New Year was traditionally a time for fireworks displays in Chinese culture, which is credited with inventing our love affair with pyrotechnics. Legend tells of a Chinese cook who accidentally spilled saltpeter into a cooking fire, producing a colorful dancing flame.
The fact that saltpeter is a key ingredient in gunpowder tells you all you need to know about the safety risks involved with them. Follow this simple 10-point guide to staying safe if you’re using your own fireworks this New Year’s:
1. Before planning anything, check your local fireworks laws as these can vary from state to state. You do not want to be caught out illegally buying or using pyrotechnics.
2. Have the following items with you for your display:
- A torch
- Two buckets of water
- Eye protection
- Strong gloves
- A bucket of earth to put fireworks in.
3. Choose a suitable site for your display. Sites should be of sufficient size to give a safety zone of at least 25 metres between spectators and firing area. There should be no overhead obstructions such as trees, and the site should be well clear of buildings.
4. Keep your fireworks in a closed box and use them one by one, reading the individual instructions carefully each time.
5. Always light fireworks using a taper at arm’s-length, to avoid the risk of them blowing up in your face.
6. Keep naked flames such as cigarettes away from fireworks.
7. Never return to a firework that has already been lit.
8. If you have kids watching, mark out a line that they are not allowed crossing so that they remain at a safe distance.
9. Remember that sparklers are not toys. The heat from a sparkler is five times hotter than cooking oil, and these should never be given to under-fives.
10. Keep animals indoors and out of the way during firework displays. Even if you think your dog enjoys them, there is always the risk of curiosity leading to injury or worse.