Tomorrow is the 4th of July and fireworks will be part of many of your celebrations. The use of fireworks for festive occasions is centuries old, and so, too, is the risk in using them.
Consumers should use fireworks responsibly and the CPSC should make sure that our regulations help consumers have a safe and fun experience. This was brought home to me by a Wall Street Journal article last week noting that many states have eased fireworks restrictions. Therefore, it is even more important that CPSC’s regulations on fireworks be up-to-date and capable of protecting the public from risks inherent in modern fireworks. But, that is not the case.
The current CPSC fireworks safety standards were written many years ago and really need to be modernized. For example: under our current standard to determine if a Roman candle is overloaded with explosives, someone has to listen to how loud it is when it is exploded. If it sounds too loud, it fails. The only testing equipment—just our tester’s ear! Would you like your product tested so subjectively?
There has been talk about the need to update the CPSC fireworks standard ever since I got here. I have tried to spur action on this only to be told that other priorities take precedence. Yet with more than 9,000 injuries every year, you would think that we could find some time to work on this issue more effectively.
In earlier posts I have talked about the importance of reviewing existing rules to identify and correct those that are out of date, need revision or impose undue burdens. Unfortunately, so far our rule review exercise is one of minor housekeeping, not major repair. Serious rule review doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. If we were serious, we have a number of rules that need revision—the fireworks rule should be toward the top of the list.
In the meantime, here are some safety tips for using fireworks. And have a wonderful holiday!