19th December 2016
One of our investigators recently attended a Pyrotechnics Safety Awareness Course, run by BECTU (a Union for predominantly backstage Theatrical staff) and presented by JustFX (a company that has provided Special Effects and Equipment to the industry for over 30 years).
The course was run in the theatre space of the Back Stage Centre in Purfleet. This space ensured that some of the very largest pyrotechnic effects available could be demonstrated safely. Maroons in a fragmentation tank, gerbs, flame pots, comets and robotics were all demonstrated during the course.
These devices, often referred to as “stage pyrotechnics” or “close proximity devices”, are not Fireworks but classified separately as Articles of Pyrotechnics. A reason for this distinction is that these devices are by design intended to provide an instant effect; there are no time delays in the device on operation or during its operation. All of the devices are operated by an electrical current passing through an igniter. This ensures that the device will either operate as intended or not operate. However, there is a possibility that careless handling or installation could result in unexpected operation.
Dr Richard J Fletcher, who attended the course, said, “The clear message throughout the course was about managing the risk from the outset when using stage/close effect pyrotechnics. In most cases, the lesson that needed to be understood about the safe use of such devices was presented by considering incidents that have occurred, which resulted in injury, death and fires. At Hawkins, we find that having a good knowledge of how pyrotechnics are operated assists us in investigating when things go wrong.”
Almost all of these types of pyrotechnic devices are legally available for the public to purchase, although some manufacturers restrict sales to the public. However, a change in the law is due next year, which will restrict the sale of a few specific devices to only “Persons with specialist knowledge”. We plan to keep on top of the inevitable changes and tightening of the regulations to ensure there is always knowledge about the use of these devices within Hawkins.
Richard is part of a small group within Hawkins which specialises in Firework and Pyrotechnic claims.