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Fireworks safety – bonfire night and beyond

Mon 26th Oct 20

Fireworks can be great fun and they’re certainly a pleasure to watch. And with less organised events on the calendar this year, there may be more reason than ever to invest in a few fireworks to let off at home. Fireworks are also dangerous and can be incredibly disturbing for some people, though, so making sure you’re sensible with them, that you’re mindful of others, and that you’re covered in terms of insurance and the law, are all essential.

Fireworks are, in the UK, most traditionally used on 5th November, but these days they’re lighting up the skies all year around. So, as well as Guy Fawkes night, Diwali, New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year, they’re available to buy, and set off, at any time of the year.

You have to be over eighteen to buy fireworks in the UK and, if you source them from the right places, you can buy them all year round. It’s worth noting, though, that a license is needed to sell fireworks, so making sure you buy them from licensed suppliers is the safest option.

Most retailers, such as supermarkets, have a short-term license that means they can only sell fireworks at certain times of the year – for instance, in the run up to Guy Fawkes night, for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and so on.

For other events, assuming you haven’t bought in advance while they’re in the mainstream shops, you can buy fireworks from a registered seller with an all-year or long-term license.

Fireworks are safety marked, so look out for the CE mark and don’t buy any without this important indicator. They are also categorised, depending on the intentions for their use. For domestic displays, these are classed as category three. Fireworks for public displays are categories four and five.

Fireworks for private displays

Fireworks for personal use are only allowed to be set off on private property and, whilst it is legal to use fireworks on private land, if you’re renting your property, it’s a good idea to check with your landlord to make sure there are no rules about fireworks in your lease.

It’s a criminal offence to set off fireworks in the street or in other public places without permission, so if you’re planning to you’ll need to get permission from your local authority. And it’s also an offence under the Explosives Act 1875 to tamper with or modify fireworks.

Your firework display and your duty of care

You also have a duty of care to your neighbours – ensuring they are safe during your private firework display. The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents has a useful information guide for firework safety.

Remember, when it comes to your fireworks display, any negligence – such as failure to follow the instructions for the fireworks – that results in someone being injured or someone’s property being damaged – could make you liable for a civil claim.

There are also laws regarding the times that you can set off fireworks and, in general, they are permitted to be used between 7am and 11pm. Sometimes, for instance for Guy Fawkes night and New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali, this is extended to 1am. It’s always a good idea to check this with your local authority.

Your insurance and your private fireworks event

Fireworks are volatile and don’t always behave in the way, or travel in the direction, you’re planning. The most common claims relating to fireworks are for property in the immediate area, including damage to fences and roof tiles. You should always check with your insurer beforehand, but your home insurance policy should cover any damage to your house or garden as a result of fireworks. Likewise, if your firework damages a neighbour's property, their home insurance should cover it.

If someone is injured as a result of your fireworks display, you will be liable, so it’s also a good idea to check whether your policy includes liability insurance that will cover your private fireworks display.

To find out more about fireworks and your home insurance policy, please call Ryan's Private Clients Division on 01473 343300.