes out to those involved and we hope this serves as a harsh reminder to the thousands who will be working long days in the coming weeks with pyrotechnics to take ALL safety precautions.

It is unfortunate, but early reports hint that an electric match (e-match) may have been the initial ignition source.  Many of the operator related injuries in past decades can be traced back to a $0.50 cent electronic igniter.  (image below)  Several companies are working on new technology moving towards non friction sensitive ignitors, and the day they are mass produced and readily available can not come soon enough.  The e-match, as small as it is can be a deadly component.  Today’s fireworks are very stable and possess little danger without an ignition source.  Technicians often work long 12+ hour days in all weather conditions including extreme heat across much of the country in the weeks surrounding the 4th of July and fatigue, which can lead to complacency can become an issue.

Some safety tips for consumers who are projected to spend close to 1 billion dollars (yes, one billion!) in the next two weeks leading up to independence day are listed below.

Consumer Fireworks Safety 101

1) ABC….Always Brace Cakes!  Also known as multi-shot aerial repeaters.  These items, especially the smaller ones can be prone to tipping.  Glue or tape to a larger board, brace with boards or something similar.

2) Always follow label instructions such as LIGHT FUSE AND GET AWAY!  If a firework malfunctions, even a distance of 20′ can greatly reduce the severity of an injury.  Distance is your friend, most fireworks used in backyards do not follow the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) guidelines for professional displays of 70′ per inside diameter of the tube, ie a 2″ tube should have 70′ of separation from spectators.  This would also be a good rule for consumers to follow in their celebrations.

3) Protect your eyes!  Safety glasses would eliminate the second largest, and most common injury with potential lasting effects caused by consumer fireworks which is eye injuries from flying sparks or debris.  These can be purchased for less than $5.00 at big box stores.

4) Always have a water source on hand.  Professionals usually have special water extinguishers on site, as well as the local fire department.  For consumers we suggest something many revelers already own, a simple pump type garden sprayer commonly used for spraying pesticides or used around the garden.  These should be on hand to quickly extinguish small fires before they get out of hand or to douse smoldering fireworks from a distance which should never be approached or attempt to be re-lit.

5)  Never mix alcohol and firework use.  The majority of fireworks accidents are caused by misuse, not the fireworks themselves!  If used appropriately today’s consumer fireworks are tested and held to CPSC (Consumer Safety Product Commission) standards.  While firework consumption in the USA has steadily increased, injuries have decreased in recent years.  Never alter a firework from it’s original configuration.

The majority of reported firework injuries are caused by misuse of smaller devices such as sparklers, bottle rockets and firecrackers, not the larger aerial devices.  Fireworks should ALWAYS be used under adult supervision. A little common sense and a few safety precautions will help you enjoy our nations holiday safely.

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