Fireworks and small children. What could possibly go wrong?

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Risk assessment.

Two words that can strike fear and dread into even the most sensible minds and hearts.

This week at my Rainbow & Brownie unit we’re celebrating Bonfire Night. Which will involve real fire, and real sparklers, which glow at up to 2000 degrees Celsius. What could possibly go wrong?

There are two ways to look at risk. One, educate young people to understand risks and dangers, and how to offset, mitigate or manage those risks. Two, wrap yourself & your child in cotton wool, then bubble wrap, and stay inside forever. Although even then you have risks to consider – making sure airways are not covered by bubble wrap, that movement is not impeded  by cotton wool, that you can still fit through doorways etc. So really we’re left with option one – educate our young people to recognise and manage risks.

Fireworks Night is a great example of this. We could steer well clear. But actually few children get to experience sparklers or fireworks up close these days because most attend large public fireworks displays where sparklers are banned. There’s much less talk of the Fireworks Safety Code. So teaching about the dangers AND letting them experience the magic of those golden glowing sparklers is valuable.

So. Risk Assessment.

Sparklers spark. So wear gloves. Adults bring spare gloves just in case. And the first aid kit is out ready.

Sparklers get hot. Very hot. Even when they’ve fizzled out. So we put out lots of buckets of water. Sparklers are put into the water as soon as they are finished. Or if anyone is too frightened to hold theirs.

Sparklers get hot and could burn someone very easily. So we start in a large circle. The girls all extend their arms and make sure they cannot touch anybody else. Then we give them their sparklers.

Fireworks/sparklers are dangerous, so we up our adult to child ratio, each adult taking responsibility for lighting, supporting and extinguishing 4 or 5 Brownie sparklers. This also means we can encourage those who are nervous.

And some of them are nervous, especially after we’ve just given them a scary safety talk on how 3 sparklers have the same heat as a blowtorch – but the safety talk is another important part of the risk management.

If you’re reading this thinking “well that’s all just common sense”, that’s exactly what a risk assessment is. It’s about evaluating the benefit against the dangers of an activity and then applying common sense.

One of the aims of this blog is to inspire you to think that you could do this guiding thing too. Hopefully now a fear of risk assessments won’t stop you…

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