This year is the first Independence Day in Pennsylvania with new fireworks laws in effect but while many people are excited there are others with concerns about serious injuries.
Fans of fireworks can now buy “Class C” or consumer-grade fireworks which includes firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and similar fireworks that contain a maximum of 50 milligrams of explosive material. They became legal with the passage of House Bill 542 that was signed on October 30, 2017. Under the new law, the Fireworks Act of 1939 was replaced in its entirety, according to the Pennsylvania State police’s website.
Display fireworks, “Class B,” are the type seen at community celebrations on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. They are only legal for professional pyrotechnicians use. In addition, M-80s, M-100s, quarter-sticks, half-sticks and cherry bombs, which are illegal in most of the U.S., will remain illegal in Pennsylvania.
Only licensed professionals with a permit from the municipality where they will be fired are allowed to set off display fireworks that are classified as containing more than two grains or 130 milligrams of explosive materials. Professional-grade aerial shells containing more than 60 grams of pyrotechnic compositions also are to be used only by professionals, according to the state regulations.
There are 35 categories of consumer fireworks, compared to just seven categories of novelty devices, according to the American Pyrotechnic Association, an trade industry group based in Bethesda, Md.
While customers, those 18 years of age or older, are happy they can buy aerial fireworks, previously prohibited, they will need to shell out a little extra for these items – 18% in taxes in Chester County. The tax consists of the 6 percent state sales tax, plus a 12 percent tax on consumer fireworks, according to the state Department of Revenue.
The Pennsylvania state’s Independent Fiscal Office estimated the fireworks legislation would produce about $2.5 million in tax revenue.
And it seems everyone is trying to cash in on the sales of fireworks from small mom-and-pop stores, tents along roadsides, and to big-box stores like Target and Walmart.
However, fireworks are dangerous! With more explosives, more gunpowder, and larger devices, come greater risks of serious and permanent injuries. An estimated 230 people a day, go to emergency rooms during the one-month period (June 20–July 20) surrounding the Fourth of July holiday. With a majority of the injuries report in people under the age of 25 years old.
This year’s numbers could be much higher due the availability of the consumer-grade fireworks in Pennsylvania.
FIREWORKS SAFETY TIPS
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Know your fireworks; read the cautionary labels and performance descriptions before igniting.
- A responsible adult should supervise all firework activities. Never give fireworks to children.
- Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
- Light one firework at a time and then quickly move away.
- Use fireworks outdoors in a clear area away from buildings and vehicles.
- Never relight a “dud” firework.
- Wait 20 minutes and then soak it in a bucket of water.
- Always have a bucket of water, a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby.
- Never carry fireworks in your pocket or shoot them into metal or glass containers.
- Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.
- Dispose of spent fireworks by wetting them down and place in a metal trash can away from any building or combustible materials until the next day.
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations prohibit the possession and transportation of fireworks in your checked baggage or carry-on luggage.
- Report illegal explosives, like M-80s and quarter sticks, to the fire or police department
Information courtesy of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency