Are you planning a firework display? Risk reduction advice for fireworks events

Fireworks are a staple for celebrations such as Diwali, Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve. When your business or organisation puts on a special event with fireworks, take precautions to reduce the risks and keep your staff and spectators injury-free. Whether you are organising or involved in an event at a pub, sports venue, school field, recreation ground or other public/ private space there are some key facts and safety considerations that you should take note of.

Know the risks and regulations

Injuries and accidents occur because many people do not realise how dangerous fireworks can be. All fireworks pose potential risks of burns, blindness and other injuries

  • Be sure that your business or organisation is in compliance with all applicable regulations, including the Fireworks Regulations 2004, the Explosives Regulations 2014, and any subsequent amendments. The laws regulate who can buy and use fireworks, when they can be purchased, when they may be used and what the maximum noise levels may be. Under these regulations, the focus is not only on product safety but also on the reduction of accidents and injuries.
  • Did you know that sparklers can reach 982°C? That’s hot enough to melt gold[1]. For safety reasons sparklers at public displays should be discouraged, glow sticks and battery operated “light-sticks” or light up “fidget spinners” are a much safer option.
  • There is no reason why you should not light a display yourselves provided it only contains fireworks in categories 1, 2 and 3. Fireworks modified in any way should be regarded as Category 4.
  • Category 4 fireworks may only be used by professional firework display operators. In untrained hands they can be lethal.
  • Fireworks may not be fired before 07:00 and after 23:00 except on four days[2] in the year. The four exceptions are:
    • 01:00 on the day following the first day of Chinese New Year (next Chinese New Year is 16 February 2018)
    • 01:00 the day following Diwali (next Diwali is on 19 October 2017
    • 01:00 on New Year’s day
    • 24:00 on November 5th.
  • Educate any employees by providing them with recommendations for using fireworks.
  • Buy only legal fireworks (legal fireworks have a label with the manufacturer’s name and directions; illegal ones are unlabelled). Make sure you get the fireworks from a reputable supplier.

Preparation is key

Make sure the site is suitable for your display. Is there space for the fireworks to land well away from spectators? Remember to check in daylight for overhead power lines and other obstructions.

Check the weather. Check reports both before and on the day of the event. What is the direction of the prevailing wind? What would happen if it changed?

Emergency Services
Contact your local authorities and emergency services. This will keep them informed of your plans, and give them plenty of advance notice. Ensure emergency vehicles can get access to the site. Sign post the First Aid area for spectators.

Arrange for the proper delivery and storage of any fireworks. Boxes should be kept closed, sealed and stored in a cool, dry place.

Ensure that your employees, including volunteers are trained on all tasks.

Crowds and Communications
The Health and Safety Executive advise that you plan for proper crowd control.

  • Think about how people will get into and out of the site.
  • Keep pedestrian and vehicle routes apart if possible.
  • Mark exit routes and ensure they are well lit.
  • Locate car parking well away from the display area.
  • Plan and mark out the:
    • spectator area
    • firework firing area
    • a safety zone around the firing area to keep spectators a safe distance away
    • firework fall area.
    • Arrange for plenty of stewards to keep spectators safe.

Rapid response
Make a plan for what to do if things go wrong.  Ensure you have enough fire extinguishers and buckets of sand or water ready in the event that something lights on fire. Designate someone to be responsible for contacting emergency services.

If the display is to be provided by a professional firework display operator make sure that you are clear on who does what especially in the event of an emergency.

Food safety
Third party suppliers such as hog roasts and burger vans are often hired in to supply food and refreshments to spectators. As the event organiser or indeed as a sponsor make sure that these third parties have enough public liability insurance to cover any claims should spectators get sick as a result of the food they consumed at the event

Clean up
There will be debris to clean up. The morning after you will need to arrange to  check and clear the site. Dispose of fireworks safely. Do not dispose of fireworks in boilers.

Insure your event

Though it is not a legal requirement to have insurance for your event we advise that you should arrange insurance; this is especially important in view of the type of injuries that may occur as a result of the fireworks if something goes wrong.

Public liability cover
Regardless of whether you hire a professional firework display operator or release the fireworks yourself, you should check or obtain public liability insurance, which offers protection in the event of injury to a spectator or damage to third party property. If you are organising the event yourself then you will be responsible should anything go wrong. It may be possible to divert claims to the fireworks contractor in some circumstances, but this cannot be relied upon. If you regularly organise fireworks displays, we advise purchasing a year-round policy. If you are outsourcing the display to a contractor it is critical that you check that they have adequate and valid public liability insurance. Keep in mind that most policies will only cover events that comply with firework display regulations.

You can buy different levels of cover, from £1m upwards. How much you need varies according to the type of event, the activities you are planning, and how many people will attend. We advise that it is prudent to take out as much cover as the organiser can afford and recommend a minimum of £5m.

Employers’ liability cover
If you have employees, including contracted staff or volunteers, you will need to have Employers’ Liability insurance. There are exceptions to this, read our article on the “Your guide to employers liability insurance: who, what, when, where and why” for more details.

Cancellation cover
Another cover to consider is event cancellation insurance. This cover would protect you should the event not be able to proceed due to danger caused by bad weather for example.

You do need to be sure that the policy you buy covers all the activities you want included, (e.g. fireworks, stalls selling glow sticks, food, drinks, games etc.). So be open and clear with the insurer or broker you talk to. Make sure that you check the terms of the policy, especially exclusions or risk management conditions that you must comply with to validate the cover.

For more information about managing risks at your event, staying in compliance and insuring your firework display, contact us today.


[1] http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fireworks.html
[2] https://www.gov.uk/fireworks-the-law