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Firework safety

Despite annual safety warnings, firework celebrations still end in painful injuries for too many people, including very young children.

Yet fireworks can be great fun for families, not just around November 5 (Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night), but also Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year.

Injury figures support the advice that the safest place to enjoy fireworks is at a large public display - far fewer people are injured here than at smaller family or private parties.

But if you’ll be having a firework party at home, you can make the occasion fun and safe for everyone by following the Firework Code, as well as some sparkler and bonfire safety tips.

Firework code

Only adults should deal with setting up firework displays, the lighting of fireworks and the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used (and remember, alcohol and fireworks don't mix!). Children and young people should be supervised and watch and enjoy fireworks at a safe distance. Follow these top 10 tips for a safer fireworks party:

  1. Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable, and check the time you can legally set off fireworks
  2. In England, Scotland and Wales only buy fireworks which carry a CE marking or the UKCA mark. In the case of Northern Ireland look either the CE mark or for the UKNI symbol. You may also see the UKNI mark along with the UKCA or CE symbol. Keep your fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time. CE, UKCA and UKNI markings on fireworks demonstrate that the product has been tested to the required essential safety standard. 
  3. Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
  4. Light the firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back
  5. Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  6. Never return to a firework once it has been lit
  7. Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
  8. Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  9. Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  10. Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving.

Did you know?

  • It is against the law to carry fireworks in public if you're under 18
  • Fireworks must not be sold to anyone who is under 18
  • It is an offence to let fireworks off during night hours (11pm to 7am), except on Bonfire Night (midnight), Diwali, New Year's Eve, and Chinese New Year (1am)
  • It is an offence under the Explosives Act 1875 to tamper with or modify fireworks
  • If you want to buy, possess and use fireworks (except indoor fireworks and sparklers), in Northern Ireland you must have a valid fireworks licence.
  • New Scottish legislation means that it is now illegal to set off fireworks before 6pm and after 11pm - this extends to midnight on the 5th November and 1am on Hogmanay, Chinese New Year and Diwali.
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Resource pack

Stay safe this bonfire night with our safety advice

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Scottish campaign

Check out the Fireworks Safety campaign that’s running across Scotland

Ben's message

Ben McCabe was struck by a firework when he was just 4 years old, this is his message to you on bonfire night

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Holding a fireworks display?

Download our factsheets to find out how to safely hold a display either privately or professionally

Sparkler safety

Sparklers are often viewed as being harmless but they burn at fierce temperatures, equivalent to a welding torch. Follow these top tips for sparkler safety:

  • It is recommended that sparklers are not given to under-5s
  • Make sure everyone handling sparklers wears gloves
  • Hold sparklers at arm’s length while being lit and light them one at a time
  • Don’t wave sparklers about close to other people
  • Never hold a baby in your arms while you are holding a sparkler
  • When the sparkler has finished put it in a bucket of cold water.

Bonfire safety

  • One person should be responsible for the bonfire and children should be supervised
  • Choose a site away from wooden fences, sheds and where children will be playing
  • Never pour petrol, paraffin or meths on to a fire - it’s safer to use fire lighters to prevent flare-ups
  • Keep a bucket of water handy in case of an accident
  • Avoid loose clothing and tie back long hair
  • After the party, pour water on the fire, rather than leaving it to burn out.

Firework categories

All fireworks on sale to the public have to be extensively tested and classified as either Category F2 or F3. These classifications also impose a noise limit, outline how much space should be given when using them, and ensure the firework has a safety fuse and clear instructions on the label.

  • Category F1 refers to fireworks which pose a minimal hazard and this classification is usually given to indoor fireworks
  • Category F2 items (sometimes known as garden fireworks) require the smallest distance, which is eight metres or 15 metres
  • Category F3 items (sometimes known as display fireworks) require the greatest distance which is at least 25 metres.

Not all fireworks in these categories will be suitable for every garden. It is vital to check the distances required and all of the instructions on Category F2 and F3 fireworks as it may not be possible to meet the distance requirements in a domestic garden.

  • Category F4 fireworks (sometimes known as industrial fireworks) are for professional use only at organised displays. These can include aerial shells and other items banned for sale to the public. Many category F4 fireworks are supplied without a fuse and are extremely dangerous to the untrained. If you are not a licensed professional and you are offered Category F4 fireworks, these are being sold to you illegally.
Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, you cannot purchase category F2, F3 or F4 fireworks unless you hold a fireworks licence. The licence application form is only available from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the appropriate fee must be paid before the licence is issued – find more information on fireworks licences.

Additional resources

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