As the days grow shorter, we find ourselves once again ready to celebrate Fireworks Night. On the 5th of November, the skies will be ablaze with wondrous colour as Britons mark the foiling of Guy Fawkes’ plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament. While the evening is usually a barrel of laughs, it's important to take care when around fireworks. Eye injuries can easily occur, so try not to get too caught up in the excitement, keep your head (unlike Mr Fawkes) and enjoy a safe and well-organised evening!
Eye injuries and fireworks: The facts
- In a 2008 study by the British Opthalmological Surveillance Unit, they found that 53% of injuries suffered from fireworks during October/November required ocular surgery. A further 53% of these people were found to have a visual acuity of 6/60 or worse after 6 months.
- This same study found that 1 in 10 people lose their eyesight from a fireworks injury every year.
- The largest proportion of eye injuries, according to a study by the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, occur at private parties, and are as likely to be suffered by adults as children.
So, there are clearly plenty of reasons to be cautious around this time of year, but there’s no reason not to enjoy yourself. Keeping you and your loved ones safe doesn’t mean that you need to forego the fun! Just follow our advice:
- When possible, attend public displays: While it is possible to have a safe private show (we’ll give you some advice shortly), we recommend leaving it to the professionals. You'll be further away from the most dangerous parts of the night and you can have a drink or two while you relax and enjoy the spectacle!
- Keep sparklers at arm’s length: As sparklers burn at anywhere between 1000C to 1600C, you should hold them as far as possible from yourself and others. You should also wear gloves for an extra layer of protection. It's significant that a large number of the eye injuries were caused by sparklers, with between 104 and 140 injuries occurring in each of the 3 years studied by the BERR.
Top tips for throwing a private display
If you do decide to hold your own display, make sure it’s the safest it can possibly be:
- keep all fireworks in a metal container
- ensure all spectators are as far away from the ignition zone as possible, especially young children
- wear protective eyewear, such as goggles
- ensure pets are locked inside
- check that your fireworks comply with standards. They should be labelled with the code BS 7114
- keep a bucket of water to throw sparklers in when they burn low
- use a torch to read any instructions
- end up rushing. The law prohibits setting off fireworks after 11pm on all evenings except the 5th, when you can keep going until 12am. Follow a schedule, so you don’t get caught in a hurry
- consume alcohol if you’re responsible for handling and lighting the fireworks
- handle unexploded rockets. If a firework fails to explode, keep your distance and contact the fire brigade about how best to deal with it
How to deal with an eye injury
If you or someone you are with is unfortunate enough to suffer an eye injury, seek medical help immediately and avoid the following:
- Rubbing your eyes or applying any pressure
- Rinsing your eyes
- Removing any object that has become lodged
- Taking any medication that thins the blood, for example, ibuprofen or paracetamol
So, remember, remember, on the 5th of November, stay safe, and enjoy the spectacle!