Written by Maddie Demo who works in BBJ Group's Chicago office
Happy 4th of July and long weekend from BBJ Group! Home-based fun with fireworks has already started throughout the US – ‘tis the season. Whether you’re a viewer, manufacturer, operator of firework shows, or backyard enthusiast, it is important to beware of safety and environmental hazards.
Fireworks safety at home
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that approximately 10,000 injuries treated in emergency departments involved or were related to fireworks in 2019. As we return to larger social gatherings with family and friends in 2021, safety tips for non-professional fireworks users include:
Wear protective eyewear if lighting or standing nearby fireworks,
Only use fireworks away from people, houses, and potentially hazardous materials,
Soak used and unused fireworks in water before disposing of them, and
Have a fire extinguisher or bucket of water on hand in case of fire.
See more tips on Fireworks Safety from the National Safety Council here.
Remember, in case of emergency, call 911.
Smoke and Fine Particulates
If you’re leaving your fireworks show up to the professionals, you may be wondering what ends up in the smoke left in the sky after fireworks are ignited and where the contents go. With both plastic and chemical components, it’s no wonder we see the remnants of fireworks in the sky until gravity forces particulates and debris to settle.
We know that criteria pollutants like particulate matter and gases, and other pollutants like metals and perchlorate are firework components that become byproducts and contaminants after they’re set off – and that they negatively impact air quality. Though few studies have attempted to quantify patterns of effects on state, regional, and national air quality on the 4th of July, the EPA’s Air Quality System Database has shown elevated PM 2.5 concentrations throughout the country on July 4 from 2000 to 2013, which include exceedances of the 35 ug/m^3 National Ambient Air Quality Standards threshold for PM 2.5 at monitoring locations in Cook County, Illinois (Chicago) and Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties in California.
RCRA Requirements: Disposing of Firework Waste
Fireworks contain hazardous chemicals that can pollute the environment if they are improperly disposed. Waste fireworks meet the definition of a characteristic hazardous waste due to their ignitability, toxicity, and/or reactive nature. If you will be disposing fireworks it is important to understand the RCRA regulatory requirements and best management practices to ensure the health and safety people and the environment. This information can be found here.
Employers in the Pyrotechnics Industry
OSHA provides regulations and guidance for the pyrotechnics industry including manufacturing, retail sales, and fireworks displays. Occupational safety hazards and controls ranges from fire protection and emergency planning to hazardous materials and toxic and hazardous substances. Beyond OSHA, Federal Standards and Industry Best Practices from agencies and associations such as:
American Pyrotechnics Association
US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board
US Consumer Product Safety Commission
US Department of Transportation
International Code Council
National Fire Protection Association
Specific OSHA Guidance for the Pyrotechnics Industry, including Process Safety Management, can be found here.
For employees of the pyrotechnics industry, remember that no matter your status as an employee – temporary, contractor, part-time, or full-time – OSHA has you covered. More on OSHA Worker Rights and Protections here.