Fireworks and Unintentional Harm

Following on from the consultation on fireworks in Scotland earlier in the year, we’re reflecting on some of the evidence around fireworks injuries, the impact of fireworks misuse on the emergency services, and the action plan that has been put in place to promote the safe use of fireworks in Scotland… 


We know that fireworks can bring great enjoyment as part of celebrations and festivals such as Hogmanay, Bonfire Night and Diwali.  However when used in an inappropriate or unsafe way, fireworks can have devastating consequences.

This includes the potential for serious harm and injury to be sustained through burns, as well as fireworks misuse contributing towards other factors that link to unintentional harm and injuries happening for already vulnerable groups.  For example, anti-social behaviour within a neighbourhood through fireworks misuse could cause people to become intimidated and increasingly isolated as they fear leaving their homes.


Firework Injuries - What do we know?

  • Most fireworks related injuries occur at private displays (e.g. in gardens) or in streets and other public places, not at formally organised displays.
  • Research consistently finds a spike in fireworks related injuries around festivals.  Common fireworks related injuries affect hands and heads, and involve burns; and can often require specialist treatment and surgical intervention.
  • The evidence available suggests that both bystanders and operators are at risk of being injured by fireworks; and it is young people and males who are most at risk.

More information on firework injuries can be found within the consultation evidence review here. 

Communication Campaigns

Awareness raising emerged as a key theme from the fireworks consultation and such campaigns have the potential to reduce firework related injuries.  The Scottish Government has therefore worked with national and local partners to run two campaigns in the run up to bonfire night this year in order to improve knowledge and understanding of the safe and appropriate use of fireworks.

  • On 14 October, working with Crimestoppers, local community safety partners and Police Scotland Youth Volunteers, the Scottish Government launched the Fireworks Rules and Regulations Campaign.  The campaign is targeted at communities where there have been high levels of fireworks misuse, engaging with local residents and schools to improve knowledge and understanding of the rules and regulations around where and when fireworks can be used.   It also promotes an anonymous reporting option for people when they have a concern or wish to report firework misuse. 
  • On 21 October, working with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and the Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals the Scottish Government launched a campaign to improve people's awareness and understanding of the impact that the legitimate use of fireworks can have on people and animals.  The campaign encourages people to attend organised public displays, and is supported by a published list of public firework events across the country which is publically available on the SFRS website. This is supported by a programme of communications run across social media, local press and radio.

Ross Haggart, Director of Prevention and Protection and Chair of the Unintentional Harm Executive Group reflects on the impact of fireworks.

“In the four weeks leading up to 5 November 2018, fire appliances across Scotland were mobilised almost 400 times a week. 

Our firefighters and fire appliances are being mobilised to hundreds of completely avoidable incidents every year during the Bonfire Night period.  A small minority of individuals are potentially putting themselves, our firefighters and innocent bystanders at risk of serious harm and injury.  These incidents are a needless drain on our resources when we need to focus on responding to real emergencies - where lives might very well be at risk.

We want people to enjoy Bonfire Night, but to do so safely.  We would encourage people to leave fireworks to the professionals, and attend an organised display in their area.  Details of organised displays across Scotland can be found on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s website at

What Next?

We are aware of the vast amount of preventative and diversionary work underway in communities across Scotland to ensure everyone can enjoy a safe bonfire night. 

  • Please get in touch with us about the work you are involved in locally.

  • We are keen for everyone to get involved in sharing the message to attend only organised displays.

  • Check out Action Plan to see what work will be taken forward over the coming year and get in touch if you have anything to add.