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Pyrotechnician dies when struck in head by firework while putting on a display.

Michigan State University
Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE 03MI080, 2004 Aug; :1-10
On July 3, 2003, a 41-year-old male independent fireworks "shooter" and the "pyrotechnician in charge" of a fireworks display died when he was struck in the back of the head by a firework shell. The display was set up in a gravel pit that had three "levels" with shells placed and lit at each level. The deceased used a propane torch to manually light his zone of shells on the lowest level. He lit the first round of shells to start the show, then climbed up a hill and directed his assistants at the middle level to light their shells. He left them and they lit their zone of shells. One of his assistants working on the middle level had been instructed to light a "cake" on the lowest level. The assistant slid down the hill from the middle level to the lower level and was walking to the "cake" and stumbled upon the deceased. The deceased was lying in the sand with his head partially in the water and his legs pointing in the general direction of two 4-inch empty mortars buried at an angle in the sand. The deceased's flashlight was in his shirt pocket and he was not wearing a hard hat. He did not have a spotter or communication device. His earmuffs were approximately 20 feet away; the right earmuff was not attached to the muff's head strap. The assistant ran up the hill and notified the on-site emergency response unit. The show was stopped and the deceased was declared dead at the scene. Autopsy results showed a blood alcohol level of 0.246% and an antidepressant in his bloodstream. Recommendations: 1. Do not drink alcoholic beverages while handling or discharging fireworks. 2. Bury mortars in the ground to a depth of at least 2/3 to 3/4 of their length and ensure they are appropriately angled, prevented from being driven into the ground or re-angled when fired. 3. Cover mortars with plastic wrap or with biodegradable material to prevent sparks from other display materials dropping into them and causing pre-ignition and to protect them, if necessary, from adverse weather conditions. 4. Light all fireworks at greater than arm's length with an appropriate lighting device, such as a portfire. 5. All personnel working in the display area should wear appropriate clothing and personal protective equipment. 6. Ensure members of the shoot team can communicate with each other. 7. Have an appropriate number of trained "spotters" at a display site. 8. Consider using non-incendive lighting devices to illuminate the shell's fuses. 9. Ensure that all assistants are fully trained in the proper performance of their assigned tasks. 10. Authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) should be properly trained to identify display-site violations and ensure that appropriate corrections are made before allowing the shoot to proceed.
Accident-analysis; Accident-potential; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-practices; Safety-measures; Traumatic-injuries; Region-5; Work-practices; Work-analysis; Work-performance; Occupational-accidents; Occupational-hazards; Substance-abuse; Personal-protection; Personal-protective-equipment; Training
Publication Date
Document Type
Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
FACE-03MI080; Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U60-CCU-521205
SIC Code
Source Name
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Performing Organization
Michigan State University
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division