CarnDu Ltd is working with others in the pyrotechnics industry on a practical study of the real world sensitivity of electric igniters to various stimuli:-
to provide practical advice to users to allow informed risk assessments to be made regarding their use prior to rigging or at the event site and their disposal.
The study will provide practical information (rather than academic ignition energy values at this stage) of a large variety of electric igniters used in the fireworks, theatrical and other pyrotechnic industries.
The use of electric igniters for initiating pyrotechnic devices in stage, theatre and outdoor firework displays has increased almost exponentially in recent years with the development of new firing systems and the demands of synchronisation. Allied to this increase is a perceived diminution in the quality of the igniters used, and a potential complacency of operators.
There are genuine safety concerns about the use and disposal of igniters within the theatrical pyrotechnic and professional firework display industry. There have also been several occurrences of accidental ignition (for instance at the Plymouth Fireworks Competition in 2007 and at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2004) – fortunately these have not yet led to serious injury to operators, the public or damage to structures through the accidental ignition during rigging or derigging phases of an event.
In addition, there is evidence that igniters played a role in recent UK fatalities in the sector.
The information gained from this research will inform the industry as to potential risks and hazards from using electric igniters in “real world” simulations. It will enable industry (for the first time) to make purchasing decisions based not only on price but on relative sensitivity of the igniters available and therefore to make a proper assessment of the risks and hazards involved in their use.
The use of electric igniters in pyrotechnic displays and events has multiplied greatly in the last 30 years. For instance, for a typical (medium sized) professional outdoor firework display:-
30 years ago – a few igniters might have been used to fire a “front” of gerbs simultaneously – let’s say 10 per show
15 years ago – igniters were used to fire sequences of shells and candles – but pyrotechnic delays were used to interconnect the items within a single sequence – let’s say 100 igniters per show
Now – with the increasing use of single shot devices, and the demands of computerised and sophisticated firing systems every firework can have an individual igniter – let’s say 1000 per show
So in 30 years the uses has increased 100 fold. This obviously means that there is a financial imperative to use cheaper igniters – which may mean lower quality, which may mean that the likelihood of an accidental ignition is greatly increased.
Details of the results will be published here as the project progresses
Thanks are due to the funding bodies for this research:-