25th October 2018

How to enjoy a safe Bonfire Night

Organised displays are safest, but if you’re organising your own fireworks display, always read the instructions and take precautions.


By Mansoor Iqbal
Freelance writer for JTS
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All CE marked fireworks are reasonably safe if the instructions for use are followed but the more spectacular and exciting fireworks are to be seen at organised displays

This article was sponsored by the Office for Product Safety & Standards

Bonfire Night is one the highlights of the British autumn, with firework displays having long played a central part in the fun.

While fireworks can be captivating, they also pose certain risks if due care is not taken. According to St John Ambulance, thousands of people across the UK visit A&E for the treatment of fireworks-related injuries every year.

We spoke to Ian Hillier, the CTSI’s Explosives and Petroleum Lead Officer, to find out how you can enjoy a safe bonfire night in 2018.

Only buy CE-marked fireworks
All fireworks must carry a CE mark – no other certification counts. “This shows that fireworks have to comply to very, very stringent safety requirements,” says Hillier, adding, “The instructions must be in English. Foreign fireworks without English instructions are banned in the UK.”

Certain types of fireworks, found to be dangerous or erratic, were proscribed during the process of bringing fireworks under this single certification. Anything you can currently buy will have been found to be safe. “All CE marked fireworks are reasonably safe if the instructions for use are followed but the more spectacular and exciting fireworks are to be seen at organised displays” Hillier states.

Make sure you’re buying from a licensed seller
You should only ever buy fireworks from a licensed seller. “Don’t buy from a man in the pub, from a white van, or from a market stall,” says Hillier. “It has to be licensed premises.”

If you want to check whether a shop is licensed to sell fireworks, you can check with your local fire brigade, Trading Standards, or simply ask the shopkeeper to see proof.


Watch our video on how to enjoy fireworks safely >


Keep pets inside
Animals can be distressed by the loud noises and bright flashes of light on and around November 5th. It’s best to keep them indoors during this period, therefore.

“If a pet has a particular issue with fireworks, then speak to a vet to see if there’s anything that can be done to alleviate the stress,” Hillier advises.

Follow the instructions
Hillier is firm on this point: follow the instructions.

“Each firework will have instructions on how to safely use it. The box will also have instructions. Each will have a safe distance to stand back, which gives an indication of how dangerous the fallout from the firework is.”

The good news is, if you read carefully, you’ll have nothing to worry about. “All fireworks are tested to make sure they’re safe if the instructions are followed,” says Hillier. This applies, he asserts, to even the biggest rockets you can buy for personal use.

And if a firework doesn’t go off as planned? “Don’t go back. Wait until the next morning, and then put it in bucket of water for 24 hours.”

Take precautions
Make sure that you have a clear path to retire to a safe distance after lighting the fuse – bearing in mind it’ll be dark. You also need to make sure your garden is big enough to allow to you to get to the specified safe distance.

Those setting them off should wear protective gloves and goggles.

Keep fireworks away from children
It’s illegal for under-18s to be in possession of adult fireworks. There are four categories of fireworks: F1 ‘indoor’ can be bought by those aged 16 years and over; F2 and F3 “adult” can be bought by over 18’s and F4 are for professional use only.

Many of the problems caused by fireworks are the result of irresponsible and inconsiderate misuse by children who get hold of fireworks through illicit means, reveals Hillier. Do your best to ensure that any under-18s in your care do not have access to fireworks.

Fines await sellers and under-18s found to be in breach of the law alike.

Just attend an organized display
Maybe the best piece of advice is to save yourself the trouble and expense by just attending an organized display. At such events, spectators are kept at a safe distance while qualified individuals do the work – minimising risk for everyone.

More importantly, it is likely to be a better experience for you and any firework-loving children. “Organised displays are much more exciting to watch,” says Hillier. “They tend to cost many thousands of pounds, and use fireworks that are not available to general public.”

All you’ll need to do is get a toffee apple and enjoy the show.

This article is part of a series. Read our advice for a safe Halloween here.