As we bid farewell to a challenging 2020, Victorians are being urged to avoid the dangers of celebrating with illegal fireworks.
Published:29 December 2020
With many cities and towns cancelling their official New Year's Eve displays this year, people should not be tempted to risk using fireworks themselves.
It is a crime for anyone other than licensed pyrotechnicians to use or possess fireworks, which are all classed as a type of explosive.
There are positive signs that people are heeding the safety message, with no fireworks-related fatalities in the state since 2016 and the number of injuries and fireworks seized also down.
So far this year, WorkSafe has confiscated 1270 individual fireworks that have been handed in or seized by Victoria Police, compared to more than 7000 in 2019.
Firework-related injuries have almost halved in the past two years, according to the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit at Monash University.
Seventeen people presented at emergency departments in the 2019-20 financial year, compared to 16 the previous year and 35 in each of the 2017-18 and 2016-17 years.
Of the 136 people who visited emergency departments with fireworks-related injuries in the five years to June 2020, 74 per cent were male and more than a third were aged in their 20s.
The most common injuries were burns or corrosions (40 per cent), eye injuries (19 per cent) and foreign bodies (13 per cent).
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said this festive season was an opportunity to mark the end of a difficult year but it was important to do so safely.
"The risks associated with fireworks are just not worth it," Ms Nielsen said.
"Not only do those caught with illegal fireworks face a prison sentence of up to 15 years and thousands of dollars in fines, they are also putting themselves, their family, friends and community in danger."
Fire Rescue Victoria Deputy Commissioner Fire Safety Michelle Young said in the past five years, firefighters responded to more than 120 fireworks incidents.
"Many of these emergencies resulted in severe injuries, significant damage to property, and even disruptions to the public transport network," Deputy Commissioner Young said.
"Fireworks are dangerous, unpredictable and volatile items that can result in fires, including grassfires and bushfires, as well as cause property damage, serious burns and even death.
"New Year's Eve might look a little different this year but firefighters are calling on the community to still say goodbye to 2020 in the safest possible way."
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said illegal fireworks could often cause significant bush and grass fires, particularly during the Christmas and New Year period.
"We've already had an incident in Mernda earlier this month where CFA crews were called to a grassfire that is suspected to have been started by illegal fireworks," Chief Officer Heffernan said.
"This season there has been exceptional grass growth across the state which has dried out in recent weeks."
Information about the sale or use of illegal fireworks can be reported to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or by submitting a confidential crime report.
Anyone in possession of illegal fireworks should contact WorkSafe's Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 so they can be collected.