With many festivity seasons upon us, many look forward to the beautiful delight of the skies filling up with the bright lights of fireworks. A season of celebration for many, with firework night and Diwali.
However, in recent years there have been calls for the banning of fireworks following an increase in cases of firework-related injuries, especially for those displays organised at homes. There are also calls for them to be banned due to the emotional and physical stress it causes some individuals and animals.
The current law around fireworks is governed by the 2003 Fireworks Act and 2004 Fireworks regulations. Before January 2021 all fireworks had to bear the symbol CE as directed by EU legislation. However, due to our exit from the EU this has now changed. Whilst fireworks with the CE symbol can continue to be used until 31st December 2022, all new fireworks must bear the new mark UKCA. Currently, this can be placed on the firework or the corresponding document but from 2024 the mark must be placed on the document itself.
Other rules include not letting fireworks off between the hours of 11pm and 7am except for Bonfire night where this changes to midnight and for New Year's Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year the exclusion is between 1am and 7am.
There are set dates of which you can buy fireworks, which are between the 15th of October and 10th November, between the 26th and 31st December, three days before Diwali and three days before Chinese New Year. Although there is no law stating when you can set them off.
Currently, you can host a firework display anywhere you have permission from the landowner and only use fireworks up to category three, there are four categories in total, with the top category only allowed for large event displays with a licence.
However, there are many petitions in circulation trying to ban fireworks due to the unnecessary stress and anxiety they cause for some individuals and many animals. The RSPCA has a log where any firework-related incidents can be detailed. One petition which at the time of writing had reached in excess of 800,000 and is being debated in parliament on Monday 8th November.
The petition asked for more regulation in regard to at-home fireworks as well as reducing the noise of currently available ones. Although when reading the posters comments a new petition has been set up which is asking for the banning of at-home fireworks.
Lord Berkeley of Knighton who was injured as a child from a wayward firework, backs the proposals, to allow fireworks to be sold to professionals only.
At home fireworks over the past two years have become more popular especially with lockdown and many large events cancelling their displays. This has led to an increase in injuries sustained as some individuals are using fireworks with no understanding of the concept of how they should be used.
According to NHS data in the period 2019 – 2020, there were 154 hospital admissions.
A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “Last year, we saw fires during Bonfire season rise by more than 10 per cent in comparison to the previous year, which the Brigade believes was due to more people using fireworks at home.
“Whilst we know that this season has been much anticipated by family and friends who weren’t able to be together at home last year, we’re asking people to consider alternative ways to celebrate rather than hosting fireworks displays at home.
“Find an organised fireworks display near you instead. They’re controlled and much safer, and it will also be more considerate for your neighbours and any pets”.
The cons of banning at-home fireworks
In 2002 Northern Ireland restricted the laws on fireworks for use in homes. They joined countries such as Germany who only allow category two fireworks to be sold and are allowed to be set off for a few hours on the 31st December and 1st January and the Republic of Ireland which has one of the strictest fireworks laws which only allows civilians to buy category one fireworks (i.e. sparklers, crackers and party poppers)
NI decision to only allow at-home firework displays with a licence at first saw a drop in the number of casualties caused by at-home fireworks. In the year proceeding, the change in legislation there was 136 accidents, the Belfast telegraph recently reported that in 2015 that number sat at just 15 with most of these relating to children under 18.
The fear of banning them is that they will then become available on the black market, where regulating them will be much harder. In order to disguise them through postal services, they will be removed from packages and sent with no instructions. This could have devastating consequences.
In 2018 following a petition committee report on fireworks, the government responded;
“While people who want to ban the public from buying and using fireworks have valid concerns that must be addressed, we cannot support a ban before other, less drastic but potentially more effective, options have been fully explored”.
They went on to advise a national campaign would be rolled out in 2020 on the dangers of fireworks. However, due to Covid, this is yet to be seen. There were a number of other recommendations that services such as animal welfare and local authorities were asked to implement and data they were asked to collate at the end of October 2020. The full report can be read here.
Most importantly….Keep Safe!
Whilst there are two sides to this story and looking at the figures of 154 admissions with firework-related injuries seems small, all these incidents possibly could have been prevented. More worryingly a lot of injuries involve children and sparklers. With many displays happening this weekend, and the upcoming New year celebrations it is important to keep safe and don’t take risks.
London Fire Brigade went on to say “If you can’t attend an organised event, why not get creative with firework alternatives like glow sticks and garden lights.
“If you do choose to use fireworks, make sure you familiarise yourself with our advice, ensure you have enough space to use fireworks, carefully read the instructions and stay safe.
“Take care when buying fireworks, buy them from a reputable, licensed seller and always look for a CE mark to make sure they’re safe to use and only buy fireworks up to Category 3*. Never drink alcohol and set off fireworks and don’t throw fireworks or return to a firework once it has been lit. It’s important to also be careful with sparklers, particularly with children, as they can stay hot enough to cause serious burns even after they burn out.”
We want you to have fun and this is not about restricting that, but what we want most…. Is for you to keep safe!
Written By: Victoria-Jayne Scholes
OULS News Editor
 https://hansard.parliament.uk/Lords/2020-11-11/debates/FD6415C3-6FF1-4339-A44C-BFF92CC581F9/FireworksDamage?highlight=firework%20injuries#contribution-96029C55-3D99-4153-8BFB-7D6827DEF64F  https://files.digital.nhs.uk/F2/9FCF38/hosp-epis-stat-admi-ext-cau-2019-20-tab%20v1.1.xlsx  https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/halloween-2021-fire-service-issues-safety-advice-on-how-to-keep-everyone-safe-40999134.html