Firework Laws & Regulations
These are the main laws, regulations and other key points to be aware of when you buy and use fireworks in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland).
Letting off fireworks
It is a common misconception that you can only let fireworks off on or around Guy Fawkes. You can in fact let fireworks off any time of year and any day of the week including Sundays, but you must let them off before 11pm.
Exceptions to the 11pm rule are:
November 5th (Bonfire Night / Guy Fawkes): You can let fireworks off until midnight.
December 31st (New Year’s Eve): You can let fireworks off until 1am.
Diwali (26th October 2011* and 13th November 2012*): You can let fireworks off until 1am.
Chinese New Year (23rd January 2012*): You can let fireworks off until 1am.
*Source: Wikipedia articles Diwali and Chinese New Year.
It is courtesy to notify your neighbours if you are having a display especially if it is not on November 5th or New Year’s Eve.
It is illegal to let fireworks off in the street or a public place. You should only let fireworks off on private land such as your garden or on land where you have the landowner’s permission. It is UKFR’s understanding this means it is also illegal to let fireworks off on the beach (not to mention having the potential for fireworks to be mistaken for distress flares).
It is not a legal requirement to have any form of licence or training to let off consumer fireworks. However for larger displays which are insured, some form of training may be a requirement of the underwriters.
You can read the various firework laws that apply in the original 2004 legislation form here: Firework Regulations 2004
Fireworks can only be sold to persons aged 18 years or older. Sparklers are classed as fireworks and the same laws apply.
It is illegal for under 18s to possess fireworks in a public place.
It is not a legal requirement to have any kind of licence or training to buy consumer fireworks.
There is no such thing (contrary to popular misconception) as either a licence or training that entitles a member of the public to buy Category 4 (professional) fireworks. These are only available to bonafide professional fireworks companies with all year insurance and licenced storage.
Consumer fireworks should conform to British Standards (BS 7114) and be classified as Category 2 (Garden) or Category 3 (display) fireworks, or conform to the EU equivalent, or carry a CE mark (under very new legislation coming into force).
There is a noise limit of 120db on all consumer fireworks.
Certain items are banned in the UK. These include bangers, air bombs and jumping jacks.
Consumer fireworks are classed as either Hazard Type 3 or Hazard Type 4 (usually equivalent to 1.3G or 1.4G) for storage purposes or, if there is a mix of both, the whole lot is regarded as being Hazard Type 3. Weight and time limits apply to how much of each type you can store at home before you need to register your storage or apply for a licence. For more information please see the Safe Fireworks Storage article. For more information about HT3, HT4, 1.3G and 1.4G please see the Fireworks Classifications article.
If you are buying just selection boxes and sparklers from the supermarket, small quantities of fireworks in general or are buying your fireworks a day or two before you let them off, you do not normally need to worry about storage laws as they would not apply.
Fireworks are explosives and cannot be sent through the post. This also applies to sparklers. Fireworks can only be shipped using an explosives courier and must be clearly marked as such.
Because of their explosives classification they are also prohibited items on virtually all airline, ferry and shipping companies including the Channel Tunnel. This is why fireworks as a rule can only be shipped to mail order to addresses on the mainland.
Discussions in the UKFR Forum have highlighted the fact that your car insurance may become void or otherwise affected if you transport fireworks. Speak to your insurer for clarification.
Fireworks can be sold any time of year however the retailer must hold a valid licence. The cheaper of the two licences covers the period around Guy Fawkes and New Year’s Eve. The more expensive licence covers a retailer all year. Requirements for licensing for the sale of fireworks are beyond the scope of this article and interested parties should consult their local licensing authority which is normally either Trading Standards or the local Fire Authority.
Firework retailers holding a licence are subject to inspections to ensure they comply with their terms. Licences are never given to white vans, the bloke down the pub, car boot sales or market stalls – those are illegal sellers. Don’t buy from them!
New legislation came into force in 2010 called “The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010″ which redefines certain legal requirements for fireworks, their labelling and their sale. These regulations do not apply to fireworks imported before a certain date, which can be sold until 2017. You can read the legislation here.
Firework laws are often subject to change and in some cases open to interpretation. This article is intended as a guide only and you are urged to consult the relevant authority for confirmation of the laws prior to buying or using fireworks.
The DTI provides some excellent fireworks advice and links to various legislation documents: http://www.dti.gov.uk/fireworks
If you are working through the beginner’s “Start here!” guide you can return to it here. Or, pick a new help topic from the menus at the top of the page.
When you are ready to buy fireworks have a look at UKFR’s Buying Fireworks guide for advice and the Buy Fireworks page for a listing of fireworks suppliers. Always give these companies priority with your fireworks cash (find out why).
If you want to ask for help or have any other questions, try the UKFR Fireworks Forum. Beginners are warmly welcomed and the firework community here is standing by to help you.