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Being safe this Fourth of July

Posted on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 10:39 am

Firework SafetyConsumer fireworks are truly safer today than ever before. Today’s smarter buying public, recognizing that fireworks essentially function via a controlled burn, use the products carefully and with good common sense, resulting in more use of consumer fireworks and fewer injuries.

In 1994, the American Fireworks Standards Laboratory (AFSL) began testing fireworks in China for compliance with U.S. manufacturing and performance standards as enforced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In addition to the testing program, the AFSL’s Standards Committee reviews the standards with a view to increasing the safety margins and making the products safer. The AFSL also conducts seminars in China on quality control and makes factory visits to improve the manufacturing process.

In 1994, the first year AFSL conducted its testing program, some 117 million pounds of fireworks were imported into the U.S. That year, CPSC reported 12,500 fireworks-related injuries in the country. By 2011, with a very improved AFSL testing protocol, fireworks imported into the U.S. grew 100 percent to 234.1 million pounds, but the number of fireworks-related injuries dropped by over 23 percent to 9,600. We anticipate fewer injuries in the next reporting year.

Of the 9,600 fireworks-related injuries, the CPSC’s own data suggest 43.4 percent of the injuries are from unspecified fireworks, homemade and altered devices, illegal explosives, professional displays, and other unspecified devices. If over 43 percent of the injuries have nothing to do with consumer fireworks, the improvement in injury statistics is even better.

“If you factor in use to the injury statistics, the improvement in fireworks-related injuries is even more impressive,” said Phantom Fireworks Vice President William A Weimer. “Based on injuries measured per 100,000 pounds of imported fireworks, there has been an amazing 61.68 percent reduction in injuries from 10.7 percent per 100,000 pounds in 1994 to 4.1 per 100,000 pounds in 2011.”

The CPSC, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fireworks & Explosives, the American Pyrotechnics Association and the National Council on Fireworks Safety, Inc., together with most of the larger fireworks companies, all sponsor public relations initiatives and press conferences aimed at promoting fireworks safety and warnings against the use of illegal explosives.

“If we continue to work diligently on the safety message and are able to get people to continue to strictly follow the safety rules, we can further improve the fireworks-related safety record and reduce injuries even further,” Weimer said.

The cardinal rule is to use common sense. The fireworks burn and produce fire while functioning; therefore you must respect the products for that fact and take all necessary precautions to avoid incidents. Some of the primary fireworks safety rules include:

• Never allow children to handle fireworks. Only sober adults should handle and ignite the fireworks. A designated shooter, like a designated driver, should be the one in charge of the fireworks.

• Use in a clear, open space, free from debris and combustibles. Shoot on a hard, flat surface. Keep your audience a safe distance from your launch site and fallout zones. A minimum safe distance should be 30 feet for ground-based items and 150 feet for aerials.

• Have a ready source of water close by. A connected hose is best, but a bucket of water or fire extinguisher will suffice. Someone should act as the fireman – someone to visually track the burning projectiles down to make sure nothing comes down hot.

• Do not relight duds. Follow all laws. Use a long-neck butane lighter, punk or torch to light the fireworks. Never put any part of your body over a firework or in its travel path.

“Let’s continue the great American tradition envisioned by John Adams of celebration with fireworks when he wrote in 1776 that the Independence Day holiday “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward forevermore,” said Weimer.

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