Fireworks Safety Tips You Need This Holiday Weekend

With 4th of July weekend right around the corner, more people are thinking about skipping the fireworks show and putting on their own display.

Forty-seven of the fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow legal “consumer” fireworks for Independence Day, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA). But, before your family celebrates with do-it-yourself fireworks this year, it’s important to make sure everyone is lighting up safely.

All fireworks, legal and illegal, can cause injury if they’re not used properly. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that just in the year 2014, around 10,500 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries from incidents associated with fireworks. And 67% of firework injuries in 2014 occurred between June 20th and July 20th, 2014.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fireworks often result in death and serious injuries including burns, contusions, lacerations, and foreign objects in the eye.


If you are thinking about purchasing and setting off fireworks that obey local laws, employ these safety tips in order to keep your family safe celebrating this summer. Remember they should be used only with extreme caution. Here are some tips courtesy of the CPSC 2015 firework safety sheet and the National Council of Fireworks Safety (NCFS).

  • Always have a sober adult in charge & never give a firework to a young child. Not even sparklers! Don’t allow anyone to run with a firework or take part in horseplay.
  • Only buy legal. Buy your illuminations from a licensed store, stand, or tent. Consumer fireworks, also called DOT 1.4G fireworks, are legal according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In order to be classified as a “consumer firework”, the firework must be tested by the CPSC and meet various requirements.
  • Only set them off outdoors. Ignite them away from buildings on flat, level, hard, fireproof surfaces that don’t have any debris that could catch fire. A large concrete-paved driveway is a good example vs. a dry meadow with long grasses is a very bad place.
  • Never carry a firework (lit or unlit) in your pocket.
  • Never shoot a firework from a metal or glass container.
  • Determine safety zone for spectators: The CPSC does not specify a specific distance that the spectator and/or lighter should retreat to for all consumer fire flowers. Handle fountains and sparklers, for example, are held after you light the fuse and pointed away from yourself or anybody else. However according to UK standards, most consumer fireworks that are not hand-held require spectators be 15-24 feet of distance. If you are watching larger display illuminations set up by professionals, then you want to be at least 75 feet away.
  • Always wear protective eye wear when igniting fireworks.
  • Never aim a firework at another person.
  • Have water at the ready. Have a working garden hose or bucket of water handy.
  • Only light one firework at a time. Don’t approach to reignite a firework that doesn’t light the first time. Wait 20 minutes.
  • Read directions. Read and follow the directions on a given firework label.
  • Dispose of the fireworks correctly when finished. When finished, allows fireworks to stand for at least 20 minutes, then submerge them in water and place in a plastic bag and dispose outside in a covered trash can.
  • Make sure all pets are put away.

Injuries by Firework Type

Fireworks come in all shapes and sizes. Wondering what specific types are the safer options for this weekend? The CPSC has statistics on injuries by firework type.

An in depth one month investigation by the CPSC between June 21st, 2013 and July 21st, 2013  found that ½ of all injuries occur from misusing fireworks and the other half are due to a malfunctioning firework. Though often seen as a harmless novelty, sparklers accounted for 31% of all injuries treated in emergency departments in the 1-month report from 2013.

  • Firecrackers: 20%
  • Sparklers: 19%
  • Novelties: 6%
  • Roman Candles:4%
  • Bottle Rockets: 2%
  • Fountains: 1%
  • Public Display: 4%
  • Unspecified: 31%

Want more specific safety tips based on the type of firework device you may be using this summer? Take a look at the CPSC’s list of all legal firework devices and the manner in which to use them.

Local Regulations 

Not sure if setting off any illuminations yourself is legal where you live? Only Delaware, New Jersey, and Massachusetts maintain a complete ban on all consumer fireworks. The definition of consumer fireworks varies from state to state, but can include everything from cone fountains to roman candles to sparklers. To determine what is legal in your State, click here.