Your options for getting training on using fireworks.
It might come as a surprise – given that fireworks are explosives – that in the UK there isn’t any form of government run or recognised training for the general public when it comes to fireworks and firework displays. This is largely a reflection of the fact that it is perfectly legal for consumers to buy and let off Category F2 and Category F3 fireworks without any kind of training or licence.
On the face of it this might sound like good news to some, particularly back garden displayers and amateurs, but there are still cases when training might be required, which I’ll discuss in this article.
Public displays and insurance
The most common problem regarding training that consumers run into is where their display is going to be a public one (such as a community event) and therefore fireworks insurance of some kind is required. Whilst finding one-off event cover is easy – though not always cheap – issues arise when the underwriters insist on the firers having some form of training. It’s understandable given the desire to mitigate risk, but not a reflection of UK law.
It may also be the case that some of the firers in a larger display are inexperienced and would feel more comfortable with some pre-display training so they have a better understanding of what’s involved.
Fireworks training - your options
With a lack of any kind of nationally recognised fireworks training for consumers, there are only two options.
Courses by firework retailers
Several of the larger firework retailers offer courses for the public, sometimes free for those spending over a certain amount with them. Most are one day training events and are quite in-depth.
It is important to stress that attending one of these courses doesn’t give you any kind of formal qualification.
If attending one for insurance purposes, always check with the insurance company that the course you’re going on is sufficient for their needs.
Training with a specialist company
A small number of non-retailers offer training services to the public. The one recognised most by enthusiasts is Illuminate Consult who run a broad range of courses for both amateurs and professionals. I’ve not been on one of their courses so cannot endorse them personally, however many of my readers who have started their own companies and required training speak well of them.
What about the Cat 4 licence?
An urban myth that sadly still has a lot of traction is that you can train (or pay for) a “licence” that will enable you to buy and use professional Category F4 fireworks, or “industrial” fireworks as they are erroneously called in the tabloid press. There is no such licence and never has been. Members of the public cannot train to buy or use such fireworks for their own displays.
It is likely this misunderstanding is a result of the term “licence” when referring to firework storage for professionals whose large storage requirements need registration or licensing with the local authority or HSE. The term “licence” is also used for retailers who might apply for a licence to sell fireworks all year.
But no licence exists that a member of the public can train for, or purchase. Sorry.
What about BPA Level 1 and Level 2 training?
The British Pyrotechnists Association (BPA) runs training courses intended for professional firers. These courses ultimately qualify the firer as Level 1 or the more advanced Level 2. These are recognised by the fireworks trade as a suitable substitute for government-backed training and most display companies put their firers through this scheme.
However, BPA training is only available to professional firers, not to members of the public. So consumers cannot go on these courses and in any case, they would not change what you can and cannot buy as a consumer (i.e. it would not enable a consumer to buy Category F4 fireworks).
But if you happen to be BPA qualified then this is almost certainly going to satisfy any insurer’s need for training, should you happen to be firing a non-professional display.
Training to become a professional
If you are already experienced with consumer fireworks and wanting to take the next step into professional fireworks, there are generally two options.
Firstly if you are wanting to fire professional shows for an existing company, that is to say as an employee, generally the company you work for will sort out your training. This is usually on-the-job training and experience initially, followed by BPA Level 1 and 2 training and exams.
Secondly, if you’re coming at this from the angle of setting up your own display company and have no previous experience or BPA qualifications then you will need to look at third party training from a specialist, such as Illuminate Consult.