Fireworks have been entertaining crowds for thousands of years. In recent times, there has been remarkable improvements in the quality of firework displays, with manufacturers creating new sounds, colours, and other special effects that few people find hard to resist.
Everyone loves a spectacular fireworks display, especially on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve. Kids and adults alike become mesmerised with the beautiful lights and sounds of a well-organised fireworks display, however it’s important to remember the legal and safety requirements that must be adhered to before even planning any sort of fireworks event.
Fireworks history in Australia
The sale and use of fireworks to the general public has been legal in Australia for most of the 20th century. For those who can remember, Queensland used to have a ‘cracker night’ where fireworks were readily available for sale and used by the general public. However, due to the extensive amount of personal injuries, property damage, and disruptions to pets and wildlife, the Queensland Government banned ‘cracker night’ in 1972.
The Queensland public have still been able to enjoy spectacular fireworks displays, however they are limited to public displays that are carried out by licensed operators. Most other states in Australia have progressively followed Queensland’s approach since then.
Who can operate fireworks?
Fireworks are very dangerous because they are composed of explosive components that explode and burn once ignited. If used improperly, fireworks can cause serious injuries and even death, so they must be controlled to ensure the safety of both the fireworks operators and the general public.
Today, the sale and use of fireworks by the general public in Australia is illegal, except on July 1 in the Northern Territory and under strict controls in Tasmania. As for the rest of Australia, only contractors that obtain a pyrotechnicians licence or a fireworks (single use) licence are eligible to organise and operate a fireworks display. These contractors must be trained in the use of fireworks according to national standards for fireworks displays.
It’s important to note that illegally possessing fireworks carries a penalty of up to $47,120 or 6 months imprisonment. If you require further information regarding the legality of fireworks use, refer to the Explosives Act 1999 and the Explosives Regulation 2017.
Safety tips for legal firework displays by the general public
If you’re planning your own legal fireworks display (on Northern Territory Day, in Tasmania, or you have a license in other states), careful planning must take place to ensure the safety of you and those around you. There are many types of fireworks available, such as strings of firecrackers, close proximity fireworks, and special effect fireworks. There are also many resources about the proper planning of a fireworks display online.
Once you’ve carefully planned your fireworks display, there are some very important safety tips to keep in mind:
- Only use fireworks outdoors
Never carry fireworks in your pocket and never ignite fireworks inside a house or from metal or glass containers.
- Always ensure there is adequate adult supervision
Young children should never be allowed to play with or operate fireworks. Adult supervision is imperative if children over the age of 12 wish to handle sparklers.
- Be careful when lighting the fuse
When lighting the fuse of a firework, never position any part of your body directly over the fireworks. Ensure you only light one firework at a time, then quickly move yourself to a safe distance (at least 15 metres) from the fireworks.
- Never relight a ‘dud’ firework
If a firework has not exploded once you have ignited it, never try to reignite it. Wait 20 minutes and then soak the firework in a bucket of water.
- Only use fireworks according to the manufacturer’s guidelines
Never try to alter fireworks or combine them together.
- Use common sense
Spectators should always keep a safe distance from fireworks and the operator should always wear safety glasses
- Never mix fireworks and alcohol
Similar to drink driving, there can be disastrous consequences if operators are under the influence of alcohol.
- Always have a fire extinguisher nearby
If a fire ignites as a result of rogue fireworks, it’s paramount that you have an ABE Powder Fire Extinguisher nearby to extinguish the fire.
Planning your own fireworks display can be exciting and entertaining, however it’s paramount that you understand how to properly use fireworks and the safety measures that must be in place.
Fireworks are very dangerous devices and have caused hundreds of injuries over the past few years, so ensure you carefully plan and execute your fireworks display to ensure everyone stays safe and enjoys the entertainment.