Fireworks injuries remain common, despite simple safety rules

What better way to celebrate the birth of one’s country than by blowing up a small part of it?

It’s that time of year again – time to fire up the grill, pour some brews, and ready the fireworks. And with those fireworks will come many, many, injuries.

Around 10,000 fireworks injuries occur each year, and there’s no sign the trend is shrinking. It’s all too easy to take fireworks safety for granted. That’s especially true in Florida, where prior to 2020 citizens were allowed to ignite fireworks solely for the purpose of ‘scaring birds’ (wink-wink) but can now use them legally on specific holidays, thanks to the passage last year of SB140.

So, for the sake of scaring our readers into safety, we did a deep-dive analysis of the nature of fireworks injuries using the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a statistically representative database of injuries involving consumer products, including fireworks.

What did we find? One in every eight (12.4%) fireworks injuries result in a hospitalization. Don’t be fooled. That boils down to a lot of people with serious injuries.

Nearly three-fifths (58%) of all fireworks injuries each year occur the week of Independence Day. (7/1-7/7). To put this into perspective, the week of New Year’s Day (12/28-1/4) includes just 7% of fireworks injuries. Still, both holidays represent a huge risk of fireworks injuries compared with the rest of the year – any other week only an average of 0.9% of the year’s fireworks injuries.

Cue the stereotype: Males tend to be injured more often than females. Younger boys are especially at risk, with boys ages 5 to 19 the most likely to be injured by fireworks.

Unsurprisingly, hands are the body parts most likely to be injured, comprising 37% of injuries. The next most likely concern is head injury, representing 20% of fireworks injuries, followed by eye injuries, making up 15% of fireworks injuries.

Burns are by far the most common type of injury, accounting for nearly half (48%) of all fireworks injuries. Contusions (hits and abrasions) and flesh wounds are effectively tied for second at a distant 11%. Sadly, amputations are frighteningly common as well, comprising more than 1 out of every 25 injuries (4.1%).

Even sparklers (which are not technically fireworks under Florida law) are not entirely safe: In 2019 alone, there were an estimated 900 injuries associated with sparklers1 that required treatment at an emergency department.

So here’s what you can do to stay safe when using sparklers and fireworks:

The South Walton Fire District recommends the following safety tips:

— Use sparklers and other legal novelties on a flat, hard surface. Do not light them on grass.

— Use sparklers in an open area. Keep children and pets at least 30 feet away from all ignited sparklers.

— Light only one item at a time and never attempt to relight a “dud.”

— Do not use unwrapped items or items that may have been tampered with.

— Keep a fire extinguisher or water hose on hand for emergencies. It’s a good idea to drop used sparklers in a bucket of water.

— Only purchase fireworks from licensed vendors.

— Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.

— Never have any portion of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.

— Never carry sparklers in your pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers

Recommendations for safe disposal of fireworks:

— Completely submerge fireworks in a large bucket of water and soak until thoroughly saturated. This may take 15 minutes for small fireworks or as long as overnight for larger ones.

— Double-wrap the completely soaked fireworks in plastic wrap or two plastic bags so they do not dry out.

— Place the double-bagged fireworks in the household trash or take them to your local solid waste facility.

— You can contact your local fire department or solid waste facility, as other disposal options may be available in your community.


John Evans is Sachs Media’s resident economist and data scientist. He earned his degree in Applied Economics from FSU in 2018. His hobbies include baking sourdough, game design, and cycling. He can be reached at [email protected].

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