Abstract – Fireworks Production Risks and Solutions
The production of fireworks and firecrackers is very dangerous due to the special nature of the industry. In recent years, the safety production of fireworks and firecrackers has become severe with frequent accidents (fireworks related injuries) and serious harm. Based on investigation and research, the author analyzed the hazards of fireworks and firecracker production and the main causes of accidents. The feasibility of safety production of fireworks and firecrackers was discussed, with emphasis on raising the entry threshold and strictly issuing safety production licenses; increasing supervision and management efforts and implementing strict rules and regulations; developing the local economy to fundamentally prevent illegal production. Through the analysis of the safety management of the Liuyang fireworks production in Hunan, the role of safety culture construction in the high-risk industry of fireworks and firecrackers was explored. It is believed that in order to develop the fireworks and firecracker industry and minimize accidents, emphasis must be placed on safety management, enterprise safety culture construction, and improving the safety culture quality of employees.
Keywords: fireworks and firecrackers, accident causes, safety management, safety culture
Fireworks and firecracker production, due to the special nature of the industry, are prone to accidents for various reasons according to federal agencies. According to statistics from the State Administration of Work Safety, from 1985 to 2003, a total of 8,448 explosion accidents occurred in the fireworks and firecracker industry nationwide, averaging 445 incidents per year . Although the number of such incidents has been decreasing in recent years, the average level of casualties per accident has been higher than in previous years since 1997, showing an upward trend according to federal regulations. On January 11, 2005, an explosion occurred due to hazardous materials at the Xiangliu Fireworks Factory in Xiangfen County, Shanxi Province, killing 25 people and injuring 9.
Fireworks and firecrackers are a sentiment of the Chinese people, and have a long-standing relationship with the lives of the Chinese people. People use fire service to express their inner emotions in the form of celebrations or sorrows. However, fireworks and firecrackers (fire service) are explosive items, and accidents and burns can occur if safety is not taken seriously.
The state has always attached great importance to the safety management of fireworks, firecracker production, and fireworks display. In recent years, a series of laws and regulations on work safety management have been promulgated, such as the Work Safety Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Regulations on Work Safety Licensing, and the Implementation Measures for the Safety Production Licensing of Fireworks and Firecracker Production Enterprises. The promulgation of these laws and regulations demonstrates the country’s emphasis on work safety, safe distance, existing buildings, explosive materials and reflects the concern of the Party and the government for the safety of people and children’s lives and public safety. Employees engaged in fireworks and firecracker production and work safety supervision and management personnel should seriously study these laws and regulations and strictly abide by their provisions.
Due to the needs of teaching work, the author has visited Liuyang, Hunan province, one of the main production areas of fireworks and firecrackers in China, several times in recent years. During these visits, the author conducted on-site investigations in production factories and workshops, discussed safety production issues with managers, workers, and personnel from management departments such as public security, and deeply felt that the production of fireworks and firecrackers is indeed very dangerous. However, most accidents are caused by human unsafe behavior. The author only analyzes the dangers of fireworks and firecrackers production and the reasons for accidents, and explores ways to ensure the safety of fireworks and firecracker production.
2. Hazards of fireworks and firecracker production
2.1 Raw materials used in production are highly flammable and explosive
The main raw materials used in the production of fireworks and firecrackers include:
Oxidizers such as sodium nitrate, potassium perchlorate, and ammonium perchlorate; Combustible materials such as charcoal, sulfur, realgar, aluminum powder, magnesium powder, magnesium-aluminum alloy powder, starch, and paper; Flame coloring agents such as strontium nitrate, barium nitrate, sodium oxalate, basic copper carbonate, and cuprous sulfide.
These raw materials are themselves oxidizers, flammable, and combustible substances. They may become explosive mixtures or substances with self-ignition properties when in contact with other materials or when exposed to heat, moisture, friction, or impact. Therefore, accidents are prone to occur in the production of fireworks and firecrackers.
