Display Safety Guide
Home Firework Display Safety Guide
There are two kinds of outdoor consumer fireworks available, namely;
Category 2 Garden Fireworks in BS7114 and BS-EN14035 which have a spectator distance of 5m for BS7114 compliant fireworks and 8m for BS-EN 14035 compliant fireworks, in addition there are also even some 15m garden fireworks available from some companies under Category 2 Garden Firework Class,
Category 3 Display Fireworks in BS7114 and BS-EN14035 which have a distance of 25m for BS7114 compliant fireworks and the majority of BS-EN14035 compliant fireworks; although there are also a small number of 15m display fireworks also available too under Category 3 Display Firework Class.
When BS 7114 is abolished in 2017, all outdoor consumer fireworks to the public will all be CE marked and will be in 8m 15m and 25m fireworks categories except indoor devices like ice-fountains, which are usually 1m safety distance or indoor hand held devices like sparklers/novelty matches etc which have NO safety distance.
Whatever fireworks you obtain, it is extremely important that you only choose suitable sizes and types of fireworks which are suitable for your particular location; a lot of back gardens in the United Kingdom are only really suitable for British Standard 7114 compliant 5m garden fireworks, European Standard 8m garden fireworks, and only in a very few cases, are some gardens are suitable for 25m fireworks under British and European Standards and/or 15metre European Standard fireworks.
There are also some very large 8m European Standard fireworks coming onto the market and available which are far too big/powerful for small to medium gardens despite being marked 8 metres (and this is an unfortunate downfall of the new CE Standard over BS7114;it tends to benchmark safety distance by burst height/effect size over the sensible fusing/fallout/debris/distance safety protocols of BS7114)
It is tempting to use 25m/15m display fireworks or the new cat 2 CE 15m garden fireworks or very large 8m fireworks in a limited back garden space, but this can be very dangerous in some cases, and it should be resisted, here’s why;
If you attempt to use BS7114 25m fireworks or the new CE Standard 15m or 25m display fireworks, or even the new CE Standard 15m garden fireworks or very large CE Standard 8m fireworks in a small garden say 5-8m and something went badly wrong say a fountain exploded and tipped over showering sparks on your audience or causing some property damage, or a cake misfired effects into the audience, and it was found you were not observing the manufacturer’s specified distance for the fireworks you were using, then you could be sued for holding a dangerous display-sad but true.
Also a 15m or 25m firework or larger more powerful 8m firework might look fun at 10m away for the first few seconds but eventually will become frightening and perhaps dangerous as sparks debris and effects drop on the audience; it’s NEVER a good idea to play Russian roulette in this way, even with a mixed pack ALWAYS observe the maximum safety distance specified by your fireworks!
If you don’t have the space for 15m or 25m fireworks or larger 8m fireworks, stick to garden class BS7114 5m fireworks or smaller BS-EN 14035 8m fireworks, there are some good items available you can obtain that in no way give inferior or rubbish displays at all and are much safer too.
When you buy your fireworks don’t be tempted to save a few quid here and there and cut corners-it’s NEVER sensible to buy unknown origin fireworks from cars/vans/mobile traders/car boot sales/unlicensed market stalls etc,
-The fireworks from these traders may not comply with current British or European safety standards,
-The fireworks from these traders may not have instructions/warnings/directions for safe use in English,
-They could be of poor dangerous or questionable quality too.
Also be very wary indeed of anything you might be offered marked with “THIS DEVICE MUST NOT BE SOLD TO, OR USED BY, A MEMBER OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC”, these fireworks are professional Category 4 fireworks, which are extremely dangerous in untrained hands and could seriously injure or even kill you. If you do get sold these fireworks DO NOT USE THEM OR LIGHT THEM WHATSOEVER but report it to the Police.
