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The Firework Code (UK)

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A fireworks display.

Although there is good general safety advice on fireworks available in the fireworks entry, it is an important enough subject to have its own entry.

The firework code in the UK is a list of firework 'commandments' designed to ensure safety. They are:

  1. Never give a sparkler to a child under the age of five. Always ensure children wear gloves when using sparklers and are supervised at all times. When finished with, they should be doused in a bucket of water.
  2. Use only fireworks marked to BS 71141.
  3. Keep all fireworks in a closed box. It should preferably be made of metal or plastic and kept tightly sealed.
  4. Follow the instructions on the firework closely.
  5. Use a taper and light fireworks one at a time at arm's length.
  6. Stand well back.
  7. Never go back to a firework that has been lit2.
  8. Never put fireworks in your pockets.
  9. Never throw a firework.
  10. Keep pets indoors.
  11. Don't drink alcohol if setting off fireworks.

These are obviously only the most basic of safety instructions. There are others including:

  • Wear safety clothing - goggles, gloves and an apron.
  • Have an extinguisher handy; a bucket of water or sand or a pressurised fire extinguisher.
  • Keep a battery-powered torch with you so you can read the instructions on firework.
  • Try to keep the fireworks away from any buildings or sheds. Placing them at the end of the garden usually suffices.
  • Don't supply fireworks to children under 18 - it's the law3.
  • Don't use a milk bottle to hold your firework. Plant the wooden stem firmly in the ground.

For other safety information visit the Directgov Firework safety page.


The majority of firework injuries for the last six years have involved children under 13 and adults over 20. The majority of the injuries are to the hand, head and eyes4.

From 2002, injuries have fallen5;

  • Injuries in the street and public places fell by 33 per cent.
  • Injuries at family parties fell by 39 per cent.
  • Injuries at large public displays dropped by 37 per cent.
  • Injuries in the 'hotspot6' UK regions fell by 36 per cent.

Over 130 million fireworks were sold in Britain in 1995. At family back-garden displays, sparklers cause more injuries than air-bombs, bangers, rockets and Roman candles combined. Half of all firework accidents happen to children under the age of 16 and more than 60 under-fives went to hospital in 1997 following firework accidents. Most firework accidents are caused at family back-garden displays closely followed by incidents in the street7.

Finally don't forget:

It is illegal to purchase fireworks if you are under the age of 18 years.

Quote from the Directgov website:

'It is against the law to:

  • set off or throw fireworks in the street or other public place
  • set off fireworks between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am – except during certain celebrations

If found guilty by the courts, you could be fined up to £5,000 and can be imprisoned for up to three months. You may be liable for an on-the-spot fine of £80.

When you can use fireworks during celebrations:

You can let off fireworks :

  • until midnight on Bonfire Night
  • until 1.00 am on New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year'
1The British Safety Standard for fireworks.2If it fails to light, leave it, maintain a distance from it at all times and wait until morning before dousing it with water.3Some stores won't sell fireworks to anyone under 21.4Source: Department of Trade and Industry. 5Quote from DTI website.6Hotspot areas for targeting intensive safety campaigns in 2002 were: Liverpool, Bradford, Manchester / Salford / Oldham, Birmingham, Leeds, Wolverhampton, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Newcastle / Gateshead, Greater Strathclyde and Newport.7Source: The Fire Service

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