Be safe, not sorry

Fireworks are safe if you use them properly. If you put on a home display, you should follow some simple steps to make sure that everyone has a good time without getting hurt.

Keep kids safe

We want children to enjoy fireworks but they need to know that they can be dangerous if they are not used properly. Each year, over half of all firework injuries are suffered by children.

Further guidance can be found on The Child Accident Prevention Trust 

Where to buy fireworks

Don’t cut corners just to save a few pounds. Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform. This means that they should have BS 7114 written on the box. Sometimes shops open up for a short time before Bonfire Night but these may not be the best places to buy fireworks from.

Staff in these shops might not be very knowledgeable about using fireworks safely and their fireworks might not meet British standards. Whatever you do, don’t buy fireworks from anywhere you’re not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall.

What fireworks to buy

There are different categories of fireworks. You can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under categories one to three. These are fireworks that you can use indoors, in your garden or at a display. Always read the packet carefully and make sure that the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.

Professional fireworks

Some fireworks can only be bought and used by firework professionals. These include: air bombs; aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar; all bangers; mini rockets; fireworks with erratic flight; some Category 2 and 3 fireworks which exceed certain size limits; and all Category 4 fireworks.

For further safety information about fireworks and bonfire safety visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/celebrating-bonfire-night.

Fireworks safety code

Follow the fireworks safety code

Make sure you know the fireworks code:

  • Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114
  • Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box. Take them out one at a time and put the top back at once. When the box is open, keep it well away from fire and cigarettes
  • Follow the instructions on each firework carefully. Read them by torchlight, never with a naked flame.
  • Light tip of firework fuse at arm's length, using a safety firework lighter, long taper or fuse wick.
  • 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

Setting fireworks off

Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. If that’s you, then make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Read the instructions in daylight and don’t drink any alcohol until they’ve all been discharged. On the night, you will need:

  • a torch
  • a bucket of water
  • eye protection and gloves
  • a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in
  • suitable supports and launchers if you’re setting off Catherine wheels or rockets.

The bonfire checklist

  • Make one person responsible for the bonfire
  • Do not light the bonfire until after the fireworks display
  • Don't site the bonfire near buildings
  • Don't build dens inside a fire
  • Don't use petrol to light a bonfire
  • Don't use aerosols or bottles on bonfires
  • Don't burn dangerous rubbish like old tyres or foam filled furniture
  • Don't throw fireworks onto a bonfire

Remember: if your clothes catch fire:

STOP, don't run

DROP, to the ground

ROLL OVER, to put the flames out

Make sure the bonfire is totally extinguished and cooled down before leaving the site. 

Ensuring your home is safe

Home safety do's and don'ts:

  • Do lock all your doors and windows before you go out. Pay particular attention to the rear of your premises.
  • Do keep your shed and/or garage locked. If your garage has a door that communicates directly with the interior of the house, make sure it is securely locked.
  • Do close the curtains and leave a light on in a room (not the hall) when you are out for the evening
  • Do keep all pets inside
  • Don't leave door keys in hiding places such as under a doormat or in a flowerpot. Thieves know all the hiding places.
  • Don't leave a window open a few inches for the cat to get in or out
  • Don't leave ladders around. If you must leave one outside make sure they are padlocked to something secure.
  • Don't bring your own fireworks to the display, you will not be admitted

Firework regulations for retailers

Most business premises that store explosives (including fireworks) must be licensed or certificated by the local authority, Metropolitan Police or the Health and Safety Executive, depending on the amount and explosive type.

Information on explosives and firework licence applications

Legal requirements

The main legal requirements for the sale of fireworks are as follows:

  • the sale of fireworks to anyone apparently under the age of 18 is illegal (except for amorces, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers and serpents, where the minimum age is 16)
  • to inform anyone who is sold fireworks (other than caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents, sparklers and throwdowns), that it is illegal to sell such fireworks to anyone under the age of 18 and for anyone under the age of 18 to possess such fireworks in a public place. This information shall be given by a prominently displayed notice in the premises, which measures at least 400 millimetres by 300 millimetres, with letters at least 16 millimetres high
  • fireworks cannot be sold in the street or any public place. All packets of sparklers must be labelled ‘Warning: not to be given to children under five years of age’
  • fireworks pre-packed in a selection box or pack must not be split up and sold individually
  • all fireworks intended for use by the public must comply with British Standard 7114. Do not sell fireworks unless they are marked ‘Complies with BS 7114: Part 2 1988), or for a box or pack, ‘Contents comply with BS 7114: Part 2 1988’and the name and address of the manufacturer must not be removed from the firework’s packaging.