It’s also worth remembering that temporary pop-up firework shops which are “here today, gone tomorrow” trading specifically in fireworks, often appearing in empty shop premises around the UK before bonfire night/new year’s eve/Chinese new year and Diwali are not always the best places to buy your fireworks, the staff will often have no idea of the fireworks they sell and often lack safety knowledge or advice on how to use them safely.
Always go to a good reputable all-year round fireworks shop or reputable seasonal fireworks outlet in your area as these places are very knowledgeable and can offer very good advice on the fireworks you buy.
Always buy fireworks marked with
- “Complies with BS7114:Part2:1988 and/or BS-EN14035” on single fireworks or
- “Contents comply with BS7114:Part2:1988 and/or BS-EN14035” on selection boxes/mixed packs and display kits and provided you follow the instructions and take some common sense precautions you’ll have a safe and fun evening!
When you get your fireworks home or received and took delivery of your fireworks by courier/parcels carrier, it’s a very good idea to familiarise yourself with the fireworks that you have bought and read all instructions printed on your fireworks and in any safety/firing instruction leaflets provided if you have a purchased a mixed pack/display kit of fireworks.
If you are doing a display out of season, it might be a good idea to consider using much lower noise fireworks without bangs or very loud effects to keep the disturbance down and not upset or frighten animals too much-nearby horses sheep cattle etc., these can sometimes become very alarmed or upset by very loud fireworks, and in some cases, can be become extremely frightened trying to bolt and escape, sometimes jumping into main roads causing traffic disruption and possibly injuries to themselves jumping through bramble, hedges, sharp barb wire fences etc., to escape your fireworks in fear of the noise.
It’s also a good idea, especially in country/rural areas, to inform your neighbours in advance especially farmers, horse stable owners, the elderly nearby, those with animals like dogs cats rabbits etc., and those with young children that you are having fireworks, in doing so let them know;
- What day and time you are having them,
- The duration and what time you expect to finish at.
Please note, that it is ILLEGAL, against the law and also anti-social too, to discharge fireworks after 11pm around the year EXCEPT:
- Guy Fawkes Night when fireworks MUST be over by midnight,
- New Year’s Eve when fireworks MUST be over by 1am,
- The same 1am cut-off time ALSO applies to Diwali and Chinese New Year.
A good idea would be to invite your neighbours, especially those with children, that way your fireworks display will be enjoyed more, and by inviting those who want to come to your display it will have less impact on those who were not expecting any fireworks or disturbance on an evening, and the children will enjoy it as well, sharing in this way and being kind and considerate to others also helps to develop good neighbourly relations too!
You’ll also need the following extras;
- A claw-hammer to attach wheels/setpieces to posts (if you’re using them),
- Suitable posts/timber for any wheels/setpieces in your pack (if any),
- A sledgehammer to knock posts into the ground (if wheels and setpieces are part of your firework inventory),
- Flat wooden boards for fireworks with a wide flat-base (these are unlikely to fall over),
- Wooden stakes and gaffa tape or strong cloth tape to secure tall barrages, tall unsteady cakes, tall fountains, mines and tall roman candles of 30cm or more, staking and taping of mines also eliminates the need to bury them 2/3rds deep (which takes a lot of work too,
- A deep container or bucket of sand/soil to bury certain fireworks in,
- Suitable launch tubes for large individual rockets unless you’re using multiple rocket packs which have them (and most do),
- And a good torch with fresh batteries so you can see the fuses for lighting.
- Set up your fireworks at the maximum spectator distance required with prevailing winds and breezes blowing toward them as follows;
(a)For a display of Cat2 5m BS7114 fireworks this will be 5m
(b)For a display of Cat2 8m BS-EN14035 fireworks this will be 8m
(c)For a display of Cat2 15m BS-EN14035 fireworks this will be 15m
(d)For a display of Cat3 25m BS7114/BS-EN14035 fireworks this will
(e)And for those displays with any Cat3 15m BS-EN14035 fireworks
this will be 15m.
