Protect your eyes this fireworks night!

Bonfire night, and fireworks in general is a spectacular sight, and can be great fun!  Yet despite safety warnings, these celebrations may end in painful injuries for many people, and particularly children.  We may think of rockets as the most dangerous firework but sparklers which are often considered the safest, are responsible for a large amount of these injuries.   Eye injuries can be extremely severe resulting in a permanent reduction in vision or even blindness.


Statistics and facts:

  • 10 is the average of people who lose their sight every year, due to fireworks
  • Half – over half of all firework related injuries are suffered by children.
  • Bystanders – Whilst those handling the fireworks are most at risk of injury, studies show that bystanders in the vicinity of a firework being launched are as likely to be harmed as the person involved in lighting it.
  • Eye injuries – Research* shows that approximately 300 eye injuries are caused each year by fireworks, of which, over half could have been prevented if the correct safety precautions were taken.
  • Sparklers get five times hotter than cooking oil.
  • A rocket can reach speeds of 150mph.
  • Three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blowtorch.
  • Injuries – Most firework-related injuries happen at family or private parties.
  • Around half of all injuries are to children under the age of 17.
  • The most common injuries are to hands, followed by the eyes and face.

Put in this context, it is worth taking a few simple precautions by following the Firework Code to avoid eye injuries and have a safe and enjoyable event.  Injury figures suggest that the safest place to enjoy firework is at public displays, but if you do have home gatherings, follow the code.

Firework Code

Only adults should deal with setting up firework displays, the lighting of fireworks and the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used (and remember, alcohol and fireworks don’t mix!). Children and young people should be supervised and watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance. Follow these top tips for a safer fireworks party:

  • Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable, and ensure it finishes before 11pm
  • Only buy fireworks that meet British Standards and carry the CE mark, AND only buy from a reputable retailer
  • Wear protective eyewear-normal spectacles do not protect against high velocity injuries. Wear polycarbonate safety goggles or glasses, particularly if you are the person lighting the fireworks
  • Stand back- light your fireworks at arm’s length with a taper and then stand well back.
  • Wear gloves when using sparklers- Never give sparklers to a child under the age of 5 years (see below). Sparklers remain hot even after they have gone out so put them in a bucket of cold water when they have finished burning
  • Stay clear of fireworks even when they have been lit-even if the firework has not gone off, keep your distance as it could still explode.
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  • Do not consume alcohol if setting off fireworks-for obvious reasons!
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box-away from where you are launching the live fireworks
  • Supervise children at all times-with over half of firework injuries being suffered by children, make sure you keep an eye on little ones during the displays.

Bonfire Safety

  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  • One person should be designated as responsible for the bonfire
  • Make sure children are always supervised
  • Choose a site that is not close to buildings or wooden structures e.g. fences
  • Make sure there is water handy, in the event you need it
  • Make sure that the fire is extinguished, and surroundings are made safe before leaving


If the worst happens and someone is injured, it is vital that you seek immediate medical attention. Even if the injury appears mild, quick treatment can minimise any long-term damage.   Do not rub or rinse the injured eye or apply any ointments to the eye area. If you do, it could increase any damage and make it more difficult for a specialist to provide treatment.


*Research supplied by the College of Optometrists