Since they are explosives, there are strict rules in place in the UK regulating the import, storage and sale of fireworks.
Can all imported fireworks be put on the market in the UK?
No, the imported firework must be safe. The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 (PDF 292 KB) deal with the safety of fireworks as a consumer product. Before placing a firework on the market, a manufacturer must ensure that it has been designed and manufactured in accordance with essential safety requirements.
All fireworks intended to be sold to the public must be CE marked showing that they meet EU requirements set out in Directive 2013/29/EU. Importantly, a manufacturer must keep technical documentation and the EU declaration of conformity for a period of 10 years from the date the firework is first placed on the market.
Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (PDF 292 KB) suppliers of all consumer goods (including fireworks) are required to meet acceptable standards of safety. Under section 11 of the Act it is an offence to supply goods which fail to comply with general safety requirements.
Can fireworks be stored anywhere?
No. As explosives, the storage of fireworks is controlled by the Explosives Regulations 2014. In a nutshell, the storage of fireworks of less than two tonnes in weight needs a licence from the local authority; storage of more than two tonnes of fireworks requires a licence from the Health and Safety Executive. Both bodies may inspect storage facilities, if they so wish.
How is the supply of fireworks regulated?
Manufacturers, importers and distributors are required, under the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015, to keep a record of the following information for a period of 10 years:
- the registration numbers of fireworks
- who they have sold fireworks to
- who has supplied them
Importers are required to supply information at the point of entry (the ports) to help ensure that their fireworks are destined for legitimate storage and distribution.
How must fireworks be labelled?
All fireworks offered for sale in the UK must carry a CE mark to show that they are safe and conform to European safety standards.
Fireworks must also be categorised and labelled according to their explosive content. The label must also include instructions on safety distances and means of ignition and safety messages.
The various categories of fireworks are as follows:
- Category F1 fireworks present a low hazard and are intended for use in confined areas, including inside domestic buildings.
- Categories F2 and F3 fireworks can both be sold to the public but only category F2 fireworks are intended for outdoor use in confined areas (such as a small garden).
- Category F4 fireworks are powerful fireworks intended for professional use only. They must not be sold to members of the public.
Can any retailer sell fireworks all year round?
No, under the Fireworks Regulations 2004 (as amended) the sale of fireworks to the public is prohibited, except from licensed traders. However, fireworks can be sold by unlicensed traders for the following limited periods:
- Chinese New Year and the preceding three days
- Diwali and the following three days
- Bonfire Night celebrations (15 October to 10 November)
- New Year celebrations (26 to 31 December)
What is the position in Scotland?
Regulation of the sale of fireworks is regarded as a consumer safety issue and as such is a reserved matter.
How are the regulations enforced?
The penalty for committing an offence of supplying a category F2 or F3 firework to any person under 18 years or supplying a category F1 firework to any person under 16 years, is a fine of up to £5,000 and up to 6 months’ imprisonment.
Local authority Trading Standards officers are responsible for enforcing regulations on consumer safety and age of purchase.
- Regulation of Fireworks, Commons Library research briefing
- Fireworks: Purchase, possession and use, Commons Library
- Fireworks: the law, GOV.UK
- Regulation of firework displays in Scotland (PDF 124 KB), SPICe briefing
- Fireworks, HSE