Bonfire Night Safety

Bonfire Night is a major celebration in the UK, with many premises hosting events. Take Stock helps you to decide whether you are able to carry out a fireworks display safely by yourself or if you’d be better off to employ a registered firework display team.


Doing it yourself may be cheaper, but before you do, you should consider the following:

• Is your site large enough to accommodate a display? You will only be able to use category 3 shop bought fireworks, which will require a minimum safety distance of 25m.
• Are you competent to carry out a risk assessment on your site? i.e. are there any overhanging obstacles – trees, power and telephone lines? Are there any residential properties, livestock or public roads, next to your firing area?
• Do you know what effect each firework gives? Do you know how to set up a fan type of firework – do it wrong and one side of the fan will end up firing at your spectators.
• You need to ensure the spectator area is cordoned off with clearly visible ropes, tapes or barriers, and the area marshalled to ensure spectators stay at least 25m from where the fireworks are being set off.
• You need protective clothing – hard hat, eye protection, fire retardant overalls and gloves for your firers. Do you have competent people to do this? Remember that if your staff are setting off fireworks, they’re not going to be available to serve your customers drinks and food so you may need to recruit extra staff for the evening.
• Are you covered under your insurance for public liability with fireworks? You need cover of £5m minimum.
• Who is going to clear up after the display and safely dispose of used fireworks? They will need to use tongs to gather all the used fireworks.

If you have considered all of the above and you still want to do your own display, make sure you buy your fireworks from a reputable fireworks supplier. Expect to pay around £500 for a basic selection, and only buy and use fireworks that are marked as conforming to British Standards.

The UK Fire Service has issued the following safety advice for those running their own displays:

• Plan ahead – set up a committee so each member can take responsibility for a particular task and they know exactly what he/she is doing, and ideally have at least one member who has firework
display experience.
• Make sure the local police, first aid service and local fire and rescue service are aware of your plans.
• Store the fireworks securely.
• Arrange for the first aid post to be manned by qualified people and have plenty of torches.
• Arrange for fire extinguishers, buckets of water, buckets of sand and metal litter bins to be available on the night.
• Don’t allow spectators to bring in their own sparklers or other fireworks.
• Make entrances well lit and clearly signposted and be aware of animals close by.
• Ensure the display is away from your car park, as falling fireworks can cause damage.
• Be aware of overcrowding – seek advice from the police if needed.
• Make sure none of the organisers drink anything alcoholic when on patrol.
• Before lighting fireworks, read the instructions, angle away from spectators and don’t allow the handler to smoke.
• Never use matches or lighters to light the display. If a firework doesn’t go off, wait at least half an hour and then douse them in a bucket of water.

The professionals

If you think it would be better to employ a reputable firework display professionals, then check the following:
• Do they have the required insurance?
• Do they hold BPA qualifications (British Pyrotechnists Association)?
• Have they conducted a site survey and have you been given:
• a copy of their insurance certificate?
• their BPA registration number?
• a hard copy of the site survey and risk assessment?
• a written quote?

Using fireworks professionals, you should get a more spectacular display as category 4 fireworks will be used and a continuous display achieved, with very little or no ‘black sky’ during the display. Work on the basis that a display will cost from £100 a minute, so you’re looking at a base of around £1,000, though a full, electronically-controlled display will be considerably more – it’s easy to spend over £5,000 on a really good show!

Did you know?
Fireworks can be let off any day of the year between 7am and 11pm, with the following exceptions: until 1am following the first day of Chinese New Year, until midnight on November 5, until 1am on the day following Diwali Day and the day following December 31.

If you’re planning a bonfire

Bonfires need a lot of organising and can be a hazard. If, after careful consideration, you do decide to have a bonfire, make one person responsible for it, from early planning to final clearing up. Don’t site it too near your display or firework storage area.
• Never use flammable liquids like paraffin or petrol to get it going as this can result in uncontrolled spread of fire or explosion.
• Check immediately before lighting that there’s no animal or even a young child hidden inside.
• Never put fireworks on a bonfire, even if they’re dud.
• Don’t burn dangerous rubbish (e.g. aerosols, paint tins or foam-filled furniture).
• Remove any rubbish from your bonfire area in advance so there’s nothing that can be thrown onto the fire on the night.
• Once finished, clear all spectators from the site and then put the bonfire out completely.
Source: and thanks to Peter Mather for help with this feature

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