National Campaign for Firework Safety

Firework Seminar

Firework Seminar, RAF Cosford, February 18 2003

The seminar entitled "Fireworks - What's Their Future", was hosted by The Midland Branch of the Institution of Fire Engineers and The Birmingham Area Fire Protection Association.

Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East was first to speak, on

Public Concerns

I'd like to start by thanking the organisers of this Conference for giving me the opportunity to speak here today in particular Steve Rowe and Moss Haden who have done so much to raise this issue at the highest levels of government.

I've been asked to open up by discussing the concerns of the public. And that's exactly what they are- genuine public concerns about fireworks being a nuisance and being misused. I am going to lend heavily on the views of my constituents in West Bromwich when I outline some of the changes I would like to see in legislation.

There is no doubt that we live in a more insecure world. The downside of globalisation leaves many people insecure in the workplace. The post-cold war rumblings we see all too vividly today, have left people more worried about the relationship between nation states. Anti-social behaviour and petty crime have left people more insecure in their homes and communities. We're all more insecure.

It leaves us all in a dilemma when it comes to sketching out public policy.

The debate we are having about fireworks today is not unique. It mirrors others we are having in West Bromwich be it ID cards, air guns and truancy to name but a few. It is part of the rights and responsibilities debate started by the PM nearly eight years ago.

If it was down to my constituents I tell you where they would like government policy to fall on the rights and responsibilities spectrum. They would call for a moratorium on new rights until we have clearly played "catch up" with people living up to their responsibilities.

Well why have I opened up with this piece of new-labouresque social analysis at a conference on fireworks? Well it's because - and I am aiming my comments at the industry representatives when I say this - if we do not act swiftly to regulate and enforce controls on fireworks then the misuse will increase, injuries will keep growing and the public, stretched to breaking point will call for an all out ban on fireworks.

But let me make it absolutely clear at the outset that I'm not anti-fireworks. I am certainly not calling for a total ban, and I don't think most people would like to see such a ban at the moment.

One of my constituents, a Mrs McCormack, expressed a common view- and one which I agree with: "I am not a killjoy and I don't want bonfire night banned altogether, but I feel there should be some restrictions on the type of fireworks available for garden use and a time limit of up to 9pm at night for legally setting them off. I cannot imagine how some elderly people cope during this time."

Nor is this a battle against the fireworks industry or people enjoying themselves. Far from it, the Government must continue to work closely with the industry, trading standards, local authorities, fireworks safety groups and all the other organisations represented today.

The UK fireworks industry has always put safety first- working with the DTI on advertising campaigns in October and November.

Last autumn's national safety campaign was particularly hard-hitting. It's slogan, 'fool with fireworks and bang goes your image' rightly highlighted the injuries teenagers have suffered from fireworks misuse.

And it's a credit to the industry that, since the beginning of the year, there has been a voluntary ban on the sale of air bombs. These cheap 'pocket money' fireworks caused up to a fifth of all fireworks accidents last year.

And I hope that, after consultation, regulations could be introduced so that this ban could be enforced in law under the 1987 Consumer Protection Act. After all, much of the current legislation covering fireworks started off as voluntary initiatives from the industry itself.

So we all want to enjoy fireworks safely.

Fireworks on bonfire night are an integral part of life for millions of people in this country. And fireworks are now often seen at weddings and New Year's Eve celebrations, and at religious or other cultural celebrations.

In my own constituency in West Bromwich, I've seen fireworks used to great effect during the Diwali celebrations, or on public holidays like last year's Golden Jubilee. And Sandwell Council's organised fireworks displays each November are some of the best I've ever seen.

On all these occasions, the vast majority of fireworks are let off safely and with the utmost consideration for residents of the local community. Used in this way, watching fireworks can be a safe and rewarding experience- enjoyable for everyone.

But as we all know there's a flip-side to this coin.

Firework misuse has become a real problem in many areas, not least in the West Midlands and West Bromwich.

The number of people injured by fireworks has increased.

In 2001, there was a 40% rise in the number of casualties caused by fireworks.

