OSHA emphasizes fireworks safety as 4th of July celebrations begin

| July 3, 2013
fireworks safety

Fireworks for sale in Walmart. (Image by Rusty Clark)

With Fourth of July around the corner, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has urged the pyrotechnics industry to pay extra attention to fireworks safety. Fireworks sales are up during this time of year, and with increasingly elaborate fireworks designs, enhanced safety measures are essential to protecting workers.

To avoid accidents, OSHA has emphasized fireworks safety at all stages, from manufacturing to event display.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels reminds the public, “As we look forward to July 4 celebrations with fireworks and festivities, we must also consider the safety of workers who handle pyrotechnics. Employers are responsible for keeping everyone safe on the job and taking appropriate measures to protect workers from serious injuries or death.”

Fireworks accident

In March of last year, three workers were seriously burned during an explosion at Global Pyrotechnic Solutions in Dittmer, Missouri. OSHA cited the pyrotechnics plant almost $117,000 for safety violations related to explosive hazards. In 2000, a similar incident at the same plant led to one fatality.

OSHA regulations for the fireworks industry

Because fireworks industry employees are exposed to hazards involving dust, chemicals, noise, and fire, employers must put in place an appropriate program to effectively control the potentially dangerous working environment. For instance, to protect employees against harmful chemicals, employers must enact a written hazard communication program that includes training on the dangers of chemicals at the site. Containers must also be labeled with hazard warnings, and manufacturers should have a material safety data sheet for every hazardous chemical produced or stored. OSHA’s complete list of regulations for the pyrotechnics industry can be found here.

Caution sign for fireworks safety

Protect pyrotechnics workers and others by clearly labeling areas on site. (Image via MySafetySign.com.)

OSHA also sets guidelines to safeguard public use of fireworks. While display fireworks are often set off by professionals, the increasing popularity of consumer fireworks means that their sale also needs to be in accordance with fireworks safety regulations. OSHA directives for display fireworks operators and retail fireworks sales are both available on its site.

The guidelines for display fireworks operators include but are not limited to:

  • Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
  • Arranging for the required inspections by the proper authorities.
  • Keeping fireworks, pyrotechnic materials, and launching equipment dry at all times.
  • Prohibiting smoking and open flames within 50 feet of fireworks or pyrotechnic materials.
  • Utilizing monitors and barriers for crowd control during fireworks display.
  • Wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect hearing, head, eyes, and feet.
  • Disconnecting electric cables and disabling firing switches after display.
Fireworks operators dressed for fireworks safety

Display firework operators wearing PPE light the fuses. (Image by bitslammer.)

Fireworks safety guidelines for retailers of consumer fireworks include:

  • Displaying signs prohibiting fireworks discharge within 300 feet of fireworks retail sales outlets.
  • Removing and disposing of damaged fireworks immediately.
  • Keeping fire extinguishers operational and accessible.
  • Maintaining clear exit routes with at least two ways to egress from every point.

Keeping these easy-to-follow fireworks safety regulations in mind, have a happy (and safe) Independence Day!

Category: OSHA