Fireworks and the law
Fireworks are used to celebrate and enhance festivities all over the world. In South Africa, we use fireworks to celebrate the Hindu holiday of Diwali, Guy Fawkes and New Year’s Eve.
Although these celebrations are enjoyed by many, the disadvantages of setting off fireworks far outweigh the advantages. A moment of excitement and wonder for one person can turn into a lifetime of trauma and loss for another.
Every year hospitals are inundated with firework injuries. Apart from burn wounds, people lose fingers, injure their eyes and faces and worst of all lose their lives. The trauma and suffering caused to animals by fireworks are well known.
Many people have lost their homes in a fire caused by a fireworks accident and communities were left devastated by a wildfire caused by a firework. We urge you to pause and consider the potential dangers of fireworks for both human beings and animals.
This year, 2019, some municipalities chose not to make designated sites available for Guy Fawkes. Fireworks aren’t allowed in terms of the Community Fire Safety By-law, but some municipalities made an exception on Guy Fawkes, Diwali and New Year’s Eve.
Fireworks has many disadvantages, such as:
- The sound of the fireworks is at least 5 times louder to our pets. Several animals run away every year because they become distressed by the noise of fireworks.
- There are several fireworks-related injuries reported every year.
- Fireworks bought illegally from tuck shops and other unauthorised sellers can’t be checked for compliance and the safety thereof can’t be established
- There’s a risk of setting fire to property if not used correctly.
- Fireworks can sound like gunfire and this can mask criminal activity and make it difficult for the police to monitor crime.
- People don’t respect their neighbours who may not appreciate the noise caused by fireworks.
- It affects the environment because those that set off fireworks don’t always clean the space where they used fireworks.
If you’re planning on setting off fireworks, remember these safety tips.
The law and fireworks
Section 30 of the Explosives Act of 1956 states that:
- the use or detonation of any fireworks in any building and public thoroughfare is liable to a R200 fine;
- selling fireworks to a child or anyone under the age of 16 is liable to a R300 fine;
- allowing a child or person under the age of 16 to handle fireworks without adult supervision is liable to a R300 fine.
- You can’t set off fireworks in public places such as parks, pavements, and streets.
- You must be licenced to sell fireworks.
- You can’t set off fireworks within 200 metres of a hospital, clinic, old-aged home, nursing home, animal welfare organisation or petrol station. It’s illegal to do so.
- You can’t point or direct fireworks towards people, animals, cars or buildings.
- Fireworks can only be set off between 7pm and 10pm on Guy Fawkes.
The City of Cape Town encourages the public who has information about the illegal sale or use of fireworks to report it to the City’s Public Emergency Call Centre on 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone or to the South African Police Service on 10111.
Contact your municipality to confirm if they have designated sites and their by-laws regulating the use of fireworks.