Statistics from the Department of Trade and Industry show that the total number of people hurt during the bonfire celebrations that year topped 1,362.

The number of injuries among young teenagers rose by more than 50 per cent last year to 787 - the biggest increase for at least seven years.

My post bag is full of letters, and my inbox full of e-mails, from constituents who are sick and tired of the misery caused by anti-social misuse of fireworks.

The abuse of fireworks results in anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and, as police in Oldham, Manchester and Bradford and have found, their conversion into weapons.

And the noise pollution they cause is not the occasional and tolerable inconvenience that it once was, but an ever-increasing source of fear and anxiety, especially to vulnerable people in society.

Such distress is not just confined to people but extends to domestic pets- some of which have had to be put down as a result- as well as farm animals and wildlife.

Many animal lovers and organisations like the RSPCA and COFFAW the Control of Fireworks for Animal Welfare campaign want to see tighter restrictions.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association says that each year three guide dogs are spooked by fireworks to the extent that they have to actually be retired and hundreds of dogs have to be sedated.

In communities like mine, people and pets alike are subjected to night after night of disruption by the continuous use of loud fireworks. One constituent of mine even compared it to living in a battlefield.

A Mrs Forrester said: "Many people here in Wednesbury, especially pensioners, are frustrated by the continual sale of firework bangers, which are like bombs going off. Many of the people with dogs and cats are reduced to nervous wrecks."

"Four nights after the so called bonfire night, on November 9th, as most of us were settling down to watch our favourite programmes on television, the only pleasure most of us have, the bangers started again, continually till after 11pm."

Another constituent, Mr Phillips, the owner of the Martin's of Wednesbury fish and chip shop, recently wrote: "Talking to my customers and your voters the general feeling is that people are fed up with loud bangs going off day and night, from the beginning of October to the New Year. Yobs are using fireworks in a dangerous manner which is inflicting suffering on both humans and animals."

He goes on to support the clamp down on the dangerous misuse of fireworks which a growing number of my colleagues in Parliament are now involved in.

He then adds: "I dare say some people would say that this is the nanny state taking away civil liberties again. But if the loss of some liberty means not getting a rocket hit at me then I can put up with that."

I'm sure everyone here will have sympathy with my local chippy - just one out of some 2,000 local residents who have signed my campaign petition calling for tougher regulations on how, when and to whom we sell fireworks.

This formed part of a 250,000 signature petition which some 40 MPs delivered to Downing Street last October. And the support has continued to flood in.

Now it seems that the Government is beginning to listen. They've recognised that there is a real problem and that we need to take action.

In October a package of measures was announced by the Trade & Industry Minister Melanie Johnson.

As well as the voluntary ban on air bombs, there will be

a crackdown on illegal markets in fireworks with improved co-ordination of intelligence between Customs & Excise, the Health & Safety Executive and Trading Standards Departments; I look forward to hearing your practical solutions to how we achieve this.

a new drive to encourage local councils to use their powers to curb the problem of noise and nuisance caused by fireworks;

and a pilot scheme of fixed penalty notices of 40 in four areas for over 18s caught throwing fireworks in the street.
I will be watching closely to see how well these pilots have worked- and if they can be extended to other parts of the country, including my own borough of Sandwell.

But more significantly, the Government gave its backing to a Private Member's Bill published by my backbench colleague Bill Tynan last week. This means that there will be legislation on fireworks passed this year. The views and ideas you express here today will be fed into the policy making process. I want to make sure that your practical ideas and experiences are reflected in the new legislation.

Much of the Control of Fireworks Bill addresses the problems that have been caused by current legislation.

In many shops, fireworks would only be sold for three weeks around November 5th.

I'm sure that ten years ago, fireworks were let off for a couple of weeks either side of bonfire night and maybe on New Year's Eve.

As a Mrs Heath from Warley wrote, "The fireworks this year have been horrendous. They are being let off weeks before bonfire night and continue until weeks, or moths, after. It has now gone beyond all reason."

Last year, though, I heard my first firework in July. For months before and after bonfire night, the inner cities are alive with the sound of fireworks.

