29 Oct 2001 12:00 AM

Minister reminds teenagers of fireworks safety warnings.

With Guy Fawkes'' night now only a week away, the Government is stepping up its campaign to warn people - and particularly children and teenagers - about the dangers of messing with fireworks.

The safety messages are also being endorsed by Trading Standards officers who are taking action against shopkeepers selling fireworks illegally to under-18s.

Consumer and Competition Minister Melanie Johnson said that safety messages were getting through, but it was still not too late to put them into practice:

''Thousands of safety packs have been sent out since our fireworks safety campaign began, and the response, particularly in the media, has been enormous, but we cannot afford to be complacent.

''Everyone needs to remember that fireworks are not toys - they are explosives, and when they''re not treated with respect, the results can be dreadful.

''Fireworks only went on sale a couple of weeks ago and there have already been too many accidents, and too many examples of people behaving stupidly with fireworks.''

The following incidents involving children have happened in the last few weeks:

· A seven year old girl from Wimbledon was left with severe head injuries as a result of a firework incident. The girl was the victim of thugs who set off a rocket in the street. Police are investigating.

· Doctors had to fight to save the hand of an eight-year-old boy from Preston after a cone-shaped firework exploded suddenly.

Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust said:

''Last year, half of all firework injuries happened to children under 16. Whether you are going to an organised display or having a party in your back garden, our advice is to make sure young children are supervised at all times and that older children understand how dangerous fireworks can be.

''Even sparklers are dangerous, because they burn at around 2000C - which is six times as hot as a pan of cooking oil. In particular, sparklers should never be given to children under five.''

And messing with fireworks can have disastrous effects:

· A 25-year-old man was knocked out and received serious burns to his hands when a firework exploded in his hand as he was trying to prise it open with a screwdriver. Firefighters had to break down the door of the man''s flat in Walsall, before he could be treated in hospital.

Irresponsible behaviour put lives at risk:

· Primary school children were part of a gang who threw fireworks at firefighters in Glasgow. The firefighters were attacked when they were called out to tackle a blaze in derelict houses in the Toryglen area of the city.

· British Transport Police are investigating an incident where a lighted firework was thrown into a tram in West Bromwich. One woman was left needing hospital treatment.

Trading Standards authorities are clamping down on any traders selling fireworks illegally to the under-18s. Trading Standards departments across the UK are going undercover to catch the traders in the act:

· Lancashire trading standards are warning shopkeepers selling fireworks illegally that they could face prosecution and fines of up to #5,000. Mystery visits are being paid to all registered sellers to check that for any abuses of the law.

· Children are being used to check if shop owners in Derby and Derbyshire are breaking the law by selling to under-age buyers. The children are being used to back up spot checks by trading standards officers on shops.

DTI''s safety campaign is being run in partnership with the charities Child Accident Prevention Trust and Fight for Sight, and is supported by ASDA and Homebase.

Notes to Broadcasters

1. Melanie Johnson, Minister for Competition, Consumers and Markets, will be available for interview. Please contact Nicola Savage, DTI Press Office, Tel: 020 7215 5973; Email: nicola.savage@dti.gsi.gov.uk

2. Professional fireworks adviser Andy Hubble will be available to give firework safety demonstrations, and has a comprehensive display of fireworks, legal and illegal. Tel: 07973 210225; Email: andy.hubble@famousfireworks.com

Notes to Editors

3. Since the start of the campaign, thousands of safety packs have been sent to schools and colleges across the country. Powerful posters depicting teenage victims of firework accidents have been produced, and broadcasters have been provided with firework safety videos to air in the run up to Guy Fawkes'' Night. Thousands of safety leaflets have been produced and are being distributed with sales of fireworks. They include the following safety tips:

Only buy fireworks marked with the BS 7114 kitemark

Don''t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks

Keep fireworks in a closed box

Follow the instructions on each firework

Light them at arm''s length, using a taper

Stand well back

Never go near a firework that has been lit. Even if it hasn''t gone off, it could still explode

Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them

Always supervise children around fireworks

Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves

Never give sparklers to a child under five

Keep pets indoors.

3. There are more injuries to the eyes than any other parts of the body other than the hands and statistics are available from Fight for Sight Press office, Tel: 01935 826181.

4. Useful Contacts:

Child Accident Prevention Trust - Amanda Pritchett, Tel: 020 7689 4742 Fight for Sight - Penny Bool, Tel: 01935 826181 Trading Standards - Matt Adams, Tel: 0870 872 9030 ASDA - Nick Agarwal, Tel: 0113 243 5435 Homebase - Hilary Grist, Tel: 020 8784 7607

5. A Press pack is available which includes:

Accident statistics for 2000: Counting the Costs

The Firework Safety Code (Adult and child versions)

Information sheet on Fight for Sight, whose safety campaign is backed by Top of the Pops presenter Gail Porter

Safety checklist leaflet: Fireworks are explosives - get wise or get hurt

Posters: ''Lucky Miss''; ''Don''t let fireworks ruin your image''

All are available online at: www.dti/homesafetynetwork

6. The fireworks industry website includes details of firework safety and information for organisers of displays, as well as DTI''s campaign materials. Visit www.fireworksafety.co.uk

Public Enquiries: 020-7215 5000 Textphone (for people with hearing impairments): 020-7215 6740 http://www.dti.gov.uk