The Crime Prevention Website


Fireworks: The Law and Safety

Fireworks are a combination of explosives and combustibles set off to generate different coloured lighting effects, smoke and noise - great fun for some, but not so for others. It is then not surprising that there is a great deal of legislation surrounding them.  If used in accordance with the Firework Code (below) they are safe, but some fireworks, of the type used at large public displays, can only be used by licensed professionals who have undergone special training.

Fireworks and the law in brief

  • You must be aged 18 and older to buy ‘adult’ fireworks
  • You must be aged 18 and older to possess fireworks in a public place
  • Adult fireworks are known as Category 2 Fireworks and Category 3 Fireworks and do not include things such as ‘party poppers’
  • Category 4 fireworks can only be used by professionals
  • Those who are 18 years and older can only buy fireworks from registered sellers for private use on the following dates:

15 October to 10 November

16 to 31 December

3 days before Diwali and the Chinese New Year 

  • At other times you may only purchase fireworks from licensed retailers
  • The law says that you must not set off or throw fireworks (including sparklers) in the street or other public place
  • You must not set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am.  The exceptions are:

Bonfire Night – cut-off Midnight

New Year’s Eve – cut off 1am

Diwali – cut-off 1am

Chinese New Year – cut-off 1am  

Penalties: You can be fined up to £5,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 6 months for selling or using fireworks illegally. You can also be issued with a fixed penalty notice by the police.


Firework Code

This Firework Code combines the advice given by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – RoSPA and the London Fire Brigade.

Young people should watch fireworks at a safe distance and follow the safety rules for using sparklers.

Only adults should deal with firework displays and the lighting of fireworks. They should also take care of the safe disposal of fireworks once they have been used.

  • Only buy fireworks marked with the British Standard Kitemark BS7114
  • Don't drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Take care with sparklers – never give them to children under five. Even when they have gone out they are still hot so put sparklers in a bucket of water after use
  • Keep your pets indoors throughout the evening
  • Plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
  • Read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
  • Light the firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • Never return to a firework once it has been lit
  • Don't put fireworks in pockets and never throw them
  • Direct any rocket fireworks well away from spectators
  • Never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire
  • Make sure that the fire is out and surroundings are made safe before leaving

UK Government Fireworks Code In English, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati and Chinese (Archived, but available from this link)

For further information please visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website page ‘Safer fireworks’ and the London Fire Brigade’s website page ‘Bonfires and Fireworks’

Further advice concerning organising firework displays and storing and selling fireworks is available from the Health and Safety Executive’s website page ‘Fireworks

Updated November 2015