Firework Manufacturing Safety

Elizabeth Ruiz, Editor, Maintenance World

Posted 7/3/2024

How are fireworks made? How does safety work for technicians working in firework and firework manufacturing facilities?

On the eve of one of many holidays around the world that use fireworks to celebrate, this week’s newsletter is all about fireworks. We all know basic firework safety tips for setting them off at home, but what happens behind the scenes, before the fireworks are set off or even delivered to the site…

How are Fireworks Made?

Due to secrecy across the industry, not much is known about the details of manufacturing fireworks. They are comprised of fuel, oxidizer, and special chemicals or minerals to produce colors. Stars and special effects are made from paper, plastics, and different chemicals. It is then all packed into a shell or tube in an order that releases the effects at the right time. (1) (2)

fireworks manufacturing, the making of fireworks
Image courtesy Ghengis Fireworks; www.fireworks.co.uk

Worker Safety in Firework Manufacturing Facilities

It is easy to imagine that with all of the combustible and flammable material necessary at firework manufacturing facilities, even a small flame can be devastating to the entire operation and its employees. (3)

Examples of incidents include: 

In 2014 in China, a blast occurred from friction generated by an employee sweeping highly combustible rice hulls.

In 2022, workers in the Magic in the Sky warehouse in Orlando, Florida suffered from a preventable deadly fire and explosion in which 4 employees lost their lives and a fifth was hospitalized for months with near-fatal injuries. The accident happened in the storage facility as the team readied the fireworks for a show. (4)

In Thailand in January 2024, an explosion at a firework manufacturing facility took the lives of an estimated 20 workers and left the worksite completely demolished and hurting members of the surrounding community. (3)

Firework Manufacturing Safety Suggestions and Requirements

A 2023 study of over 100 firework manufacturing accidents in China revealed the biggest risk factors as safety education and training, worker physical and mental state/health, and workplace management. (3) The concept of robust safety education and training is something that can be applied to pyrotechnic manufacturing worldwide. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has laid out suggestions and requirements for firework manufacturing facilities in the US, described below.

A main part of worker safety is making sure the facilities they are working in are safe and operating correctly. OSHA urges companies to build pyrotechnic facilities which:

  • are built to reduce the risks of fires and explosions
  • are one story in height without basements or other subfloors
  • contain a weak/breakaway wall facing away from other process or storage buildings to direct any explosions away from other explosive materials
  • contain smooth interior wall and ceiling surfaces with no cracks or crevices
  • contain interior finishes that are noncombustible or have limited combustibility
  • use heating provided by steam, hot water, or indirect hot air radiators
  • have no exposed nail heads
  • have proper ventilation
  • contain two exits in every area of undivided floor more than 100 square feet
  • read more facility regulations here (5)

Due to the explosive or pyrotechnic materials used to manufacture fireworks, OSHA’s safety regulations for employees include:

  • no use of stoves, exposed flame (including smoking), or electrical heaters in any building where fireworks or firework components are/may be present
  • wearing clothing (provided by the employer) that is made of cotton with nonferrous fasteners and conductive footwear to reduce the danger of generating static electricity – protective clothing to be worn in plant only
  • proper PPE, including respiratory protection, fire resistant clothing, safety goggles, gloves, and ear protection (6)
  • using nonsparking tools
  • abandoning firefighting efforts if the fire involves or could spread to explosive material – EVACUATE
  • good cleaning and housekeeping practices in the plant to avoid accumulation of dust and flammable/combustible waste 
  • training provided by employer on safety practices in the plant

Firework Manufacturing Safety – Conclusion

Fireworks bring joy and are used to celebrate by many, but their creation involves significant risks and requires meticulous safety measures. The firework manufacturing process remains somewhat shrouded in secrecy, yet it is clear that the combination of combustible materials requires stringent safety protocols. Ensuring the safety of workers in pyrotechnic facilities is vital, necessitating complete safety education, proper facility design, and strict adherence to regulations. 

By implementing these safety measures, the industry can continue to provide dazzling displays while protecting the lives of those who make it possible.


Sources

1) “How are fireworks made and how to technicians stay safe?” Online blog post by UpKeep. © 2024, UpKeep Technologies, Inc.

2) “How Fireworks are Made” Online blog post by Ghengis Fireworks. Copyright 2023 © At The Bottom Of The Garden Ltd T/A Ghengis Fireworks Registered in England and Wales as Company No 05531010 – VAT No GB 876201816 | All Rights Reserved

3) “Fireworks Factories Keep Exploding Across Asia – What to Know About the Dangerous Industry” by Koh Ewe. Published January 18, 2024. Published by Time Magazine. 

4) “Department of Labor cites entertainment company in Orlando fireworks warehouse blaze, explosion in which 4 workers perished” OSHA News Release – Region 4. US Department of Labor. OSHA Media Contacts Eric. R. Lucero and Erika B. Ruthman. Release Number 22-1028-ATL (194).

5) “OSHA Instruction CPL 2.73 FEB 3, 1986 Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance” OSHA Archive Document.  Subject: Fireworks Manufacturers: Compliance Policy. 

6) “7 Steps to Keeping Fireworks Industry Workers Safe” by Chris Walter. Published July 3, 2023. Worksite Medical, Occupational Health in Motion. Blog, Uncategorized.  © COPYRIGHT 2024 WORKSITE MEDICAL


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