The nights are drawing in and many of you will already be well advanced with plans for Bonfire Night just two weeks away on November 5th. With pubs now often hosting displays for the whole community, there are a number of health and safety issues you need to be aware of before you start your display.

Here, the BII’s legal helpline provider John Gaunt & Partners offers a handy checklist to ensure you’re well prepared:

The Area:

  • Consider the suitability of your external area. Is it large enough for your display?
  • Is there sufficient area for the fireworks to land well away from your spectators? Allow 0.5 square metres per person, working out of course your firing and safety areas.
  • Remember to check the area in daylight for any overhead power lines, obstructions or weather abnormalities (which could affect the direction of the wind) make sure you consider overcrowding of the area.
  • If you are having an external bar check whether the area is licensed or whether you will need to apply for a Temporary Event Notice, make sure the bar is well away from the display site. Make sure any other licensable activities you are planning are also covered.
  • Sign post your exit routes clearly and ensure they are well lit, make sure your emergency service vehicles can get access to the site, keep a pedestrian and vehicle routes apart if possible and sign post the first aid facilities.

The Display:

  • If your display is to be provided by a professional firework display operator, make sure you are both clear on who does what, especially in the event of an emergency. Nominate a member of your staff to be responsible for calling the emergency services should there be a need.
  • Make sure you obtain your fireworks from a reputable supplier. If you are buying or storing the fireworks make sure you have a suitable place to do so. Your fireworks supplier or your Local Authority should be able to advise on this.
  • There is lots of Legislation covering fireworks including Explosives Regulations 2014, the Fireworks Act 2003, The Fireworks Regulations 2004 and the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 to name a few, you should in general note;
  • It is illegal to let off fireworks in a public place including a street or road.
  • Fireworks should not be let off after 11 p.m. although the deadline is put back an hour on bonfire night when it is 00:00 midnight, New Years Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali when it is 1 a.m.
  • Fireworks should not exceed 120Db.
  • Residential displays should not include fireworks rated above category 3.”
  • If you are using a professional fireworks display operative they can have access to category 4 fireworks. Category 4 fireworks are not available to the general public.
  • If you are conducting the display yourself, you are restricted to category 1, 2 and 3 fireworks make sure you check the instructions when you purchase them in summary;

–      Category 1 fireworks are indoor fireworks.

–      Category 2 fireworks are garden fireworks.

–      Category 3 fireworks are display fireworks.

–      Category 4 fireworks are for professional use only, and are dangerous to the untrained.

  • Inform your neighbours, the Local Authority and your local Fire Officer.
  • If your premises within 5 miles of the sea, you will need to inform the Coast Guard, if your premises are near an airport you will also need to inform them of your display.
  • You will also need to contact your local Police Officer and you may wish to speak with the St John’s Ambulance.
  • Appoint enough stewards or marshalls, they must be clear as to what they are to do on the night of your display and also what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • You must of course position fire extinguishers, sand, water and blankets where they are easily accessible, helpers should be clearly displayed in high visibility clothing and first aiders must be clearly identifiable and have the appropriate equipment available to them.
  • There must be sufficient stewards/helpers for the crowd you are expecting for your display area. You will be required to provide at least two for the first 500 spectators and an additional 1 for every 250 people thereafter.
  • If you have the opportunity for a public address system and radio link that would be sensible but if you do not have access to radios you will need an appropriate message system between the lighter of the fireworks and a runner to relay messages to them.

On The Day of The Event:

  • Do a safety check of the site, consider the weather conditions and wind direction. If you find the weather at risk of high winds you will need to consider cancelling the event.
  • Make sure you control the zones you have set out including the firing zone and the safety zone around it, also make sure you control the zone from members of the public where the fireworks will land.
  • Do not allow spectators to bring their own fireworks onto the site.
  • It is recommended that children under 5 should not use sparklers.
  • If you are firing the fireworks yourself you should carry a torch and whistle, use a slow burning safety fuse (port fire).  You should not be using normal matches or lighter.
  • If some of your fireworks do not go off as intended, do not approach them for at least half an hour. Never attempt to relight fireworks.
  • If you are intending on having a bonfire at the display you must:
  • Check the structure is sound, does not have small children or animals inside it before lighting it.
  • Do not use petrol/paraffin to light the fire.
  • Have only one person responsible for lighting the fire. That person and any other helpers should wear suitable clothing, a substantial outer garment made of wool or other low flammable material.
  • Make sure that the person lighting the fire and any helpers know what to do in the event of a burn injury or clothing catching fire.


Once The Display is Over:

  • Make sure you clear the public from the viewing area in a controlled and safe manner.
  • Check and clear the site, dispose of the fireworks safely. Any which have not gone off place immediately in a bucket of water.


  • As a robust protection for your position, make sure that either your professional operative or your own Public Liability Insurance is in order.

Food Safety Risks:

  • In addition to the fireworks, you may be providing tasty food at your display.
  • If you are bringing in external food vendors, make sure you check their Food Safety Certificate and that they have access to hand washing facilities and the appropriate food thermometer testing equipment.
  • If you are producing the food externally yourself, make sure your Food Registration allows, and that you maintain the same level of food safety at your external stall as you do internally at your premises.
  • Check that your licence allows the provision of late night refreshment should your display continue after 11:00pm.

You can call the free BII Legal Helpline about this or any other issue on: 0330 058 3878

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