2.2 Most of the production processes are manual operations, and accidents are easily caused by human unsafe behavior
The special nature of the fireworks and firecracker industry determines that it can only be a labor-intensive industry, and most of the processes are completed manually. Especially in the process of medication, such as raw material preparation, raw material crushing, screening, batching, drug drying, loading, and building, these processes are very dangerous manual operations. Workers can easily be injured or cause accidents with slight carelessness. Moreover, due to the high sensitivity of the drugs, they are highly sensitive to sparks, flames, high temperatures, friction, impact, etc. When exposed to these energies, they may ignite or explode.
Therefore, the production of fireworks and firecrackers involves considerable hazards and belongs to a high-risk industry.
3. Main Causes of Fireworks and Firecracker Production Accidents
3.1 Illegal Production Leads to Frequent Accidents
From a management perspective, one of the main reasons for the frequent occurrence of fireworks and firecracker explosions is illegal production. Illegal production refers to factories, workshops, and production sites that process and produce fireworks and firecrackers without obtaining a “Fireworks and Firecracker Safety Production License.” Although the government has increased efforts to crack down on illegal production in recent years and achieved some results, illegal production still persists in some areas. According to statistics, in 2003, there were 109 explosions in the production of fireworks and firecrackers, of which 77 were caused by illegal production, accounting for 70% of the total . On August 26, 2003, the fireworks and firecracker explosion in Minhou, Fujian, resulted in 21 deaths. The cause was the illegal storage and production of raw materials for fireworks and firecrackers in a private residence, which spontaneously combusted and caused an explosion.
The reason why accidents are prone to occur in the illegal production of fireworks and firecrackers is mainly due to the fact that the majority of illegal production factories and workshops do not have production conditions and the employees lack basic safety awareness. The production of fireworks and firecrackers requires specific production and operation conditions and strict management systems. However, many illegal production workshops do not have the minimum production conditions, such as regular factories, safety production equipment, or safety production regulations. Some production sites are narrow, and the equipment is rudimentary. Some living quarters serve as production sites for cutting, matching, and packaging drugs. Raw materials, semi-finished products, and finished products are stacked together without safety passages or fire-fighting facilities. Passersby can freely enter the workshop, and some even light fires or cook food in the production area of fireworks and firecrackers. Since the production conditions do not meet the requirements of safety production, accidents can occur at any time.
The vast majority of employees engaged in the illegal production of fireworks and firecrackers have low qualifications and lack basic knowledge of safety production. Most employees have not received any training and have no knowledge of safe operations. For example, on April 3, 1999, an explosion occurred in an illegal firecracker workshop operated by Jiang, a villager from Xinyuan Village in Shuangfupu Town, Ningxiang, Hunan, resulting in 11 deaths and 6 injuries. The direct cause of the accident was that Jiang placed gunpowder on lime. The lime absorbed moisture and underwent a chemical reaction, releasing a large amount of heat, causing the gunpowder to combust and explode due to high temperatures. Lime cannot be used as a moisture-proofing agent for gunpowder and explosives. The villagers lacked safety knowledge about fireworks and firecrackers, resulting in the tragedy. Due to the lack of basic conditions for illegal production and the poor quality of employees, accidents and fireworks related injuries, in the production of fireworks and firecrackers occur frequently.
3.2 Violations are the most direct cause of accidents
Fireworks and firecrackers have a high level of danger in production, and the country has strict technical and operational regulations for their production, such as the “Labor Safety Technical Regulations for Fireworks and Firecrackers,” “Safety and Quality of Fireworks and Firecrackers,” and “Safety Regulations for Fireworks and Firecracker Factory Design.” However, in actual production, many accidents are caused by workers’ violations and management personnel’s violations.
