Fireworks are a part of many seasonal celebrations, but many people fail to realize just how dangerous they really are. Many accidents each year result in life-altering injuries for people of all ages. Firework injuries can be particularly difficult to treat because they involve both burn and blast injuries, which damage tissues from the skin through the bone, sometimes causing partial or complete hand amputation.
Fireworks caused over 11,000 injuries in 2016, most commonly damaging hands and fingers. Sparklers, which many parents consider safe, burn at greater than 1,000 degrees F and can quickly cause serious injury. Injuries to the hand may include disfigurement and permanent disability, affecting jobs and life satisfaction.
Many states recognize the danger and limit the use of consumer fireworks at varying levels. As hand surgeons who specialize in this type of injury, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand urges you to understand that:
- All fireworks are inherently dangerous.
- Firework use should be limited to professional display; explosive materials should only be handled by professionals.
- Firework injuries to the hand can be devastating and have large personal and economic costs.
Fireworks are unpredictable, and even trained technicians are susceptible to injury. Yet, we understand that consumers may continue to use fireworks, so we recommend additional fireworks safety precautions should always be taken:
- Use personal protective equipment, including eye protection, when handling any flammable material.
- Ensure that people nearby are aware of any plan to ignite fireworks and are in a safe area.
- If attending a public display, pay close attention and obey all rules and regulations established by the authorities and crew in charge of safety.
- Do not consume alcohol or use other drugs when choosing to use a firework, as it may impair judgment and dexterity.
- ASSH’s full position statement includes additional safety recommendations from the National Council on Firework Safety.
Hands are our primary tools for exploring the world; an injury can permanently impact your home and work life. Please be safe this season!
“As a young child, I clearly remember asking my mother to buy fireworks for the 4th of July. She told me about her childhood classmate who lost an eye due to a firework injury and told me ‘no,’” recalls hand surgeon Steven H. Goldberg, MD. “Now, as a hand surgeon, I’ve had to treat multiple patients with injuries so severe that their fingers required amputation or were already missing. It is not easy news to share, and it’s not easy for patients to hear. In a split second, their hand, their life, their employment is changed forever. Listen to my mom, and say ‘no’ to the personal use of fireworks this summer.”