I've even heard fireworks being let off during the daytime. You can't even see the explosion when it's daylight, but yet people still let fireworks off.

Sales would be restricted to packs costing at least 10. Fireworks are not toys. And this move would help to stop teenagers from using them as such, by making them less affordable.

At the moment, it is possible to walk into a shop and buy single, high-powered fireworks. Such fireworks are only ever going to be let off on their own, and not as part of an organised display.

It's right that fireworks, and particularly the biggest fireworks on sale, should only be available to buy as part of a variety pack.

A minimum price would act as a disincentive to anyone who might want to buy a pack simply to get their hands on one of the more powerful fireworks.

The Bill would also make the noisiest fireworks illegal and ban the use of fireworks late at night, addressing the concerns of many in my constituency.

I don't think it's particularly unfair to limit the acceptable level of noise that a firework makes.

Some modern fireworks are incredibly loud, and sound like a military explosion. For many pensioners sitting alone in their houses, and for the millions of pet-owners in this country, such loud noises merely cause unnecessary anguish.

I can honestly say that in late September of 2001 I thought the House of Commons was under attack when a particularly loud impromptu display of fireworks began south of the River Thames.

The Bill would impose stricter rules on the training of people who give professional displays.

And people wanting fireworks for festivals such as New Year's Eve or weddings will have to go to a retailer with a higher licence.
But as well as this we need to make the existing system work better and enforce existing legislation much better. We've all seen groups of kids messing about with fireworks, despite the fact that they're not old enough to buy them.

And at the moment, for just 13.20, anyone in this room can buy an annual licence to store fireworks. Your local authority would not be able to refuse your application, and nor could they revoke it once it had been issued.

Neither could your local Fire Authority. Does this sound right? It certainly
doesn't to me.

And that's assuming you actually abide by the law and get yourself a license. Every year, thousands of fireworks are illegally brought into this country, and stored in unsuitable, unlicensed premises.

In fact, I was amazed to find that around 9% of fireworks which come into this country have no official records. No-one knows where they've come from. So we do need more resources for trading standards, customs and health and safety to deal with this.

And we need a system which allows the authorities to monitor the progress of fireworks right from their place of origin to the point of sale.

Beyond the Bill I would like to see more cross-department collaboration in dealing with fireworks.

If insurance companies were to work with hospitals, we could get a much better idea of exactly how many people are injured every year in firework-related accidents.

Similarly, the police and the fire service could merge their data to produce more accurate figures of exactly how much property damage is caused by fireworks.

I also think it would be a good idea for the emergency services to do more work with schoolchildren to explain exactly what problems arise from firework misuse.

Some of these kids know what the risks are, but others genuinely seem to think it's all harmless fun. If community liaison projects were used to show them exactly how damaging fireworks can be, then maybe we'd see a decline in this kind of behaviour.

New legislation and tighter enforcement of exiting law is also the way forward. In this day and age, it's not enough to assume that common sense alone will deter people from setting fireworks off when it's broad daylight, because there's always some idiot that does!

There are people who think that letting off fireworks all over the place, or letting off great big air-bombs is all just harmless fun, but I'd disagree.

I know that I might sound like I've got a bee in my bonnet about this, but that's because I have.

Certainly in my constituency, and in many other parts of the country, there's a real feeling of dissatisfaction with the way in which firework misuse has gone from being relatively rare, to being a familiar part of life.

It's not just the elderly or pet-owners who are concerned.

There are whole communities in West Bromwich who are sick and tired of getting home from work only to be kept awake by absurdly loud fireworks, night after night, week after week throughout the winter months.

And it's not in anyone's interests for this to continue, nor for fireworks themselves to get a bad name. That would only strengthen the case of those who argue for a complete ban.

So these are the public concerns and the response from a backbench constituency MP.

