As we approach Bonfire Night, the night sky is brought alive by the vibrant explosions of noise and colour, but as always, lurking in the background is a risk that failing to deal with fireworks safely and responsibly can bring you to the attention of the police.
Retailers who are thinking of supplying fireworks for the first time should ensure that they are sufficiently familiar with the complex rules that regulate the sale and possession of fireworks.
Contravention of the rules can result in substantial fines being imposed, or even a prison sentence.
Classes of firework
There are four general classifications for fireworks:
Class 1 – Indoor
Class 2 – Garden
Class 3 – Display
Class 4 – Professional
Certain fireworks are banned entirely, such as mini-rockets, bangers, firecrackers, ‘jumping fireworks’ and air bombs.
There are also fireworks referred to as ‘adult fireworks’, which are subject to a local authority licensing regime.
Importation of Fireworks
It is a criminal offence to import fireworks unless notice of the fact is given to HM Customs and Excise, and details of the importer’s name and address where fireworks will be kept.
Given the sizeable market in illegal and unsafe imported fireworks, it is always wise only to purchase from established, recognised retailers.
Sale of Fireworks
Retailers must display specified signage warning that it is illegal to sell fireworks to those under 18 years. Retailers should have robust training procedures in place to ensure that store staff know how to recognise under-age purchasers, and challenge as to age in appropriate cases.
There are licensing restrictions on the supply of adult fireworks.
Possession of Fireworks
It is an offence for a person under 18 years to possess most fireworks in a public place. There are limited exceptions for those employed in the business of firework displays and other relevant occupations. The possession of category four fireworks is prohibited save for those employed in the business of firework displays and other relevant occupations.
With certain exceptions, such as Bonfire Night, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year, the use of adult fireworks is not permitted during the hours of 11 pm – 7 am. Again, there are specific exemptions.
Category 3 fireworks are restricted to a sound impulse sound pressure level of 120 decibels. It is an offence to supply any firework that contravenes this restriction.
Public Order, arson, violent and Other Offences
Fireworks are dangerous incendiary devices and in the wrong hands can cause serious injury to persons, animals and property. Many of these offences carry substantial criminal penalties.