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Retail sale of fireworks

A guide to the sale of fireworks, including licensing, categories of fireworks and age restriction

This guidance is for England and Wales

If you intend to sell fireworks to consumers you must first obtain a licence from your local authority. If you intend to sell fireworks all year round you must also obtain an all-year licence from your local authority.

A licence is required for the storage of up to 250kg net mass of explosives; the storage area does not need to be separated from other buildings. A licence for the storage of explosives in any quantity from 250kg to 2,000kg net mass requires the store to be separated from other buildings and places where the public have access. Most small retailers elect to have the smaller licence and only large retailers and wholesalers elect to have the larger licence.

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 law

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 'Age-restricted products'.

When can you sell fireworks?

Unless you have applied to your local authority, paid the fee of £500, and been granted an all-year licence, then you can only supply fireworks:

  • from 15 October to 10 November
  • from 26 to 31 December
  • on the first day of the Chinese New Year and the three days immediately preceding this
  • on the first day of Diwali and the three days immediately preceding this

How do you obtain a licence to keep fireworks?

Contact your local trading standards service for an application form (or use the form attached below) and return the completed form with the statutory fee. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) lists the various fees on its website.

Application for a storage licence (Word 133KB)

How do you store and sell fireworks safely?

This area is covered by the Explosives Regulations 2014.

Your local 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.

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 that exceeds 120 decibels must not be supplied to consumers.

Also banned are fireworks of the following description:

  • an aerial wheel
  • a banger, flash banger or double banger
  • a jumping cracker
  • a jumping ground spinner
  • a spinner
  • a mini rocket
  • a shot tube previously known as an air bomb or shell-in-mortar
  • a battery containing bangers, flash bangers or double bangers
  • a combination (other than a wheel) which includes one or more bangers, flash bangers or double bangers.

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. Caps for toy guns are exempt from fireworks legislation.

Note that the labelling on packets of sparklers must carry the words 'Warning: not to be given to children under 5 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 420mm by 297mm (A3), with letters no less than 16mm high, giving the following information:

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

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 to store unsafely. The penalty is a fine of up to £20,000 and/or 12 months' imprisonment.

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.

Key legislation

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law. 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.

Last reviewed/updated: October 2014


Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council, Environmental Protection Department, 1st Floor, Magdalen House, Stanley Precinct, Trinity Road, Bootle, Merseyside. L20 3QZ. Telephone: (0151) 934 2089   Fax: (0151) 934 2106   Electronic Mail: consumer.advice@environmental.sefton.gov.uk