Today's Conference symbolises the approach we need- safety campaigners, the fire service and trading standards working together with the industry and retailers and councils

Working together to make fireworks as safe and enjoyable as we all want them to be.
(Tom Watson has spoke on several occasions regarding fireworks. 
They can be seen on

Chris Case, Station Commander, Merseyside Fire Service was next to speak.  His subject

Enforcement - Joint Operations
'Good Guy' Responsible with Fireworks

Increasing misuse and abuse of fireworks in Merseyside

Increasing number of complaints to Merseyside Police, local Councillors and local Members of Parliament relating to noise, social disturbances and abuse of fireworks.

Considerable affect on the ability of each service (Fire, Police, Trading standards) to respond to calls.

Attacks on fire crews increasing as well as the use of fireworks in arson (Letterboxes, post-boxes etc)

Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire Service and Local Authority Trading Standards therefore decided to work together.

The three partners jointly developed operational strategies and a publicity campaign.

Key Messages to primary target audiences identified

Firework Retailers

We would encourage you to adhere to a voluntary Code of Practice limiting sale of fireworks between the periods, 15 October and 6 November for Guy Fawkes celebrations and 9 to 31 December for Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The scheme will be closely monitored and participation in the scheme will help retailers in future applications to sell and store fireworks.

Local businesses who participate will benefit from local newspaper advertising

Merseyside Fire Service, Trading Standards and Merseyside Police will not accept the sale of fireworks to under 1 8s.

Young people
Irresponsible behaviour can lead to members of the public, particularly the elderly, feeling intimidated.
Fireworks will not be sold to under 18s.
Fireworks are dangerous to you and to others
You will be prosecuted if you break the law in relation to fireworks

Firework purchasers & the Local community
The partner agencies are committed to improving the quality of life of people in Merseyside.

The partner agencies have listened to the concerns of the communities they serve and are committed to working together to reduce the number of incidents involving fireworks.

There are a number of Responsible Retailers' where you can buy your fireworks from - look out for the posters and adverts in your local press.

Shops in the Good Guy Responsible Retailer Scheme will only be selling fireworks to over 1 8s, leading to decreased nuisance, anti-social behaviour and accidents.

The support of parents, schools, key opinion formers, community groups and the media in the voluntary responsible retailer' scheme is vital to ensure a long term impact on seasonal disorder and the misuse of fireworks on Merseyside.

Only a small number of young people are responsible for disorder and the misuse of fireworks.

Police will act swiftly and take firm action against those whose behaviour reduces the quality of life for the people of Merseyside.

Internal audiences in partner agencies
Demonstrating organisational commitment to relieving the pressure on staff during this increase in seasonal disturbance.

Other target audiences were identified as:

Secondary audiences:
Local Neighbourhoods
Residents groups
Youth groups
Merseyside Police Authority
Merseyside Fire Authority
Home Office

Summary of Tactics for the "Good Guy" Initiative that were implemented
Developed a brand style and communication strategy involving all aspects of marketing and media for all the partners. All communication materials produced in same design style to ensure a consistency scheme to be named Good Guy - responsible with fireworks". These materials will display the three logos of Merseyside Fire Service, the joint Local Authorities' Trading Standards group and Merseyside Police.

Encourage retailers to be 'Good Guys" and voluntarily restrict the sale of fireworks to defined periods (15 October to 6 November and 9 to 31 December) and to rigidly comply with age restrictions.

All stores registered (Merseyside Fire and Civil Defence Authority) to store and sell fireworks advised of the need to re-register and informed of the Good Guy Scheme.

Merseyside Fire Service to inspect all stores applying for registration.
Joint operation to deliver "Good Guy Responsible with Fireworks" retailer packs Neighbourhood.

Police Officers and Trading Standards Officers from each local authority. The packs contained
information on the scheme, storage and sale of fireworks, as well as posters for display in their
premises, to explain to customers the nature of the scheme.

Remind traders that when renewing registration for 2003, vendors will need to illustrate that they are
'responsible retailers' before a licence from the Merseyside Fire Service will be granted.

Purchase advertising space from local printed media to promote the responsible retailers that have
signed up to the scheme in local newspapers, encouraging firework purchasers to "Buy from a Good
Guy," supported by radio advertising.

