Advice on safely organising firework displays

Safety is a key part of ensuring your fireworks display goes off with a bang. With good planning, the event can sparkle as you intend: an enjoyably safe and spectacular occasion.

The Health and Safety Executive has therefore released guidance to help those:

  • Organising a major public event
  • Planning a local firework display

With November 5th right around the corner, let’s take a look at how you can plan, implement and follow through a robust plan of action.

What should we do prior to the fireworks event?

  • Who will operate the display? You can light a display yourselves as long as it only consists of fireworks in categories 1, 2 and 3
  • Category 4 fireworks – which can be lethal – can only be used by professional firework display operators
  • Ask yourself whether the site is suitable and large enough for your display and/or a bonfire
  • Make sure there is space for the fireworks to land well away from spectators
    Inspect during daylight for overhead power lines and other obstructions. Also take into account the direction of the prevailing wind and what would happen if it changed
  • Have a response plan in place in case something goes wrong and assign somebody with responsibility for calling the emergency services
  • Always purchase the fireworks from a reputable supplier
  • Is your display to be provided by a professional firework operator? If so, clarify who does what especially in the event of an emergency
  • Safe storage of the fireworks prior and during the event is important. Ask your firework supplier or local authority to advise
  • If you are licensed to sell alcohol then the bar should be positioned well away from the display site

What should we do on the day of the fireworks event?

  • On the day of the event, carefully recheck the site, weather conditions and wind direction
  • Prevent anybody from entering the zone where the fireworks will fall
  • Encourage spectators to drink responsibly on the site
  • Do not allow spectators to bring their own fireworks onto the site

What should we do if we have a bonfire?

  • If you have a bonfire, make sure the structure is sound. Always check that there are no small children or animals inside it before lighting it
  • Do not use petrol or paraffin to light the fire
  • Task only one person with responsibility for lighting the fire
  • The responsible person – along with any helpers – should wear suitable clothing – for example, an outer garment made of wool or other low-flammable material
  • Ensure that the person lighting the fire – and any helpers – are fully aware of what to do in the event of a burn injury or clothing catching fire
  • Never attempt to relight fireworks
  • Stand well clear of fireworks that have failed to go off

What should we do on the morning after the fireworks event?

  • The morning after the event, carefully check and clear the site
    Dispose of fireworks safely
  • They should never be burnt in a confined space – for example, a boiler

What should we do if we are organising a major public display?

For major displays, a more robust approach is needed. Here’s some additional points to consider if your event involves category 4 ‘professional’ fireworks or very large number of spectators.

  • Plan and mark out the areas for spectators, firing fireworks – and a safety zone around it – as well as an area where the fireworks will fall
  • Take into account how people will enter and exit the site
  • If possible, strive to keep pedestrian and vehicle routes apart
  • Mark exit routes clearly and ensure they are well lit
  • Ensure emergency vehicles can get access to the site
  • Appoint enough stewards/marshals and ensure they are fully briefed on their roles and what they should do in the event of an emergency
  • Contact the emergency services and local authority. And, if your site is near an airport, you may need to inform them
  • Signpost the first aid facilities

Do we need public insurance?

Insurance is not compelled by health and safety law in such instances. Even so, if you are holding a public firework display, it’s a good idea to have public liability insurance. As most companies are not used to dealing with these types of events, it is advisable to shop around.

Click for further fireworks guidance

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