UK Firework Laws & Regulations
A summary of the main firework laws you need to be aware of.
A number of important laws and regulations apply to fireworks and their use which you, as a member of the public, need to comply with. In this article I will run through the main ones with links to more comprehensive guides where available.
UK firework laws summarised here apply in the most part only to England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has a more restrictive set of laws which are not covered here.
Scotland introduced some tightening of firework laws at the end of June 2021 which are noted below where applicable and I have added a new section below to discuss this.
This section was last updated on 30 September 2021; if you think anything’s incorrect or have any corrections, please let me know.
It is legal in the UK for consumers to purchase fireworks at any time of the year but you must be aged 18 or older to buy most types of firework.
Fireworks can be purchased in person at a shop or ordered online for delivery. Fireworks can only be shipped using a specialist explosives courier; it is illegal to send fireworks through the normal postal system.
It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in a public place.
Specialist firework shops apply and pay for a licence to sell fireworks all year round. Everyone else – such as supermarkets – sells fireworks in restricted selling periods in the run-up to Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve.
In Scotland fireworks can now only be sold to you between 7am and 6pm, unless you are buying on behalf of a community or public display or similar, or live outside of Scotland. Also in Scotland, the maximum amount of fireworks which can be sold at any one time is 5kg NEC (net explosive content; this is not the same as the overall weight of the fireworks) unless, again, you are buying on behalf of a community or public display or similar, or live outside of Scotland.
Fireworks available to consumers
Consumers can only purchase fireworks intended for use by the general public. These will be classified as Category F2 (with a safety distance to spectators of at least 8m and often 15m or 20m) or Category F3 (25m safety distance).
All fireworks on sale to the public must also conform to rigorous safety standards and be marked as CE compliant. In addition to maximum permitted amounts of explosives, consumer fireworks must also not exceed 120db in sound.
Note: The CE classification has replaced the old British Standards BS7114 of garden (Category 2) and display (Category 3) fireworks. It is now illegal for retailers to sell fireworks classified under BS7114.
For more information please see the Firework Categories article.
Fireworks marked as Category F4 are for use by professionals only. Note that there is no training or licence available in the UK that entitles any member of the public to buy or use Category F4 fireworks.
Fireworks are further classified as 1.3G or 1.4G. This relates to the “hazard” of the firework and has implications on storage if you are buying a lot of fireworks and storing them for a long period of time. See the 1.3G or 1.4G Fireworks? article for further guidance on this hazard classification; storage rules are summarised below.
Certain fireworks which are legal elsewhere in Europe, such as bangers, are outlawed in the UK. Legislation has also been passed some time ago banning items such as airbombs, aerial shells and jumping jacks.
Letting fireworks off
It is legal in the UK for consumers to let fireworks off at any time of the year, including away from the seasonal Bonfire Night selling periods and on any day of the week.
However, you must not let fireworks off after 11pm at night.
There are four exceptions to the 11pm curfew:
Bonfire Night itself (November 5th): Not after midnight.
New Year’s Eve (December 31st): Not after 1am.
Diwali (varies, 2021 date is 4th November): Not after 1am.
Chinese New Year (varies, 2022 date is 1st February): Not after 1am.
Note: These curfews also apply to professionally fired shows.
In Scotland you must not let fireworks off before 6pm either.
You must let your fireworks off in your own garden or on land you have permission to fire from. It is illegal to let fireworks off in a public place, such as in the street or a park.
It is not a legal requirement to notify neighbours about your display but I recommend that you do. See my Responsible Fireworks Use article for more help.
Consumers do not need any kind of training in order to buy or use fireworks. Neither is there any kind of licensing requirement in England, Scotland or Wales (different laws, including the requirement of a licence, may apply in Northern Ireland).
Note that the spectator safety distances stated on consumer fireworks are exactly that; required distances from the fireworks to the audience, not to structures such as buildings, sheds and so on.
If your display involves the public as spectators you may want to look into insurance to cover yourself in case of an accident. The underwriters may request that any firers are trained. There is currently no formal or recognised fireworks training in the UK for consumers however many larger retailers run in-house training for their customers.
