New Year celebrations resulted in 10 eye injuries – fires kept rescue departments busy

Mediatiedote
18.1.2021 16.45 | Published in English on 25.1.2021 at 15.26
Press release

Ten people received eye injuries requiring hospital treatment during the 2020–2021 New Year celebrations. In addition, one injury resulted from an unignited sparkler hitting the eye, and a P1 product designed as an animal repellent caused one eye injury. Eye injuries were also sustained by minors. The number of eye injuries increased from last year, while remaining at the same level as in three years preceding that. Rescue departments had 68 assignments related to fireworks fires. The figure decreased from last year’s 92 assignments. The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) received seven reports on defective fireworks.

Eye injuries were sustained both by people who set off and watched fireworks, including two minors

Eye injuries were received both by people who set off fireworks and by people who watched them. Among these, one was aged four and one 70, both of whom watched fireworks. Of the ten eye injuries, three were severe, five moderate and two mild. Most of those injured did not wear protective eyewear. Cakes caused five and rockets three injuries, while in two cases the cause of an injury was unknown. In addition, one person was injured by an unignited sparkler and one by a P1 product designed as an animal repellent. Information on eye injuries is based on data collected by the Finnish ophthalmologists’ association from hospitals. 

 Eye injuries can be avoided by using protective eyewear and by following instructions for use

“Moderate and severe eye injuries caused by fireworks could nearly always be avoided if protective eyewear was used. The use of protective eyewear when setting off fireworks has been mandatory for more than ten years now, and those who have worn safety glasses have only sustained mild injuries. Unfortunately, not many watchers use protective eyewear”, says Tero Kivelä, professor at the Department of Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology at the Helsinki University Hospital.

Tukes and the Finnish ophthalmologists’ association also recommend that watchers use protective eyewear, because fireworks flying in the wrong direction have caused eye injuries to bystanders every year.

“Instructions for use, age limits and safe distances must be followed when setting off fireworks. Fireworks are not permitted for persons under 18. Parents should remember not to give any fireworks to their children”, says Kurt Kokko, head of unit at Tukes. 

Rescue departments had 68 assignments involving fireworks fires, most involving bin fires

Between 27 December and 5 January, rescue departments had 68 assignments involving fires suspected to be ignited by fireworks. In the previous year, the corresponding figure was 92. Of the fires caused by fireworks, the majority (49) were bin fires, in addition to which there were five building fires and five building fire hazards. 

Correspondingly, there were a total of 117 fireworks-related fires during the entire previous year. Of these, 64 were bin fires, seven were building fires and 12 were building fire hazards. 

This information is from the Emergency Services Academy Finland’s PRONTO register. 

Tukes received seven reports on defective fireworks and firecrackers

Seven reports on defective fireworks and firecrackers were submitted to Tukes.  Three of these concerned cakes and three P1 firecrackers. Two cakes did not include Finnish instructions for use, and one cake was reported to have caused leg burns for two people. Both reports on P1 firecrackers concerned the Thunder Original firecracker/repellent. Complaints were made of the loud noise caused by the product, and some products were assembled incorrectly, therefore involving the risk of an incorrect use. P1 products are intended as repellents for harmful animals, and they cannot be sold in conjunction with fireworks. Tukes set a sales ban for the Thunder Original repellent and issued a warning of the product. 

In the previous year, Tukes received ten reports on defective or incorrectly working fireworks. The number of reports has been much higher in certain years. For example, there were 74 reports during the 2017–2018 New Year celebrations and up to 238 in 2016–2017. 

Importers are responsible for the safety of fireworks

The safety of fireworks is the responsibility of their importers. Tukes supervises that importers comply with the requirements laid down in the legislation and have quality controls in place. Fireworks do not require any pre-approval. All imported fireworks must be CE-marked.

Further information:

Kurt Kokko, head of unit, Tukes (fireworks), tel. +358 29 5052 128, [email protected]

Tero Kivelä, professor, Finnish ophthalmologists’ association, Department of Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology (eye injuries), HUS, tel. +358 50 525 2723, [email protected]

Heidi Liukkonen, data systems designer, Emergency Services Academy Finland (fires), tel. +358 29 541 3411, [email protected]

APPENDIX

The number of eye injuries requiring hospital treatment at the end of each year. 
Source: Finnish ophthalmologists’ association

2020-2021: 12 
2019-2020: 5
2018-2019: 13
2017-2018: 12
2016–2017: 12
2015¬‒2016: 31
2014‒2015: 17
2013‒2014: 11
2012−2013: 15
2011−2012: 19
2010−2011: 27
2009−2010: 47
2008−2009: 46
2007−2008: 44
2006−2007: 32
2005−2006: 22
2004−2005: 31
2003−2004: 32
2002−2003: 19
2001−2002: 36
2000−2001: 30

Fires between 27 December and 5 January, causing an alarm and suspected to have been caused by fireworks. Source: Rescue Services’ resource and accident statistics (PRONTO)

2020-2021: 68
2019–2020: 92
2018–2019: 60
2017-2018: 67
2016–2017: 106
2015‒2016: 136
2014‒2015: 75
2013‒2014: 96
2012−2013: 44
2011−2012: 78
2010−2011: 69
2009−2010: 62
2008−2009: 236
2007−2008: 227
2006−2007: 155
2005−2006: 81
2004−2005: 84
2003−2004: 66