Violations and non-compliance in police operations occur frequently, for example:
- The use of iron tools in violation of regulations: the use of iron tools is not allowed during the drug-carrying process, but some workers use iron shovels to mix drugs on the cement ground, cut wires with knives or scissors, rub them back and forth, use scales to weigh drugs, and accidentally hit the gunpowder with the iron tool. The friction and collision of iron tools can ignite gunpowder and cause accidents.
- Violations in drug storage: the workshop or production area has a limited amount of drugs, with a small explosive power and less damage to personnel. Therefore, regulations impose restrictions on drug storage, requiring workers to send finished or semi-finished products to the warehouse immediately after production and then pick up the drugs. However, some people want to save time and store more drugs, especially during peak production seasons. Some factory managers also do not limit the amount of drugs stored. This increases the amount of drugs stored in the workshop and production area, which can easily cause accidents. Moreover, a large amount of drug storage can also cause fatigue for workers who work for a long time in one place and engage in single tasks, increasing the likelihood of operational errors.
- Violations in the use of fire: the use of fire in kitchens, for heating, smoking, throwing cigarette butts, and leaving unextinguished matches can all cause accidents.
Violations in production and management: On July 28, 2003, the Guoxi Fireworks and Firecrackers Factory in Xinzhou, Hebei exploded, causing 32 deaths and 91 injuries due to non-compliance in production and management. The “Labor Safety Technical Regulations for Fireworks and Firecrackers” stipulate that when the room temperature exceeds 35℃ during the production of drug products, production should be stopped and handled with caution. When the product is dry and the air temperature is above 37℃, direct sunlight exposure should be avoided. The Guoxi Fireworks and Firecrackers Factory dried the drug balls at a temperature of 37℃ and relative humidity of 93%, and also violated the regulations by drying fireworks outside the drying area. The drug balls contained magnesium-aluminum alloy powder, which can absorb moisture and undergo a chemical reaction under high-temperature and high-humidity conditions. They released a large amount of heat, which accumulated and caused spontaneous combustion and explosion.
- The factory also used the miscellaneous goods warehouse and cylinder making workshop as a finished product warehouse without authorization, causing a large number of explosive items to be overstocked in the production area. The factory also violated regulations by loading black powder fuses in non-drug workshops, causing a series of explosions in previously non-drug workshops after the initial explosion. It was a series of violations that led to the accident, causing catastrophic losses.
In summary, violations in operations and management are the most direct cause of fireworks and firecracker explosion accidents. Strict compliance with regulations is the only way to ensure safe production.
3.3 Low Safety Culture of Employees
The impact of safety culture on production development is mainly on the behavior of the production subject. Any production activity cannot be separated from the participation of human beings as the subject of behavior. The safe behavior of people in production activities is inevitably dominated and constrained by their inherent values, moral ethics, safety concepts, safety psychological states, safety cognitive abilities, and competence, which are safety culture qualities.
The vast majority of fireworks and firecracker explosions are caused by unsafe behavior of people. Due to the lack of safety awareness and formal safety education, as well as safety-related knowledge, most managers and operators in fireworks and firecracker enterprises often consider economic benefits alone and ignore safety requirements. For example, one of the responsible parties in the Guoxi fireworks factory accident in Xingji, Hebei province, when explaining the reasons for producing fireworks and firecrackers in violation of regulations, said, “Every time I walk past the stacked fireworks and firecrackers, I feel very scared and know that it is very dangerous. But if I don’t do it, others will do it, and then others will earn the money. It is the lucky mentality and the drive for benefits that made me knowingly violate the rules.”
It is precisely because of the moral and value issues, safety concepts, and safety culture deficiencies in the behavior of the people involved in fireworks and firecracker production activities that disasters occur.
