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Summer Series | Fireworks Safety Tips for an Injury-Free 4th of July

June 29, 2016

It’s almost time to celebrate the 4th of July holiday with family and friends. There will be grand fireworks displays at beaches and along lakeshores, but there will also be private showings at BBQs and backyard get-togethers. Although it is a time of celebration, it’s important to remember that explosive fire power is involved, and that accidents do occur. Before stocking up on pyrotechnics for your party, it’s best to be aware of the risks involved, as well as how to manage them.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual report from 2014 reveals that there were an estimated 10,500 fireworks-related injuries in that year alone. More specifically, all of those injuries were severe enough to be treated in a hospital emergency department. The majority of injuries caused by fireworks are the result of improper use by consumers. Common mistakes include lighting fireworks while holding them in a hand, lighting them improperly, or lighting them too close to other people.

The risk of a firework injury rises dramatically if the product has manufacturer or design defects or if it’s not labelled with adequate warnings. Improperly manufactured fireworks can explode prematurely, or a defective fuse may ignite the explosive powders in the firework incorrectly and cause an unexpected explosion. Also, projectiles such as bottle rockets that are designed to be launched in the air can take unpredicted flights paths and hit people from a far distance who are unaware of the impending danger.

Basic Firework Injury Prevention Tips

  • Do not modify or experiment with homemade fireworks
  • Always follow directions on packaging
  • Never let children use fireworks without adult supervision
  • Only set off fireworks outdoors, avoiding hazards such as tall grass, dry leaves and other fireworks
  • Do not reignite a used firework
  • Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher on hand
  • Soak used or defective fireworks in water before throwing away to prevent fires from smoldering packaging

There are a number of legal theories that apply to this type of injury, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Injured spectators may be able to hold the responsible party liable through negligence. If the entity organizing the fireworks display is a company or even a city, there is still a duty to protect bystanders from injuries. Cities can fail to fulfill the necessary duty and expose themselves to liability by allowing illegal fireworks to be used or by failing to obtain proper permits. Even a person who caused his/her own injury may still be able to recover damages if they can prove that a defect, rather than their negligent conduct, caused the accident to occur. If you have been injured in a fireworks-related accident, it is in your best interest to know all of your options, as well as to take necessary precautions for all future celebrations.

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