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Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton & Favaloro
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What Does It Take To Be An Expert At Handling Fireworks?

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When you were young, your parents probably told you a lot of things to keep you out of trouble. Don’t run with scissors, no horsing around by the pool, don’t play with matches. As you got older, you probably came to realize that no matter how little you thought your parents knew back then, they were right about a thing or two. The old phrase “playing with fire” isn’t just a meaningless warning reserved for revolutionaries and daredevils. When your parents cautioned you against playing with open flames, explosives, or any combination of the two, they knew what they were talking about.

This summer has been a testament to the importance of exercising extreme care when handling or even standing near firework displays. Despite mom and pop’s practical wisdom, many states allow anyone to handle fireworks; this means that when you go to a party, the Tom, Joe or Bill shooting off rockets in the backyard is likely to have about as much training for handling them as you do. It’s enough for anyone to worry and to ask, what does it take to be qualified for handling fireworks?

While firework companies that are specially hired for shows should put their employees through Display Operator Training, no amount of preparation can provide ironclad protection against accidents involving volatile explosives. Whether you are a trained handler or simply an observer, playing with fireworks is always a risk. Take for example last month’s explosion in Ocracoke Island, NC. Four workers were victims of a fatal blast after products from Melrose South Pyrotechnics malfunctioned. A truck filled with supplies for a Fourth of July display blew up suddenly in a parking lot. Five people were burn victims, and one died instantly. Pyrotechnics employees were unable to avoid the unexpected and sudden blast, despite the fact that they had reportedly handled and loaded the fireworks safely and carefully into the truck. Another incident in Quakertown, PA resulted in the death of a 19 year old employee of Zambelli Fireworks International. The death was ruled a workplace accident after an investigation revealed that the victim was killed by a piece of debris that flew out of control following a ground explosion. The malfunction was the result of a flaw in the launching container used in the display.

Incidents like these prove that no matter how prepared or how careful you are, accidents still happen, especially when you are playing with fire. If you are planning to watch or set off fireworks, you should make sure that the person handling the explosives is properly trained. However, keep in mind that no amount of training can protect against accidental malfunctions. Explosives are dangerous and unpredictable by nature. Handling them on your own is a great way to invite trouble and possibly injure yourself or your family and friends. If you are injured in a firework accident caused by a malfunction, you may have a hard time suing the company for negligence or wrongdoing. Even if they have created a flawed product, it may be difficult to prove that the product, not the operator, was to blame for the accident. That’s the thing about explosions- there’s not a lot left to investigate. If a defective firework blows up incorrectly, it might be hard to prove that an untrained or careless operator did not simply do something wrong.

Exercise caution and think twice before you put yourself in harm’s way. Remember that Mom and Dad knew what they were talking about when they warned you not to play with fire.