6 steps to avoid a tragedy on Bonfire Night

You’ve bought the fireworks, invited your friends, spent days building a bonfire and got your hot-dogs ready. So what could go wrong? Tragically that’s what many people don’t think about; most accidents are avoidable with just a little thought. You don’t want your party to end with a visit to A&E.

1. Light the way. You’ve planned to light your fireworks away from the house and the kids but once it gets dark you’re likely to trip over the still-hot spent fireworks. Imagine getting a smoldering fountain up your nose!  So make sure you’ve got a torch or 2 in your plans. You’ll also need a torch to read the instructions on your fireworks; using a match is asking for trouble!

2. Keep your distance. Put up a visible barrier so your youngest guests have a boundary – and warn them not to go beyond it. Children are curious and eager to help but you don’t want them scarred for life by severe burns or blinding. Over 500 children are taken to A&E each year near to bonfire night.  For garden fireworks (category 2) the boundary should be a minimum of 5 metres but for a public display (category 3) it should be at least 25metres away.

3. What goes up must come down. Plan for a “fall out zone” beyond where you’re lighting up. Rockets in particular can hit the ground with some speed and the debris can be hot or glowing. You don’t want that to hit a child’s head so ask yourself where your fireworks are going to land, and if it’s too close you need to think again. Fall out is also the main reason you will need to wear protective clothing while lighting the fireworks.  Don’t skimp on this – you’ll need heat proof gloves, eye protection as well as head protection; a hard hat is best but padding from a woolly hat is better than nothing. Even with protection, don’t stay too close to the fireworks, don’t go near “failed” fireworks, and never stand directly over them.

4. Make some noise. If you’ve built the bonfire days ahead something cuddly or cute like this hedgehog may have hibernated in the middle. Just before lighting your bonfire, beat it from one side and shout to encourage any wildlife hiding under it to escape. I’ve witnessed screaming rabbits running out of a fire which was built near a warren – and so did all the children invited to watch the fireworks. It was a nightmare they won’t forget!

5. Death trap costumes. Hopefully the weather will be cold enough that kids will be wearing coats, as fancy dress costumes are often made from polyester which catch light in seconds and can melt onto the skin causing severe burns. Sadly current UK legislation doesn’t protect against the injuries in these stories of highly flammable outfits.

6. Keep your pets indoors. Many animals are terrified of the noise fireworks make and can be traumatized. Lock them indoors, put some music on and try some adaptil or feliway pheromone diffusers to calm their nerves. Read this further advice from the RSPCA.

Finally, keep at hand a first aid kit and a bucket of water to plunge sparklers into; they can reach temps of 2000°C.

To summarize. Have a torch handy. Set the boundaries. Watch out for fall out. Don’t burn the bunnies. Avoid flammable fabrics. Lock up Fido and Felix.

If you need any advice on controlling event or workplace hazards, then please contact me on 07511 218865 or email me on helen@august-safety.co.uk