Banned fireworks

The following fireworks are banned from sale to the public:

  • small bangers
  • larger bangers, including batteries such as Chinese crackers and combinations containing any type of banger
  • ‘category 4’ fireworks. These are fireworks that are incomplete and are not intended for sale to the public
  • mini-rockets
  • aerial maroons, aerial shells, shell-in-mortars and maroon-in-mortars
  • any firework with erratic flight e.g. squibs, jumping crackers and helicopters

Underage sales

The law does allow a defence to anyone charged with selling fireworks to under age persons but you must be able to prove you took all reasonable precautions and exercised all proper care to avoid committing an offence. The owner of the business is legally responsible for the actions of staff so if staff sell to an under age child, the owner could be prosecuted as well.

The owner of the business should ensure that staff are fully aware of the requirements regarding the sale of fireworks. Get them to read the ‘dos and don’ts’ below. Get them to sign to say that they have understood the requirements and have read and understood the dos and don’ts. Keep written records of this. Don’t forget to do the same for any new staff before they start selling anything.

Regularly remind all staff of the legal requirements and of the ‘dos and don’ts’. Keep written records of these reminders.

It is also good practice for you to regularly monitor how your staff deal with young people who try to buy fireworks.

Sales of fireworks to young people:

  • don’t rely on looks alone – a child can look very grown up
  • don’t sell to a child even if they say they have an adult’s permission to buy
  • do ask for proof of age if you are in any doubt e.g. birth certificate, driving licence, passport or one of the proof of age cards now available (CitizenCard, Validate Card or Prove-It card)
  • always check that the person providing proof of age is the person shown on the document, and always check the date of birth shown as different documents may be issued to different age groups. Remember, no proof - no sale
  • place a sticker on your till as a reminder to check the person’s age
  • exercise your right not to sell if you have any suspicion that the child is under 18
  • exercise your right to challenge the age of any child and ask their year of birth. (Normally, people will instantly remember their birth year but if the child is under 18 they may hesitate while trying to work out what year they would need to have been born in to be 18 or over.)
  • record a refused sale in a Refusal Sales Book to show you are taking reasonable steps to avoid selling to a child.

Camden Trading Standards Team

Please note that the our trading standards team regularly uses volunteer children to carry out test purchases from retailers of age-restricted products to ensure the law is being complied with. Test purchasing is carried out in accordance with government guidelines.

Our volunteers will not lie about their age, so the diligent retailer who complies with the law has nothing to worry about. In addition to this type of enforcement, we provide information and advice for businesses about the sale of age-restricted products.

Details of this new regulation are available here.

Sky/Chinese Lanterns

Sky/Chinese lanterns are not permitted to be released from Camden Council land.

This is due to the following risks:

  • Environment: Whilst releasing sky lanterns isn’t classified as littering they are composed of paper with a wire or bamboo frame that takes time to decompose.
  • Fire: There is a risk that a Sky Lantern will set fire to trees and dry material.   
  • Safety: Potential injury to other site users.  Launching a lantern in any way that results in injuring people or animals, or damage to property can make you liable for criminal charges or civil claims for damages. There is also the potential that a Sky Lantern could be mistaken for distress flares 
  • Wildlife: Sky lanterns can cause injury, suffering and death to wildlife through ingestion, entanglement and entrapment. They can also scare livestock and other animals.

Safety tips when using Sky lanterns on your own land:

  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions supplied with the product, with a minimum of two people present when lighting and launching the lantern.
  • Do not use them if you are under the age of 16.
  • Supervise children and animals, and keep them away from the lantern or any naked flame.
  • Make sure the weather conditions are appropriate for launching sky lanterns - only launch when there is no more than a light breeze (5 miles per  hour), and not during a hot period of weather when vegetation may be dry and a fire hazard.
  • Do not launch the lanterns within 30 metres of trees, buildings or other obstacles.
  • Launch only in open spaces – never within 100 metres of crop fields or power lines.
  • Never launch near an airport or airfield.
  • Never tie lanterns together - launch them one at a time.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or a large quantity of water ready at the launch site in case of any accident resulting in a fire.
  • Lanterns can be harmful to wildlife and the environment, so limit the numbers of lanterns that you launch.

If you have any doubts, never launch a sky lantern – your safety and that of others is the number one priority!