The Fourth of July is nearly here, and though things may be different this year, risks for accidents and injuries still remain.
What’s more, cancellations and social distancing brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have put officials and safety experts on high alert for increases in fireworks accidents and catastrophic injuries.
COVID-19 Fireworks Concerns: Officials Urge Public to Stay Safe
According to the American Pyrotechnic Association, the fireworks industry is seeing record holiday sales as Americans nationwide opt for their own celebratory displays in the absence of large-scale events and other social activities. Unfortunately, that’s already caused some problems.
Public officials like Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop have reported that fireworks complaints have increased by 3,500% in the weeks leading up to the 4th, and Hoboken authorities said officers were fielding numerous complaints by the final week of June. Earlier this week, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver issued a statement urging all New Jersey residents to use fireworks safely so as to reduce the strain on a health care system already burdened by COVID-19.
While fireworks are synonymous with 4th of July celebrations, they pose significant risks – especially when they’re handled in a less-than-safe manner.
Whatever your plans may be this year, Levinson Axelrod, P.A. would like to wish everyone a healthy and happy Independence Day. As a firm focused on representing injured victims and families following preventable accidents, we also want to provide few tips to help you stay safe.
NJ Fireworks Laws: What Is & Isn’t Legal
Prior to 2017, New Jersey was one of just three states with a blanket ban on fireworks that were not part of permitted shows. Under former Gov. Chris Christie, the law was amended to allow personal use of certain fireworks – generally, those of the “safe and sane” variety.
Although some personal use of fireworks is allowed, it’s important to know what is and is not legal in New Jersey:
- De-Regulated Novelties: Ground-based novelties (i.e. poppers, snakes, and pop-its), sparklers, and smoke devices (i.e. smoke cones, candles, and balls) are legal in New Jersey.
- Permitted “Non-Aerial” Sparkling Devices: New Jersey permits the use of certain “non-aerial” sparkling devices, but limits the amount of pyrotechnic mixture they can contain (no more than 500mg), and urges extreme caution when used. Legal non-aerial sparklers including sparkling wheel devices, fountains, and spinners.
- Prohibited Aerial Fireworks: The use of any aerial fireworks are prohibited, unless they’re part of a permitted public display. This means bottle rockets, firecrackers, roman candles, and shell / mortar fireworks are illegal in New Jersey. Violations are punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Fireworks Safety Tips
- Supervision – Even fireworks deemed “safe and sane” pose risks of unintentional injuries. Sparklers, snakes, and smoking devices can burn at temperatures hot enough to cause serious burn injuries and major fires. Parents should always ensure any sparklers used by children are used only under the close supervision of adults, in accordance to manufacturers’ directions, in safe and controlled conditions outdoors, and in ways which reduce risks of injuries (properly held, never pointed at others, fully extinguished after use, etc.).
- Lighting – Fireworks should only be lit outdoors and away from any nearby fire hazards (i.e. barbeques, gas ranges, propane tanks, flammable liquids, and wood structures on patios or homes).They should never be lit in a container, and should never be “re-lit” if they malfunction or fail to work on a first attempt. When lighting any firework, do so at arm’s length and back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting.
- One at a time – Fireworks can be fun, but too many can be a serious danger. If lighting more than one at a time hinders your ability to safely supervise their use and any children using them, be sure to light and use only one firework at a time to prevent unanticipated dangers.
- Be prepared – Be prepared for potential problems by keeping your fireworks in a safe space that can’t be accessed by children, having a bucket of water or garden hose nearby to soak and extinguish used fireworks and any “duds,” and having a plan if unexpected fires or injuries occur. If you’re attending an event, it’s also a good idea to set an established meeting place just in case people get lost or a major accident creates unforeseen chaos.
More Fourth of July Safety Tips
Fireworks alone aren’t the only dangers during this major holiday – others hazards also exist. Here are few ways you can address them:
- Roadway safety & impaired driving – Roadway risks increase substantially around the 4th. Be extra vigilant in increased traffic that may have more distracted drivers and out-of-town motorists. Also be sure to plan for a safe ride if you plan on drinking during, and watch out for any drunk or impaired drivers who didn’t make the same sensible choice.
- Boating / water safety – If your plans include time on the water, make sure children are always supervised, and proper equipment and safety gear is kept nearby. For boaters, never operate a boat while under the influence, and make sure you know local rules and laws regarding ski safety and having passengers in the water.
- Grilling & BBQ safety – Firing up the grill for Fourth of July is as “America” as it gets. Enjoy your grilling safely by placing barbeques outside and away from any structures or materials that may catch on fire, using long-handled tongs and tools when cooking food, placing oils or spray away from flames, and supervising children nearby.
If you or a loved one are harmed by negligence during the holidays, you may have the right to seek compensation for your damages. Levinson Axelrod, P.A. is available to help residents across New Jersey better understand their rights following preventable injuries. Call or contact us for a free consultation.