All Fireworks Can Be Dangerous - Keep Yours Safe


Last year, a Tampa Bay woman suffered a traumatic brain injury after being struck in the back of the head by a firework. In Fort Lauderdale, a teenager lost parts of several fingers while handling a firework. Those where just two of the thousands of fireworks-related injuries that occur each year in the United States.

In Florida, fireworks can be used legally on three days: New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Independence Day, according to the Florida Sheriffs Association. But if you’re going to set off Roman candles, sparklers and other fireworks, take precautions to protect your safety and the safety of others, says Dr. Rich Westenbarger, emergency room physician at Baptist Medical Center Nassau.

“Injuries from fireworks can be quite serious, and we see them every summer,” Dr. Westenbarger says. “We typically see eye injuries as well as severe burns, usually to the hands. Other fireworks injuries we see include lacerations, tissue injuries and even broken bones.”

According to a June 2022 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, fireworks-related injuries increased 25% in the United States between 2006 and 2021. According to the most recent statistics, from 2021, at least nine people died and more than 11,500 were injured due to fireworks.

A 2023 study by researchers at University of California, Riverside, showed most injuries occurred among men, typically teens and young adults. Injuries often occurred to the head, neck and lower extremities, and burns accounted for almost half of all injuries. The types of fireworks that most often result in injury included sparklers, firecrackers and aerial devices.

Fireworks don’t always operate as advertised, said the authors of the 2022 study published in the journal Injury Epidemiology. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission enforces the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act to manage the manufacture, import and sale of fireworks.  But more than 30% of fireworks tested by CPSD were found to contain non-compliant components, including fuse violations, prohibited chemicals and overloaded pyrotechnic materials.

Injuries can largely be prevented by adhering to the following safety guidelines, Dr. Westenbarger says.

“My number one piece of advice is that drinking alcohol and shooting off fireworks is a recipe for disaster,” he says. “Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so you may take more risks than you normally would. And, alcohol also slows your response time, so your ability to act quickly when something goes wrong is compromised. No amount of alcohol consumption is okay when shooting fireworks.”

Read and follow all fireworks usage and safety information, he adds.

“It’s important to take the time to read all the directions and cautionary labels prior to shooting fireworks,” Dr. Westenbarger advises. “Know what each firework does when it goes off. For example, some explode in the air and others are designed to detonate on the ground; and know how long each one takes to detonate after it’s lit so you can stand at a safe distance.”

Remember that fireworks are only permitted in Florida on three specific dates. Florida residents should report any illegal use of fireworks to the local sheriff’s office, according to the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Here are some additional tips from Dr. Westenbarger and the emergency room officials at Baptist Nassau:

  • Obey all local laws about fireworks use.
  • Make sure a responsible adult supervises fireworks activities. Never give fireworks to children.
  • Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
  • Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
  • Always have a bucket of water and a water hose that is already turned on nearby.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
  • Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from buildings and vehicles.
  • Never relight a “dud” firework. Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
  • Throw away used fireworks by wetting them down and putting them in a metal trash can away from any buildings or combustible materials until the next day.
fireworks, fireworks injuries