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Annie Hayes

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Fireworks safety could put firms in the dock

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The Fireworks Act 2003 together with the Fireworks Regulations 2004 means that for the first time firms will have to comply with legal guidelines when organising or hosting firework displays.

The new Act was introduced to plug the gap in current legislation; under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 any company holding a non-domestic fireworks display, from a local pub to large hotel, or a corporate event, has a duty of care to both employees and anyone ‘affected by’ the event.

The Fireworks Regulations 2004 introduces a number of limited prohibitions on the importation, sale, possession and use of fireworks.

Stephen Thomas, health and safety consultant at Croner Consulting commented:

“Non-domestic displays, whether it be a private corporate event, or one that is open to the public, present a risk to spectators, nearby residents, pets and wildlife. Businesses are responsible for identifying and minimising the risk and potential nuisance created by such displays. Should an incident occur the new firework legislation means they could face up to two years imprisonment if referred to a Higher Court.

“The Fireworks Act 2003 and subsequent Regulations were not implemented in time for last year’s festivities, but for the first time this year employers must be aware of the new Regulations under the Act and take steps to ensure they are compliant.”

Croner suggest following these guidelines to ensure compliance:

  • Hire a professional expert to co-ordinate the display if unsure of the regulations or wary of handling fireworks

  • Undertake a risk assessment to identify all risks associated with fireworks displays and bonfires

  • Inform the local Police, Fire Brigade, Local Enforcing Authority, residents and institutions (i.e. hospitals and care homes) about the event

  • Define and control the display site boundaries

  • Check the site in daylight to ensure there are no obstructions such as buildings, overhead cables and overhanging trees

  • Provide an adequate number of stewards responsible for crowd safety and provide them with high visibility jackets

  • Provide adequate fire fighting facilities and train stewards in their use

  • Have at least one suitably equipped First Aid point, manned by a fully qualified First Aider

  • Use only fireworks that are classified to British Standard BS7114:1988 and store them in a secure, dry place with no possible sources of ignition

  • Make contingency plans for any possible unplanned events (e.g. ignition of fireworks, disorderly spectator behaviour, or the bonfire getting out of control)

  • Prohibit spectators from bringing their own fireworks to the display


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Annie Hayes

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