Business Advice

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Retail sale of fireworks

If you intend to sell fireworks to consumers you must first register with or obtain a licence from your local authority. In the metropolitan counties (West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Tyne and Wear, South and West Yorkshire) the fire service is responsible for registration and licensing.

Registration is required for the storage of up to 250kg net equivalent quantity of explosives and licensing is required for up to two tonnes net equivalent quantity of explosives. Most small retailers elect for registration and only large retailers elect for licensing.

It is your responsibility to keep within the law and to have systems in place that will act as a 'due diligence' defence to an allegation that a sale has taken place to a person under the minimum legal age.

In the guide
The legislation
When can you sell fireworks?
How do you get registered or licensed to keep fireworks?
How do you store and sell fireworks safely?
Which types of fireworks are banned?
What are the age restrictions applicable to the sale of fireworks?
Age restricted sales - keeping within the law
Penalties

The legislation
In all areas, the trading standards service is responsible for enforcing regulations on consumer safety and age of purchase. These areas are covered by the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 and the Fireworks Regulations 2004. See also our leaflet 'Age restricted products'.

When can you sell fireworks?
Unless you have applied for, paid the appropriate fee, and been issued with, an all year licence, then you can only supply fireworks:

How do you get registered or licensed to keep fireworks?
Contact your local trading standards service or fire service for an application form and return the completed form with the statutory fee. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) lists the various fees on its website.

How do you store and sell fireworks safely?
This area is covered by the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005.

Your local licensing authority will give you advice on the safe storage and sale of fireworks. The HSE also has guidance on storing and selling fireworks on its website.

This guidance includes a risk assessment checklist and general advice on fireworks storage.

Which types of fireworks are banned?
Only fireworks that comply with European safety standards, carry the CE mark and are correctly labelled with details of the manufacturer and importer can legally be supplied to consumers.

Fireworks that were manufactured or imported before 4 July 2010 and that complied with British Standard BS 7114 can continue to be sold without the CE mark until 4 July 2017.

Boxes of fireworks must not be split and sold separately.

Any firework which exceeds 120 decibels must not be supplied to consumers.

Also banned are fireworks of the following description:

What are the age restrictions applicable to the sale of fireworks?
The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 prohibit the supply of category 2 (outdoor use - confined areas) and category 3 (outdoor use - large open areas) fireworks to any person under the age of 18. The Regulations prohibit the supply of category 1 (indoor use low hazard low noise - party poppers etc) fireworks to any person under the age of 16. An exception is made for Christmas crackers, which must not be supplied to any person under the age of 12.

Note that the labelling on packets of sparklers must carry the words 'Warning: not to be given to children under five years of age'.

Where adult fireworks are supplied or exposed for supply in any premises, the Fireworks Regulations 2004 require a notice to be displayed in a prominent position in those premises, no less than 400mm by 300mm, with letters no less than 16mm high, giving the following information:

IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL ADULT FIREWORKS TO ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18

The following notice must also be displayed:

IT IS ILLEGAL FOR ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 TO POSSESS ADULT FIREWORKS IN A PUBLIC PLACE

Age restricted sales - keeping within the law
The law has defences available, namely that the person accused took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing an offence. It is your responsibility to keep within the law and to have systems in place that will act as a 'due diligence' defence to an allegation that a sale has taken place to a person under the minimum legal age.

Offences are of strict liability, which means that they can occur even when the business owner is not on the premises. To avoid committing an offence, it is advised that the legislation is brought to the attention of all staff via regular training. It is important that you can prove that your staff have understood what is required of them under the legislation. This can be done by keeping a record of the training and asking the member of staff to sign to say that they have understood it. These records should then be checked and signed on a regular basis by the manager or the owner.

Members of staff should be advised that they themselves might be personally liable if they sell to young persons in breach of the legal requirements.

Always ask young people to produce proof of their age. Trading standards services and the government support the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme (PASS). You can be confident that a card issued under the scheme and bearing the PASS hologram is an acceptable proof of age. There are a number of card issuers in the scheme - visit the PASS website for more information.

Photo driving licences and passports are also acceptable as proof of age.

If there is doubt, the sale should not be allowed to take place.

Penalties
It is an offence under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to sell fireworks by retail without a licence or registration or to store unsafely. The penalty is a fine of up to £5,000 or three months' imprisonment or both.

The penalty for committing an offence of supplying a category 2 or 3 firework to any person under 18 years, supplying a category 1 firework to any person under 16 years, or supplying a Christmas cracker to any person under 12 years, is a fine of up to £5,000 and up to six months' imprisonment.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Relevant legislation
Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
Fireworks Regulations 2004
Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005
Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010
Product Safety Amendment and Revocation Regulations 2012

Last reviewed/updated: September 2013

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Medway Council, Trading Standards Team,
Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent, ME4 4TR  

Telephone: 01634 333555    Fax: 01634 332006  
Electronic Mail: consumer.protection@medway.gov.uk
Internet Website:

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