When celebrating with fireworks, firework safety must always take priority over everything else. There are many hazards and common causes of injury in the UK associated with fireworks, so we’ve created an ultimate guide to sparklers, bonfires, and the firework code.
The firework safety code
To prevent injury while working with fireworks, you must follow several rules to stay safe. This is known as the firework safety code.
Respecting the fireworks code will allow you to enjoy the spectacle to the fullest without exposing yourself to any of the dangers you may face when dealing with explosives.
This code will not only keep you safe, but it will also protect others around you. You have a duty of care to your guests, neighbours, children, and pets.
- Only buy CE classification fireworks, with 1.4 marked on them, indicating these are intended for the general public and are safe for use.
- Always keep fireworks in the original package, and only unpack them from secure packaging just before the display.
- Don’t throw fireworks, and don’t carry any explosives in your pocket or on your body.
- Follow the instructions for each firework, using a head torch to illuminate instructions when it’s dark.
- Use a long firework lighter (taper) at arm’s length when lighting the fireworks.
- Avoid alcohol and don’t allow cigarettes or other naked flames near the fireworks.
- Never return to a lit firework – there are fireworks with two fuses; the second fuse is only to be used in the event of the first fuse failing.
- Keep your distance from the fireworks, and follow the spectator distancing rules in line with the category of firework you are using.
- Supervise kids at all times, and never give sparklers to children under the age of 5.
- Keep your pets indoors so they don’t startle – but place them in a room with a window towards the display, as they are often more anxious about sounds without a visible source.
If you stick to all of the rules of the fireworks code, you should be perfectly safe!
Where can you store your fireworks?
Two elements of some celebrations across the UK are sparklers and bonfires. These come with their own risks, so we’ve broken down our top safety tips for both.
How to use sparklers safely
The highlight of many people’s celebrations is lighting up sparklers. But these can be just as dangerous as fireworks if they are misused.
To ensure sparkler safety, follow these rules:
- Stick sparklers into carrots for your kids – due to the excessive heat of a sparkler; it’s always safer to avoid directly holding one when waving them around.
- Keep sparklers away from other fireworks and to avoid accidental ignition, ensure that sparklers stay away from the display and stored fireworks.
- Never use sparklers indoors – the hot sparks that fly from sparklers can cause fire when coming into contact with a variety of materials. They’ll also create smoke that is unpleasant and dangerous when released in confined spaces.
- Always supervise children – they can forget just how hot the metal can be, especially if a sparkler has gone out and they think it’s safe to touch. If you’re not careful, children can burn themselves or drop the sparkler without a firm grip.
- Don’t light more than one at once – the power from many lit sparklers can cause a lot of damage to your skin from the intense heat.
- Light sparklers at arm’s length – the initial fizz of a sparkler can catch you off guard and ignite other material when lit closely to your body.
- Always place used sparklers in a bucket of sand – sand can cool down the hot part of a sparkler very quickly. Encourage anyone who has used a sparkler to dispose of it in the right place, instead of just throwing it on the floor or placing it where someone else is likely to touch it.
A bonfire is the centrepiece of many celebrations across the UK, including the traditional celebration of Bonfire Night.
But there are a few essential rules to remember for your bonfire:
- Build the bonfire on the same day that it will be lit, to avoid hedgehogs and small animals taking refuge in the pyre.
- Only burn dry paper, leaves, wood, and cardboard. Damp wood will create a much thicker smoke, so consider covering the material with tarpaulin and only removing this just before lighting to keep any rain off.
- Avoid green wood, such as hedge trimmings and garden waste, as this creates excessive smoke.
- It is illegal to burn treated wood, plastics, rubber and household waste, as this gives off toxic fumes that harm your health and the environment.
- Do not use petrol, paraffin, or oil on the bonfire, as this can explode.
- Ensure spectators keep a safe distance and keep children far from the fire. Do not let them play near the bonfire.
- Ensure the fire has burned out or has been doused with water before leaving.
When can you set off fireworks?
You cannot set off or throw fireworks and sparklers in public areas, including the street.
It is illegal to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, but this curfew changes for:
- Bonfire Night, when midnight is the cut-off.
- New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year, and Diwali, when you can set off fireworks and sparklers until 1am.
Your local council may have additional rules for setting off fireworks, so always check their advice before planning a display.
You can purchase fireworks from a licensed shop such as Balloonatics all year round. We hold a licence to store and sell fireworks at any time of the year. Some sellers without this licence are only legally allowed to sell fireworks near certain celebrations.
What are the different types of fireworks?
There are four categories of fireworks, three of which are for sale to the public. Choosing the correct category for your display will help to ensure spectators can stay appropriately distanced from the explosives and are safe to enjoy the celebrations.
You can use fireworks in the F1 category both indoors and outdoors. They are low hazard, and only need an advised standing distance of one metre. The general public can purchase these.
Fireworks placed in the F2 category are for outdoor use only and have a minimum spectator distance of 8 metres. These are perfect for garden displays and are also available to the public.
The fireworks designated as F3 classification are the largest available to the general public. These require a minimum spectator distance of 15 metres, recommended distance of 25 metres, and are much louder. They should only be used in large open spaces. The minimum spectator distance should also be measured from the display point to wherever the neighbours could be, so you need a garden at least 30 metres by 30 metres for these fireworks.
F4 classification is for fireworks that are only for use at professional displays. These will also have 1.3 written on them rather than the public-safe 1.4 measure. They are extremely dangerous without proper training and are not for sale to the public.
Each firework is used in a specific way, so you should always read instructions on the box and spend a few minutes getting familiar with the standard procedures. It is mandatory for all fireworks retailers in the UK to print clear instructions on every box, so you should have no trouble with your display. Avoid purchasing fireworks without proper instructions or packaging, and only buy fireworks from a licensed seller.
Every firework also has a different fuse delay. F3 fireworks generally take 5-13 seconds to fire, while F2 fireworks take 3-8 seconds. If you have a mix of fireworks, don’t head back towards the fireworks if some are yet to go off – they likely haven’t reached their fuse time yet.
- It is against the law to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 18, and if you’re under 18, it is illegal to carry fireworks in public.
- The Explosives Act 1875 states it is illegal to modify or tamper with fireworks.
- In Northern Ireland, you must have a valid fireworks licence to buy, possess, and use fireworks. This law excludes sparklers and indoor fireworks.
Balloonatics are a licensed and well-regarded seller of fireworks. We are more than happy to advise on the types of fireworks suitable for any display and situation. With a selection ranging from budget packs to complete display kits, we have a product available for any celebration.