In preparation for this weekend’s July 4th celebrations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is urging employers in the fireworks and pyrotechnics industry to protect their workers from hazards while manufacturing, storing, transporting, displaying, and selling fireworks for public events.
“Millions of Americans will enjoy the excitement and beauty fireworks bring to the 4th of July holiday, but we must recognize the dangers workers in the pyrotechnics industry face every day,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “It is vital that employers take the required steps to ensure workers’ safety and health.”
Last summer, one worker was killed and another critically injured in an explosion and fire at a fireworks storage facility in Kansas. Two employees were directed to use a gas-powered forklift to move pallets of fireworks and cardboard out of an explosives storage facility in Pittsburg when the gas ignited, which caused an explosion and fire. Within seconds, the trapped employees became engulfed in flames. The inferno took the life of one 28-year-old worker and left a 43-year-old co-worker to suffer with burns over 80% of his body and the possibility of never working again. OSHA cited the employer, Lone Star Management, with nine serious safety violations and proposed $55,000 in fines.
“Poor housekeeping, combined with using a forklift not approved for flammable environments, proved to be a deadly combination,” said Judy Freeman, OSHA’s area director in Wichita. “Fireworks are meant to be fun, but by their nature, are highly explosive. This employer knew the hazards and how to protect staff. The families of these workers should not suffer because a company did not show a commitment to worker safety.”
OSHA’s Web page on the pyrotechnics industry addresses retail sales of fireworks and fireworks displays. Information on common hazards and solutions found in both areas of the industry, and downloadable safety posters for workplaces are available here. The website also includes a video which demonstrates best industry practices for retail sales and manufacturers based on National Fire Protection Association consensus standards.