Under the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 all fireworks for use by the public must meet certain safety and performance standards. There are four categories of fireworks:
- Category F1 - indoor fireworks
- Category F2 - garden fireworks
- Category F3 - display fireworks for open areas such as fields
- Category F4 - professional fireworks for large open areas
Category F2 and F3 are known as "adult fireworks"
- You must be over 18 to buy category F1, F2 and F3 fireworks
- You must be over 16 to buy, carry or use category F1 fireworks (e.g. caps, cracker snaps and party poppers)
- You must be over 12 to buy Christmas crackers
- >Only licensed professionals can buy and use category F4 fireworks
Under the regulations the sale of fireworks to anyone under 18 is banned, and caps, cracker snaps and party poppers cannot be sold to anyone under 16. The supply of bangers, mini rockets, fireworks that fly erratically (squibs, helicopters etc), ariel shells, ariel maroons, ariel mortars, all category F4 fireworks are banned from supply to the public.
These regulations are enforced by local authority trading standards officers. Suppliers or shopkeepers in breach face an unlimited fine or six months in prison.
Storage and Sale of fireworks
If you wish to store fireworks you will usually need to be licensed under the Explosive Regulations 2014. The Councils Licensing team can license storage of up to 2000kg of HT4 explosives. For amounts over this please contact the HSE.
The Regulations 20 permit individuals to store up to 50kg of Hazard Type 4 fireworks for private use for up to 21 days, without the need to licence or register. However, although the Regulations permit small quantities of fireworks to be kept without the need to licence or register, other requirements of the regulations - eg on storing safely - still apply.
Fireworks can be sold by traders for Chinese New Year and the preceding 3 days; Diwali and the preceding three days; 15 October - 10 November to allow Bonfire Night Celebrations, and 26 - 31 December for New Year celebrations. If you wish to sell fireworks at any other time, you will need an Annual Sales Licence as well as a valid Storage Licence. The Fireworks Regulations 2004 also prohibit the supply of fireworks louder that 120 decibels.
Where fireworks are sold, a statutory A3 size notice must be displayed.
Laws covering nuisance and danger caused by fireworks
If a local authority officer judges noise from fireworks to be a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, they can issue an abatement notice however, as firework noise is short lived, in practice it can prove difficult to locate the source. If excessive noise is emitted from premises (including gardens) between 11pm and 7am. Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 local authorities or the police can apply to magistrates for an anti-social behaviour order where anyone has caused "harassment, alarm or distress". Disobeying an order carries a maximum penalty of a five year prison sentence.
Throwing or setting off fireworks in the street is an offence. This is enforced by the police, and a fixed penalty notice of £80 applies. Police can enforce a fixed penalty notice to anyone under 18 possessing a firework in a public place and for breach of the 11pm curfew on letting off fireworks.
It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to animals under the Protection of Animals Act 1911. A penalty of up to £5000 and/or 6 months in prison is enforceable by police, trading standards or the RSPCA.
When you can use fireworks
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 prohibit anyone under 18 from possessing fireworks, and anyone except professionals from possessing display fireworks. These regulations also prohibit the use of fireworks at night (11pm - 7am) in England and Wales, with extensions for the following festivals:
- Until 1am following the first day of Chinese New Year
- Until midnight on 5 November
- Until 1am on the day following Diwali day
- Until 1am on the day following 31 December
These regulations are enforced by the police. There is a penalty of an unlimited fine or six months in prison for breach of the curfew.
Below are posters and booklets containing safety advice for Halloween and Fireworks Night