Undertake an awareness campaign in local schools to reinforce the messages of the campaign. A
direct mailing to Headteachers of secondary schools was sent out requesting that they display posters
warning of the consequences of messing about with fireworks (the police action that will be taken against
them if they are caught).

School visits to schools in the problem areas reinforcing the poster campaign by local Neighbourhood
Police Officers, Fire service and Trading Standards Officers. Assisted by a school tour held in partnership
with local radio station (Radio City 96.7) to ensure the messages were credible and delivered in an
entertaining way that appeals to the target audience.

Follow up school tour, with a text message from Radio City DJ (Louis Hurst) to all those who provided
their mobile phone details at the school tour events.

Attendances with Good Guy stall at Merseyside Police Open Day displayed firework safety material and
encourage the community to buy from the good guys.

Monitoring of retailers operating the scheme via the number of recorded incidents. After local incidents, the
scheme was be reinforced by an inspection from one of the partners.

crimestoppers as mechanism to give information on the illegal sale of fireworks in local

Joint operations to seize fireworks being sold illegally.

Outcomes of the Initiative
Reassured the communities across Merseyside that the partner agencies are working
together to reduce the number of incidents involving fireworks

Encouraged communities to purchase fireworks from responsible retailers.

Helped develop relationships between the partner agencies, which will now be built upon
in future operational activity from each of the three partners, both at a county and
neighbourhood level.

Encouraged local Police officers/Fire officers and Trading Standards officers to develop
and build relationships with local traders.

Over 10,000 worth of illegal fireworks taken off the streets of Merseyside

10 Joint seizure high-profile operations against illegal traders

Youth Disorder reductions of
14% across Merseyside

Small Fires Reductions of 22.5% across Merseyside

Early indications from Accident & Emergency Departments is that injuries were reduced in the target areas.

Area                          Retailers Visited          Refusal to Sign-Up     Youth Disorder
Merseyside Total                  77%                             34%                      -14%
St. Helens                              98%                              7%                      -27%
Sefton                                    71%                            23%                      -28%
Knowsley                               98%                            29%                      -10%
Wirral                                     82%                             9%                       -24%
Liverpool                                69%                            60%                       -4%

A Review from a Policing Perspective
2002 campaign delivered and paid for out of Merseyside Police Budget, cost 25,000, included all advertising and production of materials as well as school tour. Trading Standards currently seeking monies to run campaign next year, as Merseyside Police cannot afford to finance alone.

Most visits to stores, paid for out of existing budgets by varying shifts, and linking operation into other local high visibility policing activity at that time of year. Although each policing area (of which there are six) were given 5,000 to top up fund for the operation.

10 good items of intelligence gained through Crimestoppers, which led to seizures of fireworks -positive results.

A Review from a Fire Service Perspective
The scheme was managed by Petroleum and Explosives Section under the guidance of ADO Egger and ADO Case. The delivery was split by:

Community Fire Safety Officers - Delivering visits to all Primary Schools in the Merseyside Area as Radio City covered Secondary schools.

Petroleum and Explosives Section - Managed the visits to larger stores and investigated any complaints or intelligence reports from the Partners or Public

Fire Safety Flexi-Duty Officers Holding HSAW Sect 19 provided out of hours investigation and response

Operational Crews carried out storage inspections on all registered stores in Merseyside under management of Station Commanders

Resources were managed within existing budgets and roles.

The scheme saw a reduction in attacks on crews from fireworks, fast response from the Police to incidents where unrest was present and a reduction in small fires in all areas.

Good Guy 2003
Start Campaign earlier to allow areas that struggled to visit all premises, more opportunity to do so.

Merseyside Police considering the use of local taxi-drivers (who are often a target for youths misusing fireworks on Merseyside) to be the eyes and ears on the street. Introducing a dedicated taxi-hotline for them to call into giving direct access to Merseyside Police Control room to direct dedicated teams to these incidents.

More training to Police Officers, of what they can do when they find somebody misusing and abusing fireworks as well as what to look out for.

Fire Service to increase training for all agencies and implement fireworks more closely into existing Community Fire Safety initiatives

Fire Service considering running firework and bonfire safety courses for the public.

