Explosives and fireworks
Fireworks can add excitement to special occasions, however, they are also:
- can frighten and disturb people and animals
- cause annoyance and damage
- have an impact on air quality
Fireworks are explosives and must be used with caution. A simple sparkler can reach a temperature of up to 2000°C. That's over 15 times the boiling point of water. A rocket can reach 150 miles an hour and are the most common cause of firework injuries.
- only buy fireworks marked BS EN 15947
- don't drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
- keep fireworks in a closed box
- follow the instructions on each firework
- light at arm's length, using a taper
- stand well back
- never go near a firework that has been lit. Even if it hasn't gone off, it could still explode
- never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
- always supervise children around fireworks
- light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
- never give sparklers to a child under five
- Keep pets indoors
If you're planning your own celebration using fireworks, make sure it is safe and doesn't break the law. The Department for Communities and Local Government has produced a guide for communities organising bonfires and firework displays.
There are usually organised firework displays, particularly around 5 November. Details of organised displays in Wiltshire are usually printed within local newspapers and local websites.
If you're planning on organising a firework display for the general public, you also need to know your responsibilities to the public and any other staff working with you. Guidance on firework displays can be found on the fireworks page of the Health and Safety Executive.
Suppliers of 'adult fireworks' will require a licence to sell fireworks unless sales are only taking place:
- on the first day of Chinese New Year and the three days immediately preceding it
- on the day of Diwali and the three days immediately preceding it
- during the period beginning on 15 October and ending on 10 November
- during the period beginning on 26 December and ending on 31 December
Any applications for licenses should be made to the Public Protection Service at County Hall Trowbridge. There will be a fee to pay and the licence may be refused or revoked at any time.
Fireworks are classified under British Standard EN 15947 into the following categories:
- Category 1 - fireworks suitable for use inside domestic buildings (indoor fireworks),
- Category 2 - fireworks suitable for outdoor use in relatively confined area (garden fireworks),
- Category 3 - fireworks suitable for outdoor use in large open spaces (private display fireworks),
- Category 4 - fireworks not intended for sale to the general public (professional display fireworks).
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 refer to 'adult fireworks', which are all fireworks with the exception of category 1 fireworks and category 2 sparklers
The following fireworks are banned from sale to the general public:
- small bangers
- large bangers, including batteries such as Chinese Crackers and combinations containing any type of banger
- aerial maroons, aerial shells, shell-in-mortars and maroon-in-mortars
- any firework with erratic flight, for example squibs, jumping crackers and helicopters
Pets hate bangs and flashes and get very frightened on fireworks night. So keep all your pets indoors and close all the curtains to make things calmer. Remember it's not just your own fireworks that cause distress, so you may need to have your pets indoors on several nights when other displays are taking place.
Protect your pet when fireworks are around by following the RSPCA's animal-friendly firework code.
- Exercise your dog during the day
- Never walk your dog while fireworks are being let off
- As with cats, keep your dog indoors, close the curtains and play music or turn on the television to drown out the noise
- Let your dog hide if it wants to take refuge under furniture or in a corner
- Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and tag and is microchipped in case it bolts and becomes lost
- Keep your cat indoors
- Close all windows and curtains and switch on music or the television to drown out the noise
- Leave your cat to take refuge in a corner if it wishes. Do not try to tempt it out as this could cause more stress
- Make sure your cat is microchipped to ensure it can be returned to you if it escapes and becomes lost
There are various Acts and Regulations covering the sale and use of explosives and fireworks, and there are enforced by various bodies.
Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 and The Fireworks (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 are enforced by the Council's Public Protection Service. Anyone breaching these regulations faces, upon conviction, a fine of up to £5,000 or six months imprisonment.
- require all fireworks for use by the public to meet British Standard BS EN 15947
- ban the sale of fireworks to anyone under 18
- ban the sale of caps, cracker snaps and party poppers to anyone under the age of 16
- ban the supply of certain dangerous and powerful display fireworks from supply to the public
These regulations are made under the Fireworks Act 2003 and the Consumer Protection Act 1987. They aim to regulate the use of fireworks in order to reduce noise, nuisance and anti-social use of fireworks and are enforced by the Police.
From 7 August 2004, Regulation 7 of the Fireworks Regulations 2004 came into effect, which means that it is now a criminal offence to use 'adult fireworks' during the night hours of 11.00 pm to 7.00 am, except on 'permitted firework nights', which are:
- 11pm to 1am - Chinese New Year
- 11pm to 12 midnight - 5 November
- 11pm to 1am - Day of Diwali
- 11pm to 1am - 31 December, New Year's Eve
Anyone breaching these times faces, upon conviction, a fine of up to £5,000 or six months imprisonment.
These regulations also:
- prohibit the supply of very loud fireworks, i.e. over 120 decibels
- prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing "adult fireworks" (excludes sparklers, party poppers) in a public place
- ban the sale of fireworks to anyone under the age of 18 years (except for party poppers, cracker snaps, paper caps, serpents, sparklers, throw-downs or novelty matches)
- ban anyone other than professionals from possessing display fireworks
- require compulsory training for people operating public fireworks displays
- provide labelling requirements for fireworks
- place a licence requirement on those selling fireworks. The licence may be refused or revoked if the retailers act inappropriately
Under these regulations, individuals can store fireworks for private use for up to 14 days, provided they are kept in a safe place. Other than this, it is an offence to keep fireworks on premises unless they have been registered.
Under the Explosives Act 1875, it is an offence to throw or set off fireworks in the street. The Act is enforced by the Police and offences carry a fine of up to £5,000. Alternatively they may issue fixed penalty notices (on the spot fines).
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we can issue a noise abatement notice if we think firework noise is a statutory noise nuisance. However, in practice, it is very difficult to take action in relation to the use of fireworks. This is because noise from fireworks is short lived and it can be very difficult to prove the source. Furthermore, we have to judge the noise from each individual property as a separate case. A single event from one property within the curfew times will not amount to a statutory nuisance. However, regular and frequent use of fireworks at the same location could amount to a statutory nuisance.
- GOV.UK: Fireworks the law
- GOV.UK: Department for Communities and Local Government: Celebrating with bonfires and fireworks
- HSE (Health and Safety Executive): Fireworks
- HSE (Health and Safety Executive): Books, Explosives regulations
- Legislation.gov.uk: The Fireworks Regulations 2004
- Legislation.gov.uk: Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997
- Legislation.gov.uk: The Fireworks (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2004
- Legislation.gov.uk: Fireworks Act 2003
- Legislation.gov.uk: Consumer Protection Act 1987
- Legislation.gov.uk: Explosives Act 1875
- Legislation.gov.uk: Environmental Protection Act 1990
- RSPCA: Keeping animals safe
- RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents): Firework safety