Different rules apply depending on whether the fireworks are classified as 1.3G or 1.4G (your retailer will confirm the classification and it is also printed on the side of outer cartons where the firework is sold in its own box).
Storage weight limits relate to the amount of explosives that fireworks contain, known as the Net Explosive Content (abbreviated to NEC), and not their overall weight including packaging. A firework weighing 10kg overall might only have 1kg NEC, as an example.
Where a mixture of 1.3G and 1.4G fireworks are stored, the entire quantity of fireworks is treated as if they were all 1.3G, the most hazardous of the two classifications.
If you are buying fireworks to let off that same day or evening, you are not subject to any storage limits. Otherwise, restrictions apply on overall NEC amounts and the amount of time you can store them. The full details are:
Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time.
Up to 50kg NEC – store for up to 21 consecutive days provided they are not for sale or use at work.
Up to 250kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use.
Any amount for up to 24 hours.
Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time.
Up to 100kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use.
Any amount for up to 24 hours.
Note: Technically, storage is limited by the “hazard type” of the fireworks which is HT3 or HT4. However as there is usually a direct correlation of HT3=1.3G and HT4=1.4G, it is simpler to use that classification to determine storage limits.
I have further information on safe fireworks storage and the implications of the above limits in the Safe Fireworks Storage article.
Fireworks legislation can and does change from time to time. Whilst I try and keep this page updated, I accept no responsibility for any incorrect or incomplete information. Please also note this article is based on the non-commercial use of fireworks by consumers. Additional legislation will apply to commercial operators or those selling fireworks.
Fuse and fusing fireworks
It is legal for consumers to buy additional fuse. However, some types of fuse are only intended for professionals and are no longer sold to the public.
It is also legal for members of the public to add additional fuse to their fireworks, to modify a firework’s fuse or use fuse to link multiple fireworks together, without requiring any form of licensing. The law, The Explosive Regulations 2014 (part 2-6), states the exception to needing a licence as follows:
“the preparation, assembly, disassembly and fusing of firework displays at the place of intended use;”
Note the term “place of intended use”. In practice this means you’re fine working with fuse at home if you’re having a display in your garden. If your display is elsewhere you should only carry out fusing modifications on site, for example when you are setting up. The safest approach is to set out your fireworks ready to fire (i.e. securing them) in their positions and then do your fusing last.
Scottish Firework Law Amendments 2021
At the end of June 2021, amendments which were made to Scottish Firework laws came into force as follows, subject to the exceptions noted:
- Fireworks can only be sold between 7am and 6pm.
- You can only let fireworks off between 6pm and 11pm (previous exceptions for November 5th and NYE for example, still apply).
- You can only buy up to 5kg NEC (net explosive content) at a time.
Exceptions are in place to allow professional display operators and those organising public displays to buy fireworks outside of those times and without the 5kg restriction. The law notes the exception as: “who is the organiser of a public fireworks display and the fireworks in question are to be used for the purposes of putting on a public fireworks display on behalf of a charitable, religious, youth, recreational, community, political or similar organisation.”
In essence then, members of the public in Scotland are limited to buying up to 5kg NEC of fireworks at any one time but if you are organising a public display (such as for your local community or similar) you can carry on as before.
These new restrictions do not apply if you live outside of Scotland.
Note that these are amendments to the current UK laws stated above, so the previous rules still apply, for example being able to let fireworks off until midnight on November 5th and 1am on New Year’s Eve.
The Fireworks Regulations 2004 are available to read online here:
New Scottish firework law amendments can be found here:
The Pyrotechnic Articles Safety Regulations 2010 are available to read online here:
The Explosives Regulations 2014 are available to read online here:
And the Explosives Act 1875 (still in force and updated) is available to read online here:
If you have any questions about firework laws and regulations I recommend you speak to your local all-year fireworks shop if you have one near you, as owners of such businesses are usually pretty clued-up about the law. You are also welcome to join my Fireworks Forum and ask there, with the usual caveats of taking legal advice from an internet forum!
For very detailed, legally binding or commercially important advice (for example if you intend to import or sell fireworks) I recommend employing a specialist fireworks consultant.