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
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.
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
- aerial maroons, aerial shells, shell-in-mortars and maroon-in-mortars
- any firework with erratic flight e.g. squibs, jumping crackers and helicopters
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.