4. Feasible Approaches to Fireworks and Firecrackers Safety Production
4.1 Raising the admission threshold and strictly issuing safety production licenses
The “Regulations on Safety Production Licenses” stipulate that the state implements a safety production license system for fireworks and firecracker enterprises. Enterprises that have not obtained safety production licenses are not allowed to engage in fireworks and firecracker production activities. The “Implementation Measures for Safety Production Licenses for Fireworks and Firecracker Production Enterprises” issued by the State Administration of Work Safety specifically stipulate the conditions, procedures, and requirements for applying for safety production licenses. The issuance of safety production licenses is a very cautious job. The license-issuing authorities, the safety supervision and management departments of provincial, autonomous region, and municipalities directly under the central government, should carefully review the enterprises that apply for safety production licenses in accordance with the safety production conditions specified in the implementation measures. Within 45 working days from the date of acceptance, they should make a decision to issue or not to issue the license. In this process, the staff of the license-issuing authority must fully understand the importance of this work and review the materials carefully and strictly. If possible, they should also conduct on-site investigations to understand whether the application unit meets the national safety production conditions for fireworks and firecrackers. If the conditions are not met, the license cannot be issued.
Issuing safety production licenses is to control the admission threshold. The staff should have a strict sense of control, a strong sense of responsibility, and establish a responsibility system to ensure that whoever issues the license is responsible. The provision of such a responsibility system can encourage staff to be diligent and responsible. In addition, extensive publicity and education work should be carried out to relevant departments, units, and the public.
The implementation of the licensing system by the state for the fireworks and firecracker industry, and setting admission thresholds, means that those who do not have production conditions and do not meet safety production conditions cannot enter the fireworks and firecracker production industry. This is not to “block” certain production factories but to regulate the production order of fireworks and firecrackers and protect the safety of people’s lives and property. If one produces fireworks and firecrackers without a safety production license, it violates the spirit of the “Regulations on Safety Production Licenses” and is illegal production, which will be punished by law.
The implementation of the “Implementation Measures for Safety Production Licenses for Fireworks and Firecracker Production Enterprises” is an important work in the supervision, protection and management of fireworks and firecracker safety, which also marks that the government’s supervision and management of fireworks and firecrackers has moved towards institutionalization, standardization, and legalization.
4.2 Developing local economy and putting an end to illegal production of fireworks
Illegal production of fireworks and firecrackers continues to occur in some areas. One important reason for this is that the local economy is underdeveloped, and the people are facing difficulties in their lives. They are eager to get rid of poverty but have no other way to become prosperous. Fireworks and firecrackers have low production costs and high profits, with a simple production process and easy operation. Individuals can produce them in small workshops with minimal investment and obtain considerable profits. As a result, some people take the risk of illegal fireworks production, despite knowing the dangers and the fact that it is illegal.
In my opinion, local party committees and governments should view this issue from the perspective of the “Three Represents” ideology and the improvement of the party’s governing capabilities. They should focus on the fundamental interests of the people and make every effort to develop the local economy. They should consider the industrial structure issues from a macro perspective and adjust the industrial structure to adapt to the development of the market economy. They should take concrete actions to benefit the people and increase their income.
Illegal production is full of danger and accidents can happen at any moment, yet some people still choose to engage in it, prioritizing money over their own lives. Local party committees and governments must recognize the seriousness of this problem and solve poverty issues at the root by developing production in every possible way. Of course, in reality, some areas engage in illegal production of fireworks and firecrackers not because of poverty but due to the high profits it offers. To address this situation, it is necessary to conduct in-depth and meticulous ideological work, educate and guide the public to refrain from engaging in illegal production. The socialist market economy encourages people to pursue economic benefits, but we must never prioritize economic benefits over safety.
Of course, it is also necessary to curb illegal production of fireworks and firecrackers and increase the punishment for violations. The implementation of the “Implementation Measures for the Safety Production License for Fireworks and Firecracker Production Enterprises” has further standardized the admission of fireworks and firecracker production enterprises and is a powerful measure to crack down on illegal production.
