Ruth Ross, Managing Director of health and safety consultancy Building Trust in Safety Ltd, outlines some of the simple steps to heed for November 5th. If you're organising a bonfire night or firework display in Shrewsbury this year, please ensure your evening goes off with a bang, without the risk of accident and injury.
“Nearly a thousand people are hurt every year as a result of accidents with fireworks or bonfires, statistics which perhaps prove that all the necessary health and safety precautions still aren’t being put in place. Even though many of us will enjoy the sights and sounds of one of the many professional displays organised across the county, there will also be countless other impromptu events taking place, either for a few friends in the back garden, or in the car park of the local pub or school. And it’s at these ‘get togethers’ that it’s absolutely crucial for organisers to take a common sense approach and follow these simple steps to ensure the evening passes in a fun and safe fashion.
Make sure any bonfire is at least 18 metres (60 feet) away from other buildings, trees, hedges, fences or sheds. Take into account the wind and weather conditions on the night, and never use highly flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin as fuel for the bonfire – stick to domestic firelighters. And go through a checklist of all the useful items you’ll need for the event, such as a torch for checking instructions, a bucket of water, eye protectors and gloves, and all required supports for fireworks like Catherine Wheels.
Under the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997, fireworks that meet British Standards will have BS 7114 written on the box, so keep an eye out for that mark of quality. Whilst it may be tempting to buy less expensive – and less regulated – versions from unlicensed suppliers, bear in mind the quality will vary. Store fireworks in a metal box, always follow the instructions, and light at arm’s length before standing well back. And it may be an old cliché, but it still rings true – never go back to a lit firework. Even if it hasn’t gone off, it could still explode. Leave the firework for half an hour, and only then make it safe by immersing it in a bucket of water.
Sparklers can reach temperatures of up to 2,000oC – that’s five times hotter than cooking oil – so whilst they may appear harmless, they can certainly cause injury if mishandled. We’d advise organisers not to give sparklers to young children, especially the under fives, and also make sure that people hold them at arm’s length, wearing gloves if possible. Used sparklers should be put, hot end first, into either a bucket of water or sand so that they can be safely disposed with.
Don’t Fall Foul of the Law
Finally, there are numerous laws and regulations relating to fireworks, and failing to comply can lead to fines and even prosecutions. Under the Explosives Act 1875, it’s illegal to throw or set off fireworks in the street, while of course, it’s against the law for under 18s to be sold or have public possession of fireworks. It’s also an offence to set off fireworks at night time (between 11pm and 7am), apart from on Bonfire Night itself and a couple of other notable exceptions, such as New Year or other religious festivals. And if a bonfire or display is being held at a place of work, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 still applies, meaning that the organisers are responsible for ensuring the safety of not just employees, but also the general public.
Building Trust in Safety Ltd was launched in 1999 and is now one of the most respected health and safety consultancies in the UK. Offering a comprehensive and practical solution to all health and safety needs across all industry sectors, Building Trust in Safety’s team of dedicated specialists provides an extensive range of services, enabling businesses to flourish without fear.
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