Friday, 31 October 2014

Health and Safety on Bonfire Night

According the UK’s fire services, Bonfire Night is their busiest night of the year and many hospitals also report an increase in the number of people visiting their A&E units. These increases in call-outs and drop-ins are in no small part due to a lack of health and safety knowledge when it comes to handling fireworks and monitoring bonfires.

It is now increasingly common for businesses, such as pubs, and visitor attractions to put on firework displays. If something were to go wrong at one of these events, the liabilities would be huge. As such, many of the companies responsible are looking for expert advice on how to make their night safer. Health and Safety professionals such as Phoenix Health and Safety can provide such information and have seen their advice highly sought after by companies who are hosting such events.

The main things to think about when it comes to safety of Bonfire Night are:


Although many think that sparklers are the safest of all fireworks, they actually cause the most accidents and injuries. Each sparkler burns at around 2,000°C (15 times the boiling point of water) and the number of burns reported each year is huge. When holding a sparkler, it is important that the user is not in a confined space or too close to others. It is also a good idea to wear gloves and keep a sandbox or bucket of water close by to safely dispose of the extinguished item.


All fireworks should conform to British Standards and you should make sure that those you buy are suitable to be set off in the space available. You should also ensure that the fireworks that are not in use are kept well away from those in use and that they are placed a safe distance from the audience and any buildings. Before you start your display, make sure that you have designated one person to light the fireworks, as this will prevent the risk of getting in someone else’s way.


If you are planning a bonfire of your own then it is important that you have plenty of space and build it away from fences, trees and other outbuildings. Before lighting the bonfire, be careful to check for cats and other small animals as they often seek shelter from the cold weather in piles of debris. Never use petrol, paraffin or other flammable liquids to light your bonfire. Domestic firelighters are often the preferred option. Once lit, make sure that all children are kept well away and be wary that the fire may make the structure weak, causing pieces of burning wood to collapse and fall. If there is a bonfire on a playing field or piece of land close to your house that you do not feel has been properly constructed or organised, report it to your local authority.


If you have purchased fireworks, it is important that you store them in a safe place well away from the reach of children. When it comes to lighting them, all children should be at a safe distance and under the supervision of an adult. If giving sparklers to children on Bonfire Night, make sure that they are wearing relatively tight fitting clothing and have their hair tied back. They should also be instructed not to run with their sparklers or wave them around when close to others. It is advised that children under the age of five are not given sparklers.


It is common for animals to be scared of fireworks and for them to keep their distance while they are in action. Make sure that you keep your pets locked inside and well away from the display. You may also want to let your neighbours know that you are planning a display incase they also have pets. Once the display is over, all of the packaging and waste products from the fireworks should be discarded to prevent dogs picking them up or ingesting chemicals.

Other considerations

If a bonfire and firework display is being held at a venue where alcohol is present, you may need to take extra precautions to ensure that everyone is safe. This may mean hiring stewards to ensure that everyone remains safely behind the cordon.
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