Firework safety

When and where to use fireworks, and how to keep people and animals safe

Consumer standards

Fireworks sold to consumers should conform to British Standards (BS 7114).

Fireworks fall into certain categories:

  • Category F1 – present a very low hazard and negligible noise level. Intended for use in confined areas, including inside domestic buildings
  • Category F2 – low hazard and low noise level. Intended for outdoor use in confined areas with safety distances of at least 8 metres
  • Category F3 – medium hazard. Intended for outdoor use in large open areas. Their noise level is not harmful to human health; safety distance of at least 15 metres
  • Category F4 – for professional use only. They are not available to the public and can only be used by trained display operators, with all year insurance and licensed storage.

How and when you can use fireworks

You must not set off or throw fireworks in the street or other public places (this includes sparklers). There is a noise limit of 120dB on all consumer fireworks. Certain items are banned in the UK, such as bangers, air bombs and jumping jacks. You can find more information about fireworks in the Fireworks Regulations 2004.

You mustn't set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am, except for:

  • 5 November Bonfire night (12pm cut off)
  • 31 December New Year’s Eve
  • Diwali
  • Chinese New Year (1am cut off)

If you plan to have a private firework display, or are going to one, please observe the Safe Fireworks Code:

  • plan your firework display to make it safe and enjoyable
  • keep fireworks in a closed box and use them one at a time
  • read and follow the instructions on each firework using a torch if necessary
  • light the firework at arm's length with a taper and stand well back
  • never return to a firework once it has been lit
  • don't put fireworks in pockets or throw fireworks
  • direct any rocket fireworks away from spectators
  • light sparklers one at a time and always wear gloves
  • have a bucket of water or sand available to dispose of sparklers when they are finished
  • if fireworks have misfired or are unused then remember to ‘soak it, bag it, bin it’. Submerge them for 48 hours in water before putting them in a bag and throwing them in the bin.
  • keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks
  • set bonfires well away from any firework displays

Fireworks and animal safety

Animals have very sensitive hearing. Loud bangs and whistles may cause pain in their ears.

Small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, ferrets and birds all need to be treated with special care when fireworks are being let off. These animals are easily frightened.

  • bring hutches/cages inside to a quiet room or into a garage/shed
  • give your pet extra bedding to burrow into so it feels safe
  • cover any aviaries or hutches with thick blankets or a duvet to block out the sight of fireworks and dampen the sound of bangs, but ensure there is enough ventilation

For cats and dogs, you should plan ahead to help them cope with fireworks. Ask your vet for advice on how best to help your pet.

  • always keep dogs and cats inside when fireworks are being let off
  • make sure your dog is walked during daylight hours
  • close all windows and doors and block off cat flaps. Draw the curtains and turn on the TV or radio (but not too loudly) to block out the sound of the fireworks
  • ensure dogs are wearing some form of ID (even in the house). It is a legal requirement to have both dogs and cats microchipped. This will give you a better chance of reuniting with them if they do run away
  • prepare a den for your pet where it can feel safe and comfortable
  • let your pet pace around, whine, meow and hide if they want to. Don't try to coax them out – it is just trying to find safety
  • stay calm and give them lots of praise.  Never punish your pet when they’re scared as this will make it worse
  • avoid leaving your pet alone
  • never take your dog to a firework display, even if they do not bark or whimper at the noise. Excessive panting and yawning can also indicate your dog is stressed