There should not be overhead cables or overhanging trees over your display area that could deflect bombette bursts causing them to burst dangerously and/or scatter debris on your audience or hinder rocket flight-if this is the case then you may have to consider using mainly ground level fireworks or sticking to smaller BS7114 5m fireworks or European Standard 8m fireworks i.e selection box fireworks.
Follow the special instructions that come with any setpieces such as wheels, and especially those that contain rotating devices, and set them up carefully making sure rotating parts can easily spin/rotate without hindrance or sticking and set them up in such a way so that sparks from them cannot easily ignite other fireworks i.e. so many feet apart.
Built up areas with little or no fallout zone i.e. residential areas with lots of houses are most unsuitable for VERY large single metallic-headed and plastic-headed Cat3 25m display fireworks which can cause damage to nearby conservatories/greenhouses/parked cars etc, and in that case, you should stick to smaller multipack rockets as these have heads of card/plastic cones which pose much less risk to property.
Fountains/setpieces/wheels should go at the front of your firing area where they can be easily seen by your audience but be careful to space them out so sparks do not cause cross-ignition i.e. wheels/setpieces and fountains can shower sparks over large areas, especially in breezy or windy weather, which can end up prematurely igniting other pieces set out when you don’t want them to,
Roman candles and mines should go in the middle of your firing zone, while rockets cakes and more powerful pieces should go at the rear of your firing zone. Angle rocket tubes away from spectators buildings trees and other hazards and DO NOT put roman candles/roman candle multi-shot barrages/mines and multi-shot cakes under trees. If you are using fanned cakes DO remember that these need plenty of space at the sides and back because of their spread and fallout.
- when setting up fireworks that need to be attached to a wooden stake such as tall multi-shot cakes/roman candles/mines/fountains and barrages, make sure the firework is securely taped and fixed by the use of strong tape to the rear of the wooden stake NOT THE FRONT-this is particularly important, so that, if by any chance, a firework inadvertently works itself loose from the tape/stake, then it will tip safely away from the audience so that stars effects and sparks do not shower towards, or hit, spectators causing burns/injuries.
- Spare rockets for reloading into tubes/racks should be ideally kept under a spark-proof sheet to prevent them being ignited by sparks from other fireworks going off.
When lighting the fireworks it is advisable for yourself and any helpers to consider the use and wearing of some personal protective clothing/equipment to protect yourself and your clothing-you might look and feel an idiot for the duration of your display, and get questions asked of you, but you’ll look more PROFESSIONAL, and most of all, you’ll be SAFE.
- A set of fire retardant overalls in your size, these can be purchased at a reasonable price from machine mart screwfix and other h&s suppliers, or on-line if you are prepared to wait for delivery of a few days
- A hard hat with built in eardefenders and clear/mesh visor, these can be also be purchased from the above mentioned suppliers at reasonable cost,
- Gloves are also advisable too, but not absolutely essential, if you feel they are a hindrance whilst firing.
It goes without saying
- that sparks from fireworks can melt/damage and burn clothes (and possibly set your clothes on fire, in some circumstances where you have lots of falling sparks around i.e. a row of cone fountains showering into the air at the same time while three or four fountain start mines go off in front, fireworks CAN AND DO set normal clothing alight),
- and flying debris/hot embers from fireworks going off can easily cause eye injury/burns to the skin,
- and firework flash-through, especially on rockets, can cause temporary ringing and possible hearing damage to the ears if it explodes the flash charge and bursts the payload/effects at ground level.
These injuries can happen to an unprotected firer wearing NO protective clothing/equipment while firing large family displays of set-out fireworks, so DO kit up when putting on large family displays of several set-out fireworks, it is indeed, a sensible precaution to take-remember you are most at close range to the fireworks (and are at more risk of injury than anybody else) so be sensible and wear full PPE when firing a large private display.
