People purchasing fireworks ahead of New Year at a shop in the Johannesburg CBD. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency(ANA).

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal department of health head Sandile Tshabalala has urged the public to be cautious and safe in their festivities as they welcome the New Year, and be aware of the hazards of alcohol and fireworks.

Tshabalala said alcohol consumption was a major contributor to avoidable calamities such as motor vehicle crashes, or interpersonal conflicts, which may result in serious injury, loss of a limb, or death.

He added that the abuse of the substance could lead to unprotected sex, resulting in unplanned pregnancy, and sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, or both.

According to him, it is not uncommon to find patients – including children – in clinics and hospitals, with firecracker-related injuries to the eye, face, and fingers that may even need to be amputated.

“We’re therefore saying that everybody needs to be careful around this time. Drinking and driving is a problem. In ushering the New Year, we urge people to take care of themselves. Avoid alcohol, or don’t over-consume it.

“Use of fire crackers may cause harm and create fires in the house. We must be careful, particularly in small spaces. Rather use firecrackers in areas that are open, far from children and elderly people. So, as people enjoy themselves, we urge them to do so responsibly, so that there are no regrets.” he added. 

He gave the following fireworks safety tips:

- Make sure that children and their friends are supervised at all times when around fireworks.

- Keep pets at home, in a safe, interior room to avoid exposure to loud sounds. Make sure they have an identification tag in case they run off.

- Do not discharge fireworks indoors.

- Never keep lit fireworks in your hand, as this could lead to severe injuries.

- Only discharge fireworks at designated sites away from people, animals, homes and cars.

- If a firework does not ignite, do not attempt to re-light it. Wait at least 15 minutes before you try again.

- Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby in case of a malfunctioning firework.

Tshabalala said sparklers could be just as dangerous. 

"Always light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves. Never hold a baby or child if you have a sparkler in your hand. Put finished sparklers with the hot end down in a bucket of water as soon as they have burnt out."

African News Agency (ANA)