For illegal production, cracking down is only a temporary solution. From a management perspective, solely cracking down is not enough and guidance is also necessary. Currently, in some areas, such as Liuyang, there is a practice worth promoting in the process of regulating the production of fireworks and firecrackers, which is to establish specialized villages for the production of fireworks and firecrackers. Local grassroots party committees and governments rely on extensive publicity and education. In the villages and towns where the production of fireworks and firecrackers is more concentrated, various methods are used, such as government investment, personal investment, and crowdfunding. They choose a safe location away from densely populated areas and build standard factories and storage warehouses that comply with the “Fireworks and Firecrackers Factory Safety Design Code”. They organize locals who understand safety and have the necessary technical skills to engage in hazardous production processes. For non-hazardous production processes, they can be decentralized and carried out by individual households. In this way, a social and natural division of labor is formed in the production of fireworks and firecrackers, which standardizes individual production in rural areas, and guides them towards intensive and scaled factory management. This approach is a form of guidance and a genuine effort to help people solve problems. By insisting on developing production while combining crackdown and guidance, we believe that the situation of illegal production of fireworks and firecrackers can be changed.
4.3 Strengthen supervision and strictly enforce safety regulations
The safety supervision and management of fireworks and firecrackers have both policy and technical requirements, which need a dedicated team for supervision and management. In order to strengthen the safety supervision and management of fireworks and firecrackers, the state has adjusted the division of responsibilities for safety supervision and management of fireworks and firecrackers in Notice  No. 15 issued by the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, clarifying the responsibilities of the National Administration of Work Safety, the public security department, and the National Development and Reform Commission. All functional departments should fulfill their duties and do a good job in safety supervision and management.
The focus of safety supervision and management should be at the county and township levels. It is necessary to particularly strengthen the management of production and operation units of fireworks and firecrackers in counties and townships, improve the safety production management system, and implement the supervision of the safety responsibility system. Factory management and operators are required to strictly follow various safety operation regulations. Safety operation regulations are the result of scientific research and long-term practice, many of which have been learned through costly lessons. For example, a fireworks and firecrackers enterprise in Liuyang, Hunan has developed a set of safety management experience through long-term production practice, summarizing the “small-scale, decentralized, small quantity, frequent transportation, and frequent inspection” eleven-word safety production measures. Factory buildings, warehouses, workshops, and workstations should be small-scale and decentralized. Whether it is raw materials, finished products, or semi-finished products in production, whether they have medicinal materials or not, the quantity should be strictly controlled, and it is strictly forbidden to overstock or overdraw drugs. Especially for storing and using exposed drugs, exposed drugs are much more dangerous than drugs already loaded into firecrackers, and once they encounter a fire source, they will produce combustion or explosion at a very fast speed, which is extremely harmful. It is difficult for operators to escape the scene in this situation. Therefore, the quantity of exposed drugs should be strictly controlled, which plays an important role in preventing serious accidents. In addition, finished products and semi-finished products should be transported in a timely manner and cannot be stacked on workbenches or in workstations. Through years of practice, these eleven words have proven to be effective and feasible safety production measures for the fireworks and firecrackers industry to prevent and control accidents. Of course, there are many specific regulations and rules in the production process, which should be strictly followed in management and operation.
4.4 Focus on the construction of safety culture in fireworks and firecracker enterprises, and strive to improve the safety culture quality of employees
Safety culture is increasingly attracting people’s attention, especially in China where accidents are frequent. Advocating for safety culture plays an important role in curbing accidents. The vast majority of fireworks and firecracker accidents are caused by unsafe behavior of people due to the lack of safety culture in the enterprise and its employees. Therefore, the fireworks and firecracker industry, as a high-risk industry, should pay more attention to the construction of safety culture in enterprises and improve the safety culture quality of employees.
