Fireworks are a traditional part of enjoying celebrations such as Bonfire Night or New Year, but they are the cause of around a thousand serious accidents every year. You should remember that they are dangerous explosives.
The highest number of firework injuries happen at family or private parties and over half of those injuries are to children.
Fireworks are safe if you use them properly. If you’re putting on a home display, you should follow some simple steps to make sure everyone has a good time without getting hurt. Children especially need to know that fireworks can be dangerous if they’re not used properly.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is to go to an organised event.
Tips to help you keep safe
Always buy fireworks from a licensed retailer and only buy fireworks which carry the CE or UKCA marks. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published useful guidance for storing and selling fireworks.
It is illegal for retailers to sell fireworks to anyone under the age of 18. The only exceptions are party poppers, cracker snaps, caps, serpents or novelty matches, where the minimum age is 16.
Always read the packet carefully and make sure the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.
Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. Make sure you take all the necessary precautions, read the instructions in daylight and don’t drink any alcohol until they have all been discharged.
On the night, you will need:
- a torch
- a bucket of water
- eye protection and gloves
- a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in
- suitable supports
- launchers if you’re setting off Catherine wheels or rockets
More tips for a safe fireworks party
- Keep fireworks in a closed box
- Follow the instructions on each firework
- Light at arm's length, using a taper
- Stand well back
- Never go near a firework that has been lit as it may still explode
- Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them
- Always supervise children around fireworks and keep pets indoors
- Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves
- Never give a sparkler to a child under five
For more information on firework safety, visit ROSPA, GOV.UK: My Safety, GOV.UK: The law or British Fireworks Association.
Fireworks and bonfire events
If you’re organising a major public event, you will need a robust and detailed approach to planning as well as professional involvement. If you’re holding a local firework display, you still need to plan responsibly, but the same level of detail is not necessary or expected. The HSE have published some useful tips and guidance to help you organise fireworks displays.
The Confederation of British Industry Explosives Interest Group has produced guidance on firework displays that you should follow:
- Working together on firework displays (PDF) – aimed at professional firework display organisers and operators
- Giving your own firework display (PDF) – aimed at all other firework displays
Animal welfare and wildlife
Firework displays can be particularly distressing to animals. For more information, visit RSPCA: fireworks advice for pet owners or Essex Wildlife Trust: Check your bonfire for wildlife.