Safe Fireworks Storage
This article contains advice on storing your fireworks safely at home along with the current legal limits for each class of consumer firework. If you’re confused by the terms 1.3G, 1.4G, HT3 and HT4 then start by reading the Fireworks Classifications guide.
Basic storage advice
Fireworks contain explosives! That might sound like a statement of the blindingly obvious, but you need to get into the mindset that you are handling and storing explosives and not toys.
When storing fireworks at home the main things to ensure are:
- The fireworks are kept away from any sources of heat or ignition
- The fireworks are kept dry
Sources of heat or ignition include heaters, naked flames and people smoking.
Never smoke while handling fireworks!
It is essential that your fireworks are kept dry. Beware of storing fireworks outside in sheds which can get damp and avoid anywhere with significant changes of temperatures including greenhouses, conservatories and lofts which could result in condensation. If you must keep your fireworks in the shed, wrap them up tightly in well sealed bin liners or plastic bags.
Some more useful advice:
- Store fireworks in their original packaging (mail order fireworks will be supplied in tough cardboard cartons)
- Do not store fireworks with any other flammable materials including petrol, oil or paint
- If there is a possibility of children or animals having access to the fireworks, keep them stored in a lockable container or cabinet
Make use of your fireworks supplier! Many retailers are happy to store your fireworks for you until closer to your display. This is by far the safest option.
Firework storage – the legal side summarised
Your consumer fireworks will be classed for transport as either 1.4G (0336) or 1.3G (0335) by the UN. Fireworks supplied in their own individual boxes (referred to as “cartons” in the trade) will have an orange hazard diamond on the side to indicate their classification. For loose items, consult your retailer.
The storage laws are governed by the Explosive Regulations 2014 (which replaced MSER: Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005) which determine the legal limits for Hazard Type 3 (HT3) and Hazard Type 4 (HT4) items. Generally speaking it is safe to assume that 1.4G fireworks are Hazard Type 4 and 1.3G fireworks are Hazard Type 3. This is the assumption used for the remainder of this article however you must consult your fireworks supplier for confirmation of the exact hazard types of the fireworks you are buying.
All storage quantities relate to the Net Explosive Content, or NEC of the firework. This is not the same as the firework’s gross weight. For example, a firework may weigh 5kg but the actual NEC may only be 0.5kg. Your supplier should be able to tell you what the NEC of your fireworks is. If not, it can be estimated to be around one quarter of the firework’s total weight as a worst case scenario to work from. All new products tested to comply with EN15947 and which are CE marked will have the NEC shown on the warning label.
In short, the limits for storing fireworks at home without registration are:
Hazard Type 4 (usually 1.4G):
- Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time
- Up to 50kg NEC – store for up to 21 consecutive days provided they are not for sale or use at work
- Up to 250kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use
- Any amount for up to 24 hours
Hazard Type 3 (usually 1.3G):
- Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time
- Up to 100kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use
- Any amount for up to 24 hours
As you can see the limits for HT3 fireworks are considerably more restrictive.
Note: Where there is a mix of HT4 and HT3 fireworks they are treated as if they were all HT3. In practical terms this means if 99% of your fireworks are labelled as 1.4G and you have a single 1.3G firework then legally all of your fireworks would be viewed for the purposes of storage as 1.3G and therefore the limits for HT3 could apply.
Those of you who have stored fireworks before 2014 under the MSER guidelines will also note the terms “place of intended use” and “not for sale or use at work” which are applicable on some of the above. In everyday terms, the place of intended use covers you for buying fireworks to store at home for your home display, or to buy and store them where your display is taking place. Not for sale or use at work basically means non-commercial use. If you are buying fireworks to sell or you are displaying for money (providing a commercial service) then you will have to look into registration and licensing. A storage licence allows you to store fireworks all year and to sell during key periods only.
Storing larger quantities or for longer time
If your storage of fireworks will exceed the above limits either in terms of time or NEC, or if you want to store fireworks for commercial reasons, you may be required to register your fireworks storage or apply for a storage licence. This is done with your local licensing authority. This will usually be either Trading Standards or the local Fire Authority and they will be able to advise you further. Local authorities can grant a licence to store up to a maximum of 2000kg NEC HT3 or HT4. The licence may be issued for up to five years and fees will apply. Remember this will not apply to the vast majority of home users of consumer fireworks!
Storage of HT4 and HT3 at legal and licensed premises is subject to certain separation distances between the storage area and surrounding buildings or places. Separation distances only come in to play for >250kg HT4 or >25kg HT3. The more astute of you will recognise these figures as they relate to what was known as a Registration. To see the tables of distance, refer to the regulations.
If you are looking to store more than 2000kg NEC then you would need to apply to HSE directly. The process is far more involved and proper advice needs to taken. All HSE licensed Sites require Local Authority Assent, basically a notice to the local populace and acceptance of your proposal. The whole process can be quite lengthy.
Firework storage – the legal side in more detail
As stated above the law covering the storage of fireworks is The Explosives Regulations 2014. Here is a link for further reading which is the legislation in its original form (some small amendments have been made since but there is not currently an on-line version of it). It is recommended to put the kettle on first as this is a very long document:
These regulations are complex and it is the responsibility of the licence holder to comply with the terms of their licence. The Issuing Authority will help and offer guidance in the majority of cases. If they cannot, then post a message on our forum and one of the members with the requisite knowledge should be able to help you.
All year sales licence
This is not to be confused with the storage rules and regulations above. In the UK it is permissible to sell fireworks to the general public (Categories 1, 2 and 3 only) during the four key selling periods:
- On the first day of the Chinese New Year and the three days immediately preceding it
- On the day of Diwali and the three days immediately preceding it
- During the period beginning on the 15th October and ending on the 10th November
- During the period beginning on the 26th December and ending on the 31st December
If you wish to sell outside of these periods you will have to apply for an all year sales licence (current cost is £500/year) via your Local Licencing Authority. In almost every case you will need to be the holder of a valid storage licence too.
Changes to the regulations
It must be stressed that fireworks laws and regulations can and do change. This article should only be considered as correct at the time of going to press (November 2014 and updated August 2015) and is not a substitute for up to date advice from your fireworks supplier or local licensing authority.
Disclaimer: This article is intended as a guide only. It is your responsibility to ensure you store your fireworks legally and UKFR accepts no responsibility if the information here is wrong. Please consult the above links, your retailer or your local licensing authority if you require formal clarification of UK fireworks storage laws. This is NOT an official guide.
With thanks to the UKFR members who helped research and write this article, in particular UKFR forum member TGR.
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.