Chris Raymond, Health and Safety Executive, was next to speak on the

Manufacture, Storage Explosives Regulations (MSER)

The purpose of the Explosives Safety Policy Section is the development of policy advice on the safe manufacture and storage of explosives, including fireworks.

They also have policy responsibility for some aspects relating to the security of explosives.

I aim to give brief overview of the proposed new regulations; including why we think they are needed, where we are with the draft proposals, the main changes that are likely to be of most relevance to duty holders and regulators in relation to storage of fireworks, and, the next steps with the proposals.

The Explosives Act has been around for 128 years.  It has lasted well but, it has been much overwritten (over 40 subsidiary pieces of legislation).  This means law is complex for both duty holders and regulators - e.g. to find out what quantity of fireworks can be kept without a licence involves consulting 4 separate Orders-in-Council. The key aim of the new regulations is to reduce the volume of legislation and make it easier to understand.

We have also taken opportunity to update the legislation and supporting guidance to take account of the very significant developments in technology and in health and safety law since 1875 (e.g. electricity not in universal use, major changes in explosives and industry, move to goal setting, and risk based health and safety regulation.

The key starting point is to say that the proposals retain fundamental aspects of the existing legislation, and in particular, a licensing and registration regime for those who manufacture or store explosives (this was a very clear message from consultees).

Many of the detailed requirements in the EA75 are carried forward into the ACOP and Guidance document which will support the new regulations.

But there will be some changes, and looking at those most relevant to fireworks, these are,

Introduction of powers to allow local licensing authorities to refuse or revoke a storage licence or registration in situations where they consider that the individual applying for or holding a licence or registration is not a fit person to store fireworks safely.

It is important to stress that this power will relate to breaches of licence conditions or, health and safety legislation. It should not be seen as a surrogate mechanism to enforce other legislation such as the Fireworks Safety Regulations. However, licensing authorities could take into account breaches of such regulations in deciding whether or not a person was fit to hold a licence.

Refusal or revocation should not be seen as a replacement for normal enforcement action (e.g. issue of improvement or prohibition notices).

The proposals will extend the period local authority may grant a licence to five years and a registration to two years. At the same time, it is proposed that local authority licence/registration fees should reflect the costs incurred.

HSE's review of explosives legislation included a review of the separation distance requirements around explosives stores.

A major issue in relation to storage of fireworks is the current inconsistency between separation distance requirements between the local authority and HSE licenced sectors. For example, at present local authorities are required to impose the same distances for fireworks as for HE (when explosive content is compared, rather than gross weight). The distances required by HSE are significantly less - reflecting hazard primarily fire/heat radiation rather than blast overpressure. Proposed separation distance tables reduce distances for larger quantities of fireworks to align with those currently used by HSE.

At the same time, the proposed tables will require for the first time a separation distance for those keeping smaller quantities of fireworks - i.e. between 200-250 kg nett mass 800 -1000 kg gross). Independent research commissioned by HSE suggests increase will have limited impact on most firework retailers.

The existing law allows the keeping of an unlimited quantity of fireworks of any type for up to 14 days without the requirement of licence, or to register. This provision was of great concern to many respondents who saw it as open to abuse. Proposals will limit quantity to 50 kg nett mass (200 kg gross) of shop goods fireworks only; fireworks not for sale or use at work. At same time, the proposal increases the time limit to 21 days to bring law into line with current industry distribution practice.

There was strong support for a proposal prohibiting people selling or transferring more than 50 kg of fireworks to someone unless they have a licence or registration - and for that licence or registration document to be shown to the person selling or transferring the fireworks.

Once HSE has finished revising proposals, the package will go to HSC's
Advisory Committee on Dangerous Substances, and then (subject to
ASCDS agreement) to Health and Safety Committee.

The Final draft regulations etc will then go to Ministers and (subject to
Minister's approval) to Parliament, in the Autumn.

The new regulations would come into force in early 2004.
However, there is some further discussion to be had about exact timing. HSE are aware of the need to avoid undue impact on both local authority regulators and duty holders during the 2004 firework season. HSE is also in continuing discussions with stakeholders about transitional arrangements - eg on transitional arrangements for existing licence holders.

