Don't Let Bonfire Night Turn Into A Damp Squib For Your Business

This year, both Diwali and Bonfire Night, two of the biggest festivals in the UK involving fireworks, fall on Friday 5 November. Trading Standards will be firing up their test purchasing teams across the country so make sure that you’re clued up on the latest regulations to ensure that you don’t get caught out in the cold!

Trading Standards authorities have the power to conduct ‘test purchases’ in order to determine whether a contravention of the Regulations has occurred. This means that the authority can purchase fireworks from your business or authorise an officer of the authority to do so on their behalf. The Officers may be working on joint initiatives with the police and may recruit under age volunteers to make test purchases. Alternatively, Trading Standards may use surveillance or conduct an inspection of your business so it is of vital importance that you remain vigilant and mindful of the rules regarding the sale of fireworks at all times.

It is a requirement that retailers obtain a licence from their local licensing authority for each of the premises from which they intend to sell fireworks throughout the year. However, there are a number of periods in the year during which a retailer does not require a licence for sale of fireworks. These are: -

  • On the first day of Chinese New Year and the three days immediately beforehand;
  • On the day of Diwali and the three days immediately preceding it;
  • Between 15 October and 10 November and;
  • Between 26 and 31 December.

The Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005 requires retailers of fireworks to take appropriate measures to prevent and limit the extent of fire or explosion and to protect people from the effects of fire or explosion. These measures include ensuring that a risk assessment has been undertaken and specialise storage facilities are in place.

The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 came into force (in the main) on 4 July 2010. They deal with the labelling, categorisation and distribution of fireworks. The new categorisation ranges from low hazard, low noise fireworks, which includes Christmas crackers (Category 1 fireworks) to high hazard fireworks requiring specialise knowledge (Category 4 fireworks). The provisions in relation to Category 4 fireworks do not, however, come into force until 4 July 2013.

The new Regulations forbid the supply of Category 1 fireworks to a person under 16 and forbid the sale of Category 2 and 3 fireworks to a person under 18. Although this does not differ significantly from the previous position, it does define more clearly the different categorisations of fireworks and age limits applicable to those categories.

Under the new Regulations distributers are expected to act with due care to ensure that an article is CE marked and accompanied with the correct safety information.  Appropriate signage must also be displayed

Contravention of these regulations can result in criminal offences being committed, resulting in fines and/or imprisonment. In certain circumstances it may be a defence to show that all reasonable steps were taken and all due diligence was exercised to avoid committing the offence.

Dan Stowers

Yorkshire & North East: Paul Haycock 

London & South England: Sarah Wallace