November 5th is fast approaching, bringing with it the traditional fireworks displays – and the inevitable, unfortunate accidents, despite of all the warnings about the possible risks. In specific cases, especially at planned public gatherings, accidents with fireworks may be liable to injury compensation.
As a grim reminder, last week it was reported that the organiser of a fireworks display, which took place on 4th November 2011 close by to a motorway and led to the loss of seven lives, was charged with manslaughter.
Failure to properly plan and organise the fireworks display was a chief cause of a multiple collision on the M5 near Taunton, Somerset involving 34 vehicles, killing seven people a further 51 injured. Read more.
While most firework displays, organised privately at home or by a local council, community group or organisation will be well organised and the safety rules observed, nevertheless, there will be other displays where an oversight or lack of attention to detail could allow the thoughtless actions of a few to cause a terrible accident.
Every year, injury claims cite one or more safety omissions that directly contributed towards severe burns being suffered from incorrect procedures or the bonfire getting out of control. There have been instances where it has not been understood that Category 4 fireworks are only to be handled by professional firework display operators.
Key actions to take are to ensure that there is a separate area where fireworks are to be let off and a surrounding safety zone where airborne fireworks will fall, which is only to be occupied by firework operators. Spectators must not be allowed to bring their own fireworks onto the site and also discouraged from bringing alcoholic drinks.
Every year a clear warning is given never to attempt to relight a firework and to remain clear of fireworks, which have failed to go off. Yet, the warning can be ignored. It’s also the responsibility of organisers to prevent any mishandling or abuse of fireworks, which are the known cause of many reported serious burns and fires being started.
Any structure built for lighting a fire should be sited on clear ground, away from trees and bushes and carefully constructed so it is sound and does not topple over in an unexpected manner. There should be only one person responsible for lighting the fire, who should be wearing suitable clothing, and never use petrol or paraffin to start the fire.
For more information about organising a safe, accident-free fireworks night can be read here at the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website.