Dr Smith spoke on the subject of Display Operator Training.

John Woodhead, Chairman of British Fireworks Association, was next to speak.  Here are his notes on

Illegal Storage & Selling and New Firework Bill

British Fireworks Association suggestions for Private Members Bill

That training should be a requirement for anyone firing displays which use fireworks outside the scope of those defined in the 1997 Firework Regulations as being suitable for consumer use.

That serious consideration should be given to creating a system of licensing for firework retailers which
would restrict normal retailing to a set period around Guy Fawkes Night and New Years Eve, but that
would also create a higher tier licence, conditional on acceptance of a required code of practise (staff
training, restriction on noisy items, recording of transactions etc) for those retailers wishing to offer
fireworks for special occasions throughout the year.

Mail order and Internet outlets would be subject to the requirements of the higher tier 
licence which would have a higher licence fee than the lower tier.

To incorporate in law the proposed maximum noise levels contained in the forthcoming European
Standard i.e. 120 DB (ALMAX)

To put in place a requirement for all containers of fireworks arriving a U.K. ports to be taken directly to licensed storage premises, and for the authorities at the port
( Customs & Excise / Trading Standards ) to inform the Home Authority of the Consignee (Trading Standards and / or Fire Service) of the size and weight of the shipment so that proper regulatory checks can be made before the fireworks enter the distribution system.

Widespread concern about the increasing number of fireworks being offered for sale illegally - car boot sales, factory gate, pubs, clubs & open markets - usually lesser known brands, often part of a doubtful distribution chain which needs stopping. Straight from docks into distribution chain without ever going to licensed sites. (Much relaxed regime since removal of import licenses) i.e. white van, cash purchase syndrome.

No opportunity for "Home Authority" Trading Standards Officers to check for regulatory requirements, indeed it is probable that TSO's are not aware of the existence of such companies in their area, product itself isn't necessarily illegal, more often than not it isn't. But without checking how can an enforcement officer know? There is no opportunity to sample at retail level as this distribution chain by-passes the legitimate retailer. Should any of this product prove to be dangerous, recalls would be virtually impossible.

Further problems - illegal storage is almost always dangerous storage - little chance of V.A.T or income tax be paid.

Why is the legitimate Firework Industry so angry?
Because the people involved in this distribution chain avoid the hugely expensive licensed storage requirements that the mainstream companies are saddled with. 4O ft containers going directly to mode A stores (at best) for redistribution with the apparent blessing of  H & SE. - Legitimate retailers are being deprived of their livelihood by cut price illegal sales. - It really has to stop, and Bill Tynan's Private Member's Bill would seem to be the ideal opportunity.

Ensure that all staff are trained on legal aspects of fireworks storage and selling and that they are fully conversant with the fireworks being offered for sale, particularly noise content and spectator distance. (Try to avoid selling noisy fireworks away from 5th November). This will enable them to offer the following advice to customers.

1. Be sure that the fireworks are suitable for the proposed firing site. (Fallout distances
, etc.).

2. Point out that too much noise can be anti-social and that in consideration for others. particularly away
    from the Guy Fawkes and New Year periods, they should avoid using the noisiest fireworks.

3. Always notify your neighbours if you are going to use fireworks, particularly old people and those with
    animals, both domestic and farm.

4. If the display is large notify the police and fire brigade and, where appropriate, the coastguard service or
    air traffic control if there is a nearby airport.

5. Do not let off fireworks late at night. It is anti-social. Where hours of daylight permit do not fire
    after 10pm at the latest, earlier if possible.
December 31 excepted.

6. Remember it is an offence to set off fireworks in a public place.

7. Dry summer weather can create a fire hazard from firework sparks. Be alert for such danger.

8. Point out to the customer that whilst fireworks are a great way to celebrate special occasions, continued   inconsiderate behaviour could well lead to legal restrictions on such events.