- if you are wearing wellingtons/riggers or boots tuck these under your fire retardant overalls (not into them!). This is so that hot sparks/effects and burning material from fireworks going off cannot fall inside footwear and cause socks to melt and burns to the legs/feet to occur while you are firing.
It might also be a good idea to purchase a rothenberger torch or some portfires or a chef’s brulee torch to light your fireworks;forget the pointless stick lighters included with your fireworks these frequently go
out and cause delays to your display (and spark the inevitable “why are we waiting“ choruses!). Also a powerful flame enables fuses to be lit quicker ensuring a tighter quicker show that is much more enjoyable too!
Before you light any fuses, make some final checks;
(a)Firstly, ensure all fireworks that are secured (where necessary) CANNOT FALL OR TIP OVER, stars are very pretty indeed but you wouldn’t want spectators seeing more sorts of stars than one!
(b)Secondly, ensure that all rocket tubes or rocket-racks are angled well away from spectators and hazards (wind blowing towards them too so cases and sticks land safely away from people watching) and that any loaded rockets can freely take off without impediment, a good idea is to lift each rocket in the racks/tubes gently with your finger to be sure it can take off freely,
(c)Thirdly, gently remove any fuse covers, and straighten the fuses,
(d)Fourthly, check wheels by hand for spin and make sure they can spin freely without sticking/flying off and if necessary adjust the nail making sure the wheel is free to rotate/isn’t loose then check this again.
Having done your pre-display checks, and the excitement pangs build up inside, have you got the butterflies? All excited for a thrilling BUT safe evening are we? Put on your fire retardant overalls and hard hat, lower your visor and ear-defenders, light those portfires, or grab that Rothy or brulee torch and AWAY YOU GO!!!
When lighting your fireworks, light the very tip of the firework fuse at arm’s length, arm outstretched and head away from the top of the firework (DO NOT light the middle of the fuse NOR the bit nearest to the firework-remember this delay is to enable you to get safely back to a safe distance while it goes off), then get well back quickly.
If, for whatever reason, a firework doesn’t go after the fuse has burnt up THEN LEAVE IT ALONE and light another firework.
Whatever you do,
- NEVER EVER PICK UP a firework that hasn’t gone off,
- AND NEVER EVER TAMPER WITH A FIREWORK THAT HASN’T GONE OFF EITHER, the danger is that it could just be a little bit slow to ignite and go off in your face immediately,
- AND MOST OF ALL, NEVER EVER THROW IT ONTO A FIRE WHERE IT COULD SHOOT ERRATICALLY/DANGEROUSLY INTO THE AUDIENCE OR AT PROPERTY!!!
N.B. If you have the new bigger European Standard CE 8m/15m and 25m multishot fireworks which sometimes have a secondary fuse incorporated, then wait 5-10 minutes (just to be certain that the firework isn’t going to go off), then gently remove the second fuse protector, light the tip of the secondary firework fuse and stand well back while it does so.
At the end of your display, still wearing your PPE (raise your ear-defenders and visor at this stage), de-rig and carefully clear all the spent firework cases into a pile, remove and reuse any stakes you have used to secure some of your fireworks (if any) and put any duds/partly spent fireworks/misfires into a bucket of water, leave for a few days and dispose of carefully with the household rubbish.
It isn’t really a good idea to burn up spent fireworks on a bonfire but if you must, and let’s say you are at a venue that isn’t yours and the owners of the venue expects you to leave the site clear and tidy afterwards, then the burning of spent firework cases is the only realistic option.
However, if you are going to burn spent fireworks after a private event, then it’s a good idea to wait till everyone has gone (or if it isn’t possible to wait), then get everyone well back from the fire just in case while you do this, this is so there is no risk of anything firing at anybody should any bits of unfired shots/effects be present in any spent firework(s)that you burn. Also be very careful in doing this too, taking the utmost care as well.
At the end of the evening make sure any bonfire or indeed ANY fire that you had, is properly and completely put out, or at the very least, is made safe before you go in.