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New fireworks restrictions will help reduce injuries – minister

Tighter restrictions on fireworks are proposed (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Tighter restrictions on fireworks are proposed (Andrew Milligan/PA)

New legislation restricting the sale of fireworks will reduce the number of injuries caused by the devices, the community safety minster has said after visiting a burns unit.

Ash Regan visited the unit at Glasgow Royal Infirmary on Wednesday ahead of next week’s stage three debate at the Scottish Parliament on the Fireworks and Pyrotechnic Articles (Scotland) Bill which proposes restrictions on the use of such items.

Ms Regan said talking to medical staff highlighted how dangerous fireworks can be, with patients suffering injuries such as losing fingers or sustaining damage to their eyes.

The proposed legislation includes a licensing scheme and training for those buying fireworks, and would limit the times and areas they can be used in.

New Year 2018 celebrations
Fireworks would only be available for sale at certain times of year under the proposals (David Cheskin/PA)

Ms Regan told the PA news agency: “Today I’ve been hearing from the staff in the burns unit, so that’s nurses, surgeons, plastic surgeons, but also psychologists and physiotherapists about the really serious life-changing impact some of these firework injuries can have on people and how long it takes for people to recover.

“I heard about people who work with their hands, artists or joiners, losing fingers as a result of injuries, another common injury is injury to faces and eyes.

“People were saying they thought they knew how to use fireworks but they just did something really silly.

“It’s a real reminder about how dangerous fireworks can be and how important it is to follow all the safety instructions if you are going to be using fireworks.”

The legislation proposed would also see the sale of fireworks only taking place for 37 days of the year, on dates surrounding major events such as Bonfire Night, Hogmanay and Diwali.

Stage three involves the consideration of amendments and a debate before a decision on whether or not the bill should be voted into law.

Ms Regan said the proposals will ensure that using fireworks is more of a planned decision.

She said: “The provisions in the bill are an attempt to strike that balance between allowing people to still go to a public display of fireworks with their family – many people enjoy that, I enjoy that – and be able to continue to do that, but if people want to use fireworks, for instance in their back gardens, which is where we see a lot of injuries, especially to children, that will become much more of a thought-out, planned decision.

“People will have to have a licence to buy the fireworks, they will be restricted now in when they can use the fireworks, the number of days you can use fireworks is going to be much reduced, so we hope that, on balance, the use of pyrotechnics and flares will reduce, and so the harm, injury and distress that’s caused by them will also reduce.”

Eleanor Robertson, senior clinical research fellow in the burns and plastic surgery department at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said the clinical community welcomed the proposed legislation.

She said fireworks tend to cause injuries to the hands, face and eyes, and can even lead to people losing their vision or an eye, while burns can also require long-term care.

She said: “What we tend to say is that a burn is for life and what that means is that, especially in children, if a burn injury is sustained when you are still growing, patients require long-term follow up over many years to ensure that the area which has been burnt doesn’t then cause later restrictions to patients’ function.

“So, an injury which may only take a second can require years of follow up from the multi-disciplinary team and the type of treatment required can be broad and complex.”