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As people across Northern Ireland get ready to mark Halloween with a fireworks display, RoSPA is urging families to stay safe and remember the firework code.

Disappointingly, firework injuries around Halloween showed an increase last year - the first rise for several years. In the four weeks around Halloween in 2010, 47 people attended an accident and emergency department or minor injuries unit with a firework-related injury, 17 more than in 2009. Of those injured, 61 per cent (29) were under 18 years of age - even though it is illegal to sell fireworks to under-18s. Males accounted for 83 per cent (39) of the injuries.

Ita McErlean, home safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in Northern Ireland, said: “Although we were disappointed that the number of Halloween-related firework injuries rose to 47 last year, it must be remembered that the figure was still a long way from the 97 injuries recorded around Halloween in 2007. However, we would very much like to see fireworks injuries going down again this year.

“More people are injured by fireworks in ‘casual incidents’ in public places than in any other setting, with family or private parties being the second most common location for a firework injury to be suffered. In comparison in 2010, there were no recorded firework injuries at large public displays in Northern Ireland.

“If you can’t get to an organised fireworks display, which are often of extremely high quality, please don’t leave safety out. Remember that planning in advance for fireworks parties at home is key to putting on a safe - and impressive - display. Make sure you know what you’re doing - and what to do if things go wrong. And we encourage parents and carers to talk to children and young people about the dangers of playing with fireworks.”  

RoSPA’s fireworks website - www.saferfireworks.com - has everything you need to know about planning a safe fireworks display. It provides details of UK law, including the licensing arrangements in Northern Ireland, tips for setting up a display and the firework code:

  • Plan your fireworks display to make it safe and enjoyable
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
  • Light the firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit
  • Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  • Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

Fireworks can only be bought with a licence in Northern Ireland. The minimum age for buying category 2 fireworks (those suitable for garden displays) is 18.

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