Ron Rapley, is Chairman of CII/47, the committee that is responsible for BS 7114, the standard for fireworks in the UK and is the UK delegate leader to CEN/TC 212 the committee that is responsible for the proposed European Standards on Fireworks.   His talk was on

New Firework Standards

Ron spoke without notes but left a series of diagrams.  The diagrams show how the new European Standards on fireworks are progressing.

Group 1
The following parts of EN 14035 - Fireworks (CEN/TC 212) were approved at Formal Vote (Ratified February 2003).
Part 1    Terminology
Part 2    Classification
Part 4    Banger and banger batteries
Part 15  Fountains
Part 19  Hand-held sparklers
Part 23  Non-hand-held sparklers
Part 27  Rockets
Part 34  Table bombs

Group 2
The following parts of EN 14035 - Fireworks (CEN/TC 212)  CEN Enquiry closed. * = comments reviewed and drafts to go for formal vote.
Part 3   Aerial wheels
Part 6   Bengal flames
Part 7   Bengal matches
Part 8   Bengal sticks
Part 22  Mines*
Part 24  Novelty matches
Part 28  Roman candles*
Part 29  Serpents*
Part 36  Wheels*

Group 3
The following parts of EN 14035 - Fireworks (CEN/TC 212).  At CEN Enquiry
Part 9    Crackling granules
Part 10  Double bangers
Part 13  Flash Pellets
Part 14  Flying squibs
Part 16  Friction-ignited flash bangers
Part 17  Ground spinners
Part 18  Hand-held fountains
Part 20  Jumping crackers
Part 32  Snaps
Part 35  Throwdowns

Group 4
The following parts of EN 14035 - Fireworks (CEN/TC 212).  Approved for launch of CEN Enquiry. 
Part 21 Jumping ground spinners
Part 25  Party poppers
Part 26  Percussion caps for use in toys
Part 31  Shells-in-mortars
Part 33  Spinners
Part 37  Whistlers

Group 5
The following parts of EN 14035 - Fireworks (CEN/TC 212).  To be redrafted 
Part 5   Batteries and combinations

Mr Rapley did mention that the new European standards would replace the BS7114, there will be a transitional period when both standards will be operating.  He hoped the local authorities will take that into account when carrying out their duties.

Martin Guest, of Black Cat Fireworks was last to speak and here are his notes on

Fireworks Industry's Current Position.

The Changing Face of Consumer Fireworks

Companies Old and New, Brand's Old and New, Associations Old and New, Markets Old and New
The British Fireworks Industry has changed considerably over the last 10 years, names have come and gone, some new names arriving on the scene, some names being assimilated into other companies, some companies changing direction or concentrating on a smaller range of operation and some simply disappearing.

Markets have also changed over this time, with new outlets stocking fireworks who would previously have never considered doing so, the growth of specialist Firework shops and the traditional strongholds in Firework Retailing coming under increasing pressure from the major multiples

Finally the product range over the last 10 years has undergone changes, brought about by the industry's voluntary agreements, legislative changes, the growth of importing versus manufacturing, industry product initiatives and new quality Standards.

The Companies
"Fireworks" magazine is a twice yearly publication providing fireworks news information, gossip and opinion. Part of the Magazine is given over to a Directory of British Firework companies. Entry in the Directory is voluntary and achieved by completion of the appropriate questionnaire. The Directory gives names, addresses and services provided for those companies who have completed the questionnaire.
In Summer 1999 the Directory gave
89 companies in total
81 offering professional firework displays
58 offering shop goods
41 manufacturing or modifying fireworks
31 importing fireworks

And from the Summer 2002 Directory we have:
100 companies in total 12% increase
79 offering professional firework displays 2% decrease
70 offering shop goods 20% increase
38 manufacturing or modifying fireworks 7% decrease
44 importing fireworks 42% increase

Finally, at the last count Yellow pages accounted for some 180 companies, around the country, offering fireworks and firework displays.

High Street Retail Brands
Company                          Brand 
Black Cat Fireworks           Black Cat, Standard, Brocks
Cosmic Group                    Cosmic, Golden Lion, Jumping Jack Flash, Galaxy, Astra, Benwell
