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Safe Use of Fireworks, Legislation and the Law

Safe Use

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service are working in partnership with major retailers across the County. This is to ensure that members of the public organising their own firework displays, do so in a safe and responsible manner.

A large number of firework retailers in Cornwall have been visited by local Fire Watches. This is to encourage them to display firework safety posters and literature. This will ensure people who are buying fireworks for home use understand the importance of the safe use and disposal of fireworks.

If you are a retailer, you should be aware of your responsibilities and changes to legislation.

More details for retailers selling fireworks can be found within Business Fire Safety - Fireworks

Legislation, the Law and You

Fireworks will only be widely available during the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes Night and a few days before New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year. For the rest of the year, you will only be able to buy fireworks from shops that are licensed to supply them.

New legislation has been introduced to help make fireworks safer to use and tackle their deliberate misuse. It affects how fireworks are imported, sold and used, and places restrictions on possession. It means that fireworks will be safer, less noisy and can only be let off at certain times. It also means that those misusing them to either damage property or injure will be able to be dealt with by the relevant authorities. As a consumer, you along with retailers, have new responsibilities.

Where to buy

Don't cut corners just to save a few quid. Always buy fireworks from a reputable shop to make sure that they conform to British Standards. Sometimes shops open up for a short time before Guy Fawkes Night but these may not be the best places to buy fireworks from. Staff in these shops might not be very knowledgeable about using fireworks safely. Their fireworks might not meet British Standards. Whatever you do, don't buy fireworks from anywhere you're not sure about, such as the back of a van or from a temporary, unlicensed market stall. 

What to buy

There are different categories of fireworks. Members of the public can buy and set off most of the fireworks that come under Categories 1 to 3. These are fireworks that you can use indoors, in your garden or at a display. Always read the packet carefully and make sure that the fireworks you buy are suitable for the place where you are going to set them off.

Professional fireworks

Some fireworks can only be bought and used by firework professionals. These include:

  • Air bombs.
  • Aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar.
  • All bangers, (including batteries containing bangers, such as Chinese Crackers).
  • Mini rockets.
  • Fireworks with erratic flight (e.g. ground spinners, jumping jacks, squibs). 
  • All Category 4 fireworks (large display fireworks).

Setting them off

Only one person should be in charge of fireworks. If that's you, then make sure you take all the necessary precautions. Read the instructions in daylight and don't drink any alcohol until they've all been discharged. On the night, you will need...

  • a torch
  • a bucket of water
  • eye protection and gloves
  • a bucket of soft earth to put fireworks in
  • suitable supports and launchers if you're setting off catherine wheels or rockets.

Please see our page on general firework safety for more details which includes the firework code.

Did you know?

You can't set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am; except for on 5 November, when you can set them off until midnight and New Year's Eve, Chinese New Year and Diwali, when they can be set off until 1am.

You must be over 18 to buy fireworks and sparklers. Caps, cracker snaps, indoor fireworks, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents and throwdowns must not be supplied to persons under 16.

It is an offence to throw or set off fireworks in a street or public place and it is also illegal for anyone under 18 to possess fireworks in public.

It is an offence for people who aren't firework professionals to buy and possess category 4 fireworks. These are only to be used at public displays by firework professionals.


It is an offence under section 80 of the Explosives Act 1875 to throw or set off fireworks in any highway, street, thoroughfare or public place. The power to enforce this section of the Act rests with the police. Anyone found guilty is liable to pay a fine of up to £5,000. Penalty notices for disorder (on-the-spot fines) can also be issued for this offence, attracting the upper tier fine of £80.

In Regulations made under the Fireworks Act 2003, it is also an offence for the under 18s to possess fireworks in a public place and for anyone to let fireworks off during night hours (11pm to 7am). As from 11 October 2004, police also have the power to issue penalty notices for disorder for these offences. Again, the offence attracts the upper tier fine of £80.

Under section 1 of the Protection of Animals Act 1911 it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captive animals. The penalty on conviction is a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months imprisonment, or both. Enforcement of this section of the Act rests with Trading Standards, the Police or the RSPCA as appropriate.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Firework Safety Warning

You should be aware that the CAA has guidelines for organisers of major events using fireworks near airports. Further details are available from the CAA website.

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