4 November 2020

College of Optometrists warns of the safety risks as private firework displays set to increase

The College issues eye health advice as more families consider hosting their own fireworks display.

Are you planning on having a firework display at home this year? As widespread lockdowns are soon to be in place and many families consider hosting their own fireworks display, the College of Optometrists are urging people to take a moment to think about protecting their eyes  as more people are set to handle fireworks without the required safety measures found at an organised display.

Worryingly, in the UK around 10 people lose their sight every year due to fireworks 1. In 2018/2019 fireworks caused almost 2000 2 A&E attendances, with a greater number of injuries occurring at private parties 3

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom, Clinical Adviser at the College of Optometrists, says: “It is vital that people consider the safety of both themselves and their family this bonfire night. If you are using fireworks at home, remember to wear safety googles 4 and follow the firework code. It’s also important to remember that sparklers should only be used by children over five, and under close adult supervision. To reduce the risk of eye injuries when using sparklers, ensure that each child has plenty of space, they hold the sparkler at arm’s length, and they do not run whilst holding them. Have a bucket of water nearby so they may be disposed of safely.” 

The College of Optometrists has developed the following advice to help you enjoy bonfire night without getting hurt.

  • Wear protective eye wear – if you’re going to be handling, lighting or in close proximity to fireworks you will need to wear protective goggles – normal glasses will not protect your eyes against most injuries. If you’re lighting fireworks, you should wear polycarbonate lenses – available from most DIY stores, these can be worn over your regular glasses if needed.
  • Do not give sparklers to children under the age of five – sparklers can be very dangerous as they become burning rods of metal once they are lit, giving off sparks which can burn the eye. It’s important for everyone to enjoy sparklers safely, remember to keep your arm extended and never bring the sparkler close to your face. Ensure each child has plenty of space around them, and that they do not run whilst holding them. Have a bucket of water nearby so they may be disposed of safely.
  • Stand back – it’s important to light all fireworks at an arm’s length with a specially designed taper. Once you have lit the firework, stand well back as it launches to prevent sparks going into your eyes. Ensure the rest of the family are at a safe distance when viewing the display.
  • Supervise children at all times – be vigilant to make sure they are never close to fireworks or left alone with sparklers.
  • Buy fireworks that meet British Standards – ensure you buy your fireworks from a reputable retailer and that they confirm to British Standards, these will be marked BS 7114 or CE on the box.

Please ensure you are following the local COVID-19 restrictions and do not meet with more people or households than recommended where you live. 

For more information you can visit LookAfterYourEyes.org or you pop in to your local optometrist – the eye expert on the high street.


Notes to Editors

  1. The College is the professional body for optometry. It qualifies the profession and delivers the guidance and training to ensure optometrists provide the best possible care. We promote excellence through the College’s affixes, by building the evidence base for optometry, and raising awareness of the profession with the public, commissioners, and health care professionals.
  2. To find your nearest member of the College of Optometrists, visit the public directory on lookafteryoureyes.org


  1. Knox FA et al (2008) A British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit study on serious ocular injuries from fireworks in the UK. Eye 22 (7), 944-7 [abstract]
  2. NHS England (2019)
  3. This is according to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
  4. Knox FA et al (2008) A British Ophthalmological Surveillance Unit study on serious ocular injuries from fireworks in the UK. Eye 22 (7), 944-7 [abstract] 

Related further reading

Many optometrists find examining children difficult, so we provide a helping hand.

This study reports on an audit carried out in the emergency eye care (EEC) service at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

You are asked to take home a box of clinical waste to dispose of at home. What should you do?