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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 regulating the sale, possession and use of fireworks. 

The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 (as amended by the Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019) deal with the safety of fireworks as a consumer product. Economic operators (manufacturers, importers, and distributors) must not place, or make available, fireworks on the market in Great Britain unless they conform with certain requirements. These requirements include meeting essential safety provisions, conformity attestation against relevant tests, and correct application of the CE or new UKCA mark. Importantly, a manufacturer must keep the technical documentation and the 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).

To promote consumer safety, the 2015 Regulations categorise fireworks according to their net explosive content, discharge safety distances, noise level etc. Category F1 fireworks present a very low hazard and are intended for use in confined areas, they must not be sold to anyone under the age of 16. Categories F2 and F3 fireworks present a low to medium hazard and are intended for outdoor use, they are on general sale to the public but must not be sold to anyone under 18. Category F4 fireworks present a high hazard and can only be supplied to persons with specialist knowledge.

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).

This briefing paper provides 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. The regulation of the sale of fireworks in Scotland is regarded as a consumer safety issue and as such is a reserved matter. However, the use of fireworks is a devolved matter, and there is some legislative variation in respect of Scotland. The position is completely different in Northern Ireland where anyone who wants to buy, possess, and use fireworks (except indoor fireworks and sparklers) must have a valid fireworks licence.

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