Posted on by Jenny Topmiller, MS; RJ Matetic, MS, PhD; Gary Roth, MS, PhD; Richard Current, PE; and Adam Smith, PhD,
Photo © Getty Images/Totojang

The blog content comes from the NIOSH Manufacturing Mondays series.

The Fourth of July is the quintessential American holiday. Not only are we celebrating the birth of our nation, but we take a break in the heat of summer to participate in parades, cookouts, swimming, and FIREWORKS!   

While many of us enjoy the exhilaration of a professional fireworks display: the flashes of light, bright colors, and explosive noises, most of us have probably never thought much about what goes into making the fireworks, how they are detonated, and what safety precautions must be taken for the workers involved in these processes.

Fireworks were first used to celebrate July 4th in 1777 at the original celebration of independence in Philadelphia. Since then, they are a regular part of the holiday. The manufacture of pyrotechnics is a somewhat complex and a carefully organized process. The powdered chemicals are sifted with a brass screen (brass will not create sparks), then carefully mixed by hand or in a rotary blender. Water is added to the mixture to form a dough which is put in pans. The dough is then cut into small dice called stars.

Worker filling fireworks by hand
Worker filling fireworks by hand. Photo © Getty Images/tdub303

The stars are combined with black powder in a cardboard tube which is covered in string and then heavy paste-soaked paper. After they are dry, the fireworks are stored until ready to use.

Safety is obviously a huge concern for this industry. Electricity is the primary threat. Electrical outlets are located outside of the workplace, the work is generally done by hand, workers wear only 100% cotton clothing, ground themselves when entering the workplace and are attached to grounding wires while working. The facilities that house fireworks production tend to be small so that no worker is far from an exit.

technician setting up fireworks for launch
Photo © Getty Images/tdub303

The technicians responsible for launching professional displays tend to work for the same company that manufactures the devices. These individuals are trained not only to provide an entertaining event, but also to protect the safety of themselves and others around them. Multiple OSHA standards apply to the detonation of a fireworks display. These include hazard communication, noise, maritime (when displays originate on barges in water), hazardous substances, electrical, and several others.

When you are enjoying your local fireworks display this holiday, remember the events that led to our independence as well as the safety of those creating the show.


For more information:

Fourth of July: Independence Day

How Products are Made: Fireworks

OSHA| Process Safety Management for Pyrotechnics and Explosives Manufacturing

OSHA| Health and Safety Topics: Pyrotechnics

Fireworks Safety Month!


Jenny Topmiller, MS, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Co-Coordinator.

RJ Matetic, MS, PhD, NIOSH Associate Director for Manufacturing.

Gary Roth, MS, PhD, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Co-Coordinator.

Richard Current, PE, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Assistant Coordinator.

Adam Smith, PhD, NIOSH Manufacturing Sector Program Assistant Coordinator.


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Posted on by Jenny Topmiller, MS; RJ Matetic, MS, PhD; Gary Roth, MS, PhD; Richard Current, PE; and Adam Smith, PhD,

3 comments on “Fireworks”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    “June is #National Fireworks Safety Month! Ask your family & friends to protect their hearing while enjoying their favorite activities this summer. Grab your earplugs or earmuffs and let the fun begin. #CDCEHblog via @CDCEnvironment”

    Has anyone considered that fireworks contribute to a variety of health issues? The chemicals set off in breathing air such as lead,magnesium and others contribute to mental problems, cancer and pts systems initiation. For no other reason than people’s Entertainment. I see no other need. Please research how to ban fireworks from the United States of America.

    Negatives: lead concentration use in ignition proper timing and powder restrictor. If others would like to know what other metals used in creating fireworks its on the web. If anyone cares about their babies and children’s air and water they might want to really look into fireworks damaging health effects. Also if they care about our military or anyone else with pts we wouldn’t subject them to sounds just like war. Humans breath it in when others blow them off. Even when we don’t want to breath in fireworks. There is no choice we are violated. The metals fall to the soil, plants, roads, buildings and wash and shed with rain into water supplies. Professional and public deaths contributed to firework illnesses are widely increasing. The white house was estimated to spend around 1.2 million of your tax dollars on China’s and India’s hand made fireworks just for governmental functions. It can be looked up on the web. public knowlege spending part of any gov function. The money that could be saved by not buying fireworks is estimated to pay one year of ones health insurance policy for your children. Healthier children healthier future.
    I agree ban fireworks from USA. All negatives to one positive. Fireworks should be replaced by Laser lights shows. Just as good, safer and three times cheaper. A lot of laser light company’s starting up from 1999 till now. Try it.
    Ban fireworks.

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Page last reviewed: July 1, 2022
Page last updated: July 1, 2022