Pennsylvania is boomin’

Pennsylvania state laws on fireworks become more inclusive.


This diagram depicts a cross-section in a display aerial shell firework.

Ella Walden, PR/Marketing Director/Asst. Social Media Director

Before 2017, Pennsylvania had stricter firework laws compared to nearby states such as Ohio. Pennsylvania has had some changes to their firework laws and what kind of fireworks citizens can now buy and use. There are two main types of fireworks: Class B and Class C, also known as special and common fireworks.

The law was effective on Oct. 17, 2017, but since fireworks tend to be popular in the summer, not many members of the public have noticed until the 2018 summer. The House Bill 542 repealed the previous Act in 1939. The 1939 law allowed out of state customers to buy higher quality fireworks that flew into the air, while Pennsylvanians were only permitted to purchase fireworks that didn’t leave the ground.

This new law now allows Pennsylvanians to purchase and use fireworks with a maximum of 50 milligrams of explosive materials inside, according to the state police website. These kinds of fireworks are of better quality with the increase in the number of explosives, but not quite display quality, such as aerial shells, which are still illegal without proper permits to handle.

Pennsylvanians’ options with fireworks have barely expanded in the last year to the kind of fireworks citizens in Ohio and West Virginia have. Part of the things that these more explosive containing fireworks bring is a potential danger. A few nationwide statistics of firework-related injuries are that 32 percent of all firework-related injuries are from firecrackers, 15 percent are from skyrockets, 10 percent sparklers and seven percent fountains.

For policemen, this wasn’t much of a difference in day-to-day work life on duty.

“It wasn’t a huge difference in our job but we understand 4th of July is a lot and can bring too much excitement, if there’s no disturbance they won’t catch our attention,” Officer Tom Liberty stated. “A surplus of fireworks being lit after midnight would be an issue and would catch our attention for us to intervene. As well as reckless decisions like being under the influence and lighting fireworks is what makes fireworks potentially dangerous.”

A few people might be confused as to why there are laws on something as entertaining as fireworks, knowing how they work can shed light on the situation. Aerial shells are shot from a fiberglass tube with the fuse sticking out. There is black powder at the outside bottom of the shell and when ignited shoots the shell out of the tube and lights the time fuse. If you were to cut an aerial shell in half from top to bottom the inside would have the same pattern as the firework explosion, so if you cut the shell in half and see a circle or a smiley, that’s what it would look like in the air after being lit.

Handling fireworks can be dangerous since they are explosives. So making sure fireworks are fairly new, lighting them quickly and responsibly as well as wearing clothing that covers most skin is a safe way to set off any fireworks. This new law gives more freedom and responsibility to Pennsylvanians.