The festive season is upon us, which means that there will be all sorts of fun events and parties to hold and to attend - no doubt with countless firework displays being held all over the country.
From a business perspective, any event that involves fireworks must be planned responsibly to ensure that no dangerous incidents occur. This is true whether you’re organising a big public event with the help of professional involvement or if you’re doing something at a local level at a school or sports club, for example.
Make sure that you consider the kind of fireworks you plan to use and know who will be operating the display itself. There are four categories of firework and those lighting local displays themselves can only use fireworks in categories one to three. Category four fireworks can only be used by professional operators because of how dangerous they are and the risks they pose.
All fireworks for sale in the UK have to carry a CE mark so buyers know that they’re safe and conform to European safety standards. They’re categorised and labelled according to their explosive content, with Category F1 meaning they present a very low hazard and negligible noise level.
F1 fireworks are suitable for use in confined areas, as well as indoors. F2 fireworks are intended for outdoor use in confined areas, such as the garden, while F3 fireworks pose a medium hazard and are meant for use in large open areas. F4, meanwhile, is for those fireworks that present a high hazard and should only be used by those with specialist knowledge.
You also need to be mindful of the rules and regulations regarding the storage of fireworks. The Explosive Regulations 2014 states that storage of fireworks under two tonnes in weight will need a licence from your local authority.
If there are more than two tonnes of fireworks that must be stored, a licence from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be required - and both organisations can come to inspect storage facilities if they deem it necessary.
Top tips for organising firework displays
As exciting as it is to put on a firework display, something appreciated by all those who attend, health and safety is essential and should be a top priority for all event organisers, no matter the size of the display in question.
There’s no reason why you and your business shouldn’t put on a firework display, but remember that responsible planning and safety are essential for it to be conducted safely.
Firstly, think about where you intend to hold the display and carry out a risk assessment so you can determine the level of risk, whether the location is safe, suitable and large enough for the event you have in mind. Will there be space for your fireworks to land far enough away from your attendees? Don’t forget to look up and see if there are any obstructions like power lines overhead that could hinder proceedings.
You also need to have emergency plans in place just in case something goes wrong - and it may well be worth setting up a company emergency response team, who provide a team of trained responders providing first aid, medical, fire and work at height cover) for the event so you know that if an accident occurs there are people in place with the training and expertise to handle whatever has taken place.
When it comes to storing your fireworks before the big day, it would be worth familiarising yourself with the HSE guidance available on this matter. You’re permitted to keep up to 50kg of Hazard Type 4 fireworks for no longer than three weeks without a licence, as long as they’re not for sale or for use at work.
Be mindful that fireworks are explosives and should be treated as such, with access restricted to where they’re stored just to be on the safe side. Keep them away from cigarettes and other naked lights, making sure they’re not left unattended in warehouses and that they’re stored in a locked cabinet or room.
Also, be aware of the risks posed by sparks from electrical fittings and sockets. Electrical equipment should be removed if you’re keeping your fireworks in storerooms, with plugs blanked off as well.
For bigger events where you may be using professional fireworks, make sure you mark out the areas that spectators will stand to enjoy the display, as well as identifying where the fireworks are likely to fall.
You’ll need to make sure that you have enough marshals and stewards on hand who have been well trained and know what they would need to do in the event of an emergency. Also make sure that first aid facilities are well signposted, just in case.
It would also be wise to get in touch with your local council and other stakeholders to let them know what’s taking place, as well as the emergency services. And if you know the site you’ve selected is near an airport or other national critical infrastructure buildings, it’s possible you may have to get in touch with them as well - so make sure you’ve ticked that box if necessary.
Here’s why you need to take care
New figures from NHS Digital show that in 2018/2019, there were nearly 2,000 occasions of people going to emergency departments because of fireworks. Over Bonfire Night and Diwali last year, over 35,000 people visited the NHS website for advice on how to treat scalds and burns, a significant rise on typical numbers.
The figures also show that in the last five years, there have been nearly 1,000 admissions to hospital relating to discharged fireworks. Some nine out of ten of these cases were male, with injuries most common among those aged between 20 and 34.
Medical Director at St John Ambulance, Dr Lynn Thomas, commented: “Every year, our highly skilled volunteers keep local communities safe at firework events across the country. Attendees at these events can be reassured that expert help is on hand if they need it.
“For those celebrating at smaller community events, we would urge extreme caution and advice strictly following instructions when handling, lighting and watching fireworks. In those unfortunate instances when someone has a minor injury, knowing what to do and acting fast can prevent further harm and relieve suffering. However, always dial 999 in the case of serious injuries.”
There’s no reason why you and your business shouldn’t hold a successful fireworks display, no matter what time of year, but health and safety must always be a top priority. Get in touch with HFR Solutions CIC if you’d like any further help or advice.