As we all know, Liuyang City, Hunan Province, is the main production area of fireworks and firecrackers in China, officially named “China’s Fireworks Hometown” in 1995. Liuyang’s fireworks are sold to more than 100 countries and regions around the world, with an international market share of 60% and a domestic market share of 40% . Despite the severe situation of fireworks and firecracker safety production in China, the explosions of firecrackers in Liuyang have been effectively curbed. Since 2000, there has been no major or special fireworks and firecracker explosions in the city. The fireworks industry in Liuyang has continued to grow, and in 2002, the city’s fireworks production value reached 2.26 billion yuan, accounting for 46% of the city’s total economic output. Behind this prosperity and development are a strict scientific attitude, investment in safety production, and the improvement of safety culture and quality of government, enterprises, and employees. Since 1998, Liuyang City has invested 500 million yuan to adjust the layout of the city’s fireworks industry and carry out safety technology transformation, and closed and banned 10,000 small-scale fireworks factories that did not meet safety standards within three years.
During my research, I learned that the government of Liuyang City places great importance on the safety of the fireworks and firecracker industry, and has taken strong measures to actively guide this industry towards modern industrial production and management models. The safety supervision and management department of Liuyang has designed a whole new set of safety production modes for enterprises, including factory layout, production process flows, and related management. They have provided safety training to managers and front-line operators, as well as extensive safety education. Some factories have also invested millions of yuan in establishing safety production television monitoring equipment. Nowadays, safety production has become a consensus among Liuyang fireworks and firecracker manufacturers, and the concept of safety production has deeply penetrated into the hearts of every employee in the industry.
During my field research, I observed that the procedures involving explosives were all carried out by a single person in a single building with anti-explosion dikes made of soil and rocks, or natural mountains used as anti-explosion barriers outside the dangerous process buildings. Inside the factories, workers produced products in an orderly and safe manner. They could speak to workers about the requirements of safety production on their posts. In the high-risk production areas, I could sense a strong culture of safety. It is precisely because of the emphasis on safety production management, willingness to invest in safety production, and the creation of a safe culture in the fireworks and firecracker production industry that the accident rate in Liuyang has been greatly reduced.
The success of safety culture construction in the firework and firecracker enterprises of Liuyang lies in the full recognition of the government, enterprises, and employees that only with safety can there be development. Safety must be the top priority, and development cannot be achieved at the cost of sacrificing safety. This is not the goal people pursue. Safety production not only relies on regulations but also requires the organization, individuals’ values, attitudes, cognition, competency, and behavior patterns to meet safety requirements during the production process. With highly qualified individuals, even in the event of an accident, scientific disposal can be carried out based on the organization and individual’s safety culture quality, minimizing the harm caused by the accident. Therefore, to develop the high-risk industry of fireworks and firecrackers and minimize accidents, it is essential to focus on safety management, enterprise safety culture construction, and improving the safety culture quality of practitioners.
(1) In view of the current severe situation of fireworks and firecrackers safety production, the author analyzed the dangers of fireworks and firecrackers production and the main causes of accidents: illegal production, violation of regulations, and low safety culture of practitioners.
(2) Based on the investigation and research, the author proposed feasible approaches for the safety production of consumer fireworks and firecrackers, emphasizing the improvement of the entry threshold and strict issuance of safety production permits. Also, the author suggested increasing the intensity of safety supervision and management and implementing strict rules and regulations.
(3) Regarding illegal production leave fireworks, the author believes that efforts should be made to develop the local economy and increase the income of the people to fundamentally prevent illegal production of fireworks and firecrackers.
(4) By analyzing the safety management of professionals in the Liuyang fireworks industry, it is proposed that for this high-risk industry to develop while minimizing accidents, it is essential to prioritize safety management, enterprise safety culture development, and enhancing the safety culture of practitioners.
The above points have theoretical significance and practical guidance for the fireworks and firecrackers production enterprises, practitioners, and consumer product safety commission, supervision and management departments.
In addition to addressing safety management issues, further research and discussions are needed to improve the fireworks and firecrackers standard system, classification of the danger level of fireworks and firecrackers, and the impact of fireworks and firecrackers on the atmospheric environment, among other technical issues related to fireworks and firecrackers safety production.
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