Publication - Research and analysis

Fireworks regulations - impact: case studies

Published: 3 Nov 2020

This paper consists of seven case studies, each one aligned to one or more of the legislative options being considered by the Firework Review Group.

73 page PDF

1.1 MB

73 page PDF

1.1 MB

Contents
Fireworks regulations - impact: case studies
Main points from the case studies

73 page PDF

1.1 MB

Main points from the case studies

Aligned Legislative Options Reference Case Study*  Evidence summary 
General  General 
  • The evidence concerning the implementation and impact of fireworks regulations is imperfect and incomplete, but the research moves us beyond relying solely on anecdotal evidence. 
  • Countries have introduced a range of different measures to tackle the negative consequences of fireworks use and there are indications that some may have had a positive impact. However it can be challenging to establish the effect of these over the long term – especially if they are enacted alongside other initiatives or there is insufficient data.
  • Linked to the above, there is a lack of metrics in place to monitor and evaluate the impact of fireworks regulations. 
  • Only studies in the Netherlands and Northern Ireland look at the impact of a single aligned legislative option. However, social policies are not introduced in isolation from external factors and activities. Consequently, the studies are not able to account for the possible influence of other factors, as is the case with most policy interventions. 
  • The majority of the evidence included does not concern the possible impact or effectiveness of a single regulation, as a number of measures were enacted at the same time, as is more often the case with new regulations. 
  • Although the evidence base does not allow us to categorically conclude that regulations alone have led to an observed change, there are a number of instances where it appears there is a clear association between regulations being enacted and a change occurring. 
  • The majority of the available evidence examines the possible impact of regulations on fireworks-related injuries (as a whole and specific to eye injuries).  
  • It is likely that the police figures on firework crimes and offences only captures a portion of illegal firework activities. 
Ban on sale of fireworks to general public A Australia,
Rep. of Ireland
  • The number of firework-related offences reported to or becoming known to the police has been markedly lower following the ban on consumer fireworks in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in 2009.
  • The number of firework seizures carried out by police in the ACT has been largely unchanged following the fireworks ban.  
  • In Ireland, the 2005 consultation process which concluded with the introduction of new firework offences, increased penalties and greater Gardaí investigative powers, was initiated on the back of growing concerns around illegal fireworks and the misuse of fireworks, especially against the emergency services. 
Licencing the sale of fireworks B Northern Ireland,
Australia
  • Following the introduction of the Northern Ireland licensing system in 2002, there was an immediate marked reduction in the number of people sustaining injuries caused by fireworks[5]
  • Rigorous evidence shows that since the introduction of a licensing system in Northern Ireland, the number of persons injured by fireworks has been lower compared to before the regulations were enacted[6]
  • In Northern Ireland the number of recorded offences for buying/possessing/using fireworks without a valid licence increased consecutively from 2006 to 2011. Since then there has been no clear trend, although the figures have remained below the 2011 peak. 
  • No available evidence on the licensing system in Tasmania (Australia) could be sourced.
Restrictions on the use of fireworks on private property C None  N/A
Restrict times and days when fireworks can be set off D Australia,
Finland,
Germany,
Netherlands
  • Evidence from Finland indicates that there was a marked decline in the number of bystanders and firework users sustaining fireworks-related eye injuries following the enactment of measures in 2010. These included time restrictions on when fireworks can be used on New Year's Eve. 
  • In the Netherlands, the number of people sustaining fireworks-related injuries (as a whole and eye injuries) has been consistently lower following the 2015 reduction in the usage period on 31 December from 16 hours to 8 hours, with the decline most pronounced amongst bystanders. During this time there was a number of firework safety campaigns, which may have had an effect also.  
  • In Germany, the public use of fireworks on 31 December and 01 January (the only permitted time) contributes to a spike in fine-particle emissions. 
  • In Germany, a three year study of fireworks-related eye injuries sustained over the New Year period found that minors were disproportionally affected and the majority of those injured were bystanders, leading the study to raise concerns as to whether existing regulations are sufficient. 
  • Data from the Netherlands suggests that regulations restricting when fireworks can be used coincided with a marked decline in the volume of firework imports. There are signs however that this is recovering. 
Notification system before fireworks can be used E Finland
  • No available evidence on this option could be sourced.
No fireworks areas or zones F Germany,
Netherlands
  • Anecdotally, authorities in Berlin and Munich have reflected positively on the introduction of firework free zones for New Year's Eve, notwithstanding the additional resources required to enforce them. The zones are to remain inforce going forward. 
  • Anecdotal evidence from the Dutch Police suggests that introduction of firework free zones resulted in a shift in hot spots for firework use.
Proxy purchasing offence in relation to the supply of fireworks to those under 18 G None  N/A
Restrictions on times fireworks can be sold H Australia,
Germany,
Netherlands,
New Zealand
  • There is no clear indication that the two day sales period introduced in 2003 in the Northern Territory (Australia) had an impact on the number of people injured by fireworks. 
  • Evidence from the Northern Territory indicates that the number of persons with firework-related injuries declined sharply in 2008 coinciding with the sales period being reduced to one day and the legal purchasing age being raised to 18.  Although any affect appears to have weakened by 2011.
  • In Germany, a three year study of fireworks-related eye injuries sustained over the New Year period found that minors were disproportionally affected and the majority of those injured were bystanders, leading the study to raise concerns as to whether existing regulations are sufficient. 
  • Evidence shared by the Dutch Police notes that the number of incidents occurring in the vicinity of firework retailers, is 3-5 times higher during the permitted fireworks sales period compared to when they are not for sale.
  • Evidence from New Zealand indicates that fireworks-related hospital discharges during the permitted sales window have been consistently lower since it was reduced to four days and the legal age for purchasing raised to 18. However this could partly reflect the fact that there are fewer days in which discharges can be recorded as occurring during the sales window, rather than the effectiveness of the regulations per se.
  • Evidence shows that a decline in the number of firework-related incidents attended by the New Zealand Fire and Emergency Service throughout November coincided with the enactment of regulations which reduced the sales window and raised the legal age. However, in both instances it would appear that any effect was not fully sustained over the longer term.
  • Data indicates the value of New Zealand firework imports initially declined following the narrowing of the sales window and raising the minimum age (both in 2001 and 2007) before fluctuating thereafter. 
Restrictions on volume of fireworks that can be purchased I Netherlands
  • No available evidence on this option could be sourced.
Mandatory conditions at point of sale J Australia,
Netherlands,
Northern Ireland,
  • No available evidence on the licensing system in Tasmania (Australia) could be sourced.
  • Due to the infancy of regulations in the Netherlands regarding the compulsory provision of safety goggles, ignition fuses and user manuals by retailers (enacted in 2019), there isn't yet any evidence regarding the impact of these measures.  
  • Following the introduction of the Northern Ireland licensing system in 2002, there was an immediate marked reduction in the number of people sustaining injuries caused by fireworks[7]
  • Evidence shows that since the introduction of the licensing system in Northern Ireland, the number of persons injured by fireworks has been lower compared to before the regulations were enacted.  
  • In Northern Ireland the number of recorded offences for buying/possessing/using fireworks without a valid licence increased consecutively from 2006 to 2011. Since then there has been no clear trend, although the figures have remained below the 2011 peak. 
Other K Finland,
  • Evidence indicates that following the enactment of a set measures in 2010 which included the mandatory wearing of safety goggles for firework users, there was a marked decline in the number of people sustaining fireworks-related eye injuries.  
  • Evidence suggests that the mandatory wearing of safety goggles for firework users, helped mitigate against more severe eye injuries being sustained.

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