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Throughout the year, fireworks are widely used to mark public and private celebrations as well as traditional events. Since they are explosives, there are strict rules in place in the UK regulating the sale, possession and use of fireworks.

The storage of fireworks (and other explosives) is controlled by the Explosives Regulations 2014. The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015,  which came into force on 17 August 2015, 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 the 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 the technical documentation and the EU declaration of conformity drawn up in respect of a firework for a period of 10 years (beginning on the day on which the firework is placed on the market).

There are various categories of fireworks. Category F1 fireworks present a very low hazard and are intended for use in confined areas, including inside domestic buildings. Categories F2 and F3 fireworks are on general sale to the public but only category F2 fireworks are intended for outdoor use in confined areas (such as a small garden).

Under the 2015 Regulations, an economic operator (i.e. retailer) must not sell category F1 fireworks to anyone under the age of 16. Category F2 and F3  fireworks must not be sold to anyone under 18. The most powerful F4 category fireworks (display fireworks) must not be sold to members of the public; they can only be supplied to a person with specialist knowledge. These measures are specifically designed to promote consumer safety.

The Fireworks Regulations 2004 (as amended) are designed to tackle the anti-social use of fireworks. Since January 2005 the sale of fireworks to the public is prohibited, except from licensed traders. However, fireworks can be sold by unlicensed traders for:

  • Chinese New Year and the preceding three days,
  • Diwali and the proceeding three days,
  • Bonfire Night celebrations (15 October to 10 November), and
  • New Year celebrations (26 to 31 December).

 Under the 2004 Regulations, it is an offence to use fireworks after 11pm and before 7am without permission (except on permitted fireworks nights when the times are extended).

The purpose of this briefing paper is to provide a detailed overview of the current legislative provisions regulating the manufacture, storage, supply, possession and use of fireworks in England and Wales and (in the main) Scotland.

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