Safe use of close proximity fireworks

Outdoor fireworks during fire bans

On Friday 22 November 2019, the Minister for Fire and Emergency Services revoked the Declaration of State of Fire Emergency in Queensland. However, fire bans are still in place in many local government areas.

Where total fire bans are in place, no outdoor fireworks display should proceed without prior consultation with the local fire warden. All fireworks contractors must:

  1. Notify the Explosives Inspectorate and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
  2. Check the locations of total fire bans.
  3. Contact the local fire warden (if necessary).

Close proximity fireworks are manufactured pyrotechnic devices or articles designed for use near performers, spectators, or others involved in the event.

These fireworks may be used indoors (e.g. in a theatre, entertainment centre or club) or at outdoor venues (e.g. sporting arenas or outdoor stages).

Risks vary according to where they are used, so the guidelines may not be relevant to all situations. However, all parties should consider this information when assessing and ensuring the safe use of these fireworks.

Code of practice for close proximity fireworks

The Queensland code of practice: Close proximity fireworks (PDF, 477KB) applies to the control of all close proximity fireworks intended for entertainment purposes in Queensland. It has been derived from the requirements of the Explosives Act 1999 (PDF, 593KB) and industry consultation.

It does not apply to:

  • unrestricted toy fireworks available to the general public (e.g. sparklers and party poppers)
  • outdoor fireworks used at public displays (e.g. ground cakes and aerial shells) by licensed outdoor fireworks operators
  • special effects manufactured from pyrotechnics, high explosives and other substances (e.g. fuel and cork dust used by licensed special effects technicians)
  • non-explosive special effects (e.g. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) flares, carbon dioxide confetti cannons or air-operated special effects).

Location

Assess each location where close proximity fireworks will be used to identify and manage risks. Licensed fireworks contractors and operators must meet their general duty of care and specific obligations, and not endanger anyone's safety, health or property.

Licences

Ensure only people licensed to use close proximity fireworks conduct such displays. This includes ensuring that people with a fireworks operator licence are appropriately endorsed for use of close proximity fireworks.

Notification

Notify the Explosives Inspectorate and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) at least 7 days before any close proximity display using the appropriate fireworks display notification form, and no longer than 7 days after the display using the fireworks post display notification form.

Appropriate use

Use only fireworks designed for close proximity displays in accordance with the manufacturers' or suppliers' instructions including performance characteristics such as duration, height and diameter of the fireworks effect.

Calculate the actual clearance distances for close proximity displays by assessing the following:

  • manufacturer's or supplier's recommended clearance distance or twice the fallout radius, whichever is greater
  • effects of wind (i.e. for outdoors) or forced ventilation (e.g. fans)
  • effects of angled fireworks
  • distance to which exposure to noise intensity and duration meets exposure standards.

Fireworks that are designed for use in outdoor fireworks displays must not be used indoors, nor used in close proximity firework displays in outdoor settings.

Risk assessment

The fireworks contractor must plan close proximity fireworks displays with the event organiser, fireworks operator, performers and other relevant parties.

They should conduct a risk assessment, including a fire risk assessment, considering all the venue features and the fireworks devices to be used, including:

  • the manufacturer's or supplier's recommendations for set-up, clearance distances and product use
  • the firing points for each firework device
  • the location of performers, audience, operators, assistants and others near the functioning product
  • the risk of fire from the set, scenery, rigging materials, walls, ceilings, curtains and stage fittings within the performance area
  • the risk of burns to performers from their costumes/materials worn by performers, and to others near the functioning product
  • the risk of harm from the noise produced by fireworks devices
  • whether ventilation will manage any smoke, toxic gases, irritants and other products
  • whether exposure to smoke, toxic gases, irritants and noise, and the duration of the exposure, is at acceptable levels under health and safety standards for the actual conditions, including ventilation, that will exist during the display
  • the need for personal protective equipment (e.g. hearing protection, safety glasses, flameproof clothing, respiratory protection) for the operator, assistants, performers and anyone near the devices
  • security for the close proximity firework devices at the performance site from when the devices are brought to the site until they are used.

Isolating fire safety systems

While it is not always possible to interrupt or isolate fire detection and life safety systems during fireworks displays, it may be a requirement to isolate essential elements of the fire safety system, including smoke detectors and other fire detection systems, or disengage air handling systems.

To do this:

  • ensure that such isolation is allowable for the class of building as per the Building Code of Australia
  • advise the QFES (as appropriate) of the plan to manage fire safety issues before isolating or shutting down essential elements of the fire safety system
  • get approval from the facility owner or their agent
  • ensure someone is available to direct the operation of all installed fire detection and life safety systems, and notify emergency responders if necessary. They must remain at the facility until the operation of all isolated and disengaged systems returns to normal and this has been verified.

Firing fireworks devices

Carefully select the type of firework devices and their location, and ventilation, so you can control the quantity of smoke and not endanger people's breathing, including irritating people with respiratory disorders or blocking the visibility of exit signs or pathways.

Mount the devices so that fallout can't endanger people or property.

Position all fireworks devices:

  • in clear view of the fireworks operator or an assistant in direct communication with the operator
  • no closer to the audience than the minimum separation distance calculated or stated by the manufacturer/supplier and never closer than 2m
  • where they can't be disturbed during the performance.

Before the display performance

  • Check that all exits are identified, visible, clear, unlocked and generally able to act as an exit in an emergency.
  • Notify the QFES of the smoke level likely to be generated by the fireworks.
  • Ensure access to appropriate firefighting equipment before, during and after the display. Staff who are trained to use firefighting equipment must be present during these times.
  • Check that all material close to the fireworks devices is flame retardant. If necessary, treat the material or protect it with a suitable flame retardant barrier.
  • Verify that all devices have been fired.
  • Dispose of any unfired devices according to the manufacturer's and supplier's instructions.
  • Then declare the area free from firework devices, before returning control of the site to the event organiser.

Immediately after the display performance

  • Verify that all devices have been fired.
  • Dispose of any unfired devices according to the manufacturer's and supplier's instructions.
  • Then declare the area free from firework devices, before returning control of the site to the event organiser.

Role of the QFES

The fireworks contractor must notify the appropriate QFES local area director (urban division) at least 7 days before the display.

The QFES officers will assess your information based on public safety issues. They may then conduct an onsite inspection and consultation before the display to assess the risk of ignition and subsequent spread of fire due to the fireworks.

The QFES's risk assessment takes into account access/egress, exits, crowd numbers, pyrotechnic materials and devices, flameproofing, fire alarm and air handling systems. Fire officers can give directions, including stopping a display.