Fireworks Safety

It’s that time of year again for backyard BBQ’s and holiday celebrations! Various local cities and towns will have fireworks displays that are sure to be amazing. Many families will enjoy these displays as well as lighting their own fireworks off at home. While the majority of these activities will go off as planned and without incidence, fireworks are not without risk to those handling or near them.

It seems like an obvious statement, but injuries from fireworks can be severe. Approximately, 200 people on average go to the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the 4th of July.  A study by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC)  found that hands and fingers were the most frequently injured body parts. These injuries accounted for 46% of all accidents involving fireworks.

This time of year, our Certified Hand Therapists (CHT) see an increase in hand injuries related to fireworks accidents. The children that we work with have many incidents related to, but not exclusive to holding firecrackers when they go off or having their hands burned by sizzling sparklers. In the report completed by the U.S. CPSC in 2012, children younger than 15 years old accounted for 30% of injuries related to fireworks, and those under the age of 20 accounted for 46% of all related emergency visits.

Firecrackers, sparklers, and bottle rockets accidents are the primary cause of finger, hand, and arm injuries related to fireworks. These three types of smaller fireworks are the most commonly used amateur fireworks. These accidents account for 57% of all firework injuries.

Fireworks come in all shapes and sizes. They dazzle, sparkle, pop, and sizzle! Children are naturally drawn to the fun effects that fireworks can make. It is recommended that only adults handle personal fireworks and more specifically only one at a time. This will help to decrease potential risk to anyone in viewing distance. Under no circumstances should children under the age of 18 be able to handle fireworks whether lit or unlit. Even sparklers, which may seem innocent and fun, come with some risk and should not be handled by children. They are responsible for the most injuries to those under the age of 5.

In order to protect yourselves, and any children within sight of the fireworks, please use caution and think about the following principles:
• Children should not be lighting or playing with fireworks (even sparklers!)
• Store fireworks in a cool, dry place
• Always read and follow the directions appropriately
• Use fireworks outdoors in a safe area, away from woods or objects that can burn
• Never attempt to relight a firework that goes out
• Keep water nearby in the event of an emergency
• Keep everyone at a safe distance away from fireworks

Fireworks are meant to be enjoyed as part of large displays that captivate audiences and allow families and friends to share in the fun. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) recommends attending public fireworks displays instead of setting them off at home. However, if you choose to set them off yourself, be sure that they are legal to own and use where you live. If you want to check which fireworks are legal and aren’t in your area, you can find that information at The American Pyrotechnics Association website. And, if you do decide to set off your own fireworks, please use extreme caution and keep them far from any children in the area. Have a safe and happy summer!


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Jim O’Shea OT, MOT, CHT
Jim O’Shea OT, MOT, CHT is a Certified Hand Therapist in the Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy Department at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Occupational Therapy at Quinnipiac University (’00, ’11). Jim has been a Certified Hand Therapist since 2006 and has been an active member of the American Society of Hand Therapists. He started working at NCH in 2010 after moving from the NY/NJ area. In 2012, Jim was glad to be part of a mission trip that traveled to India to assist with reconstructive procedures for patients with traumatic and/or congenital upper extremity injuries. In his spare time, Jim enjoys traveling, finding great restaurants, spending time with his dog, and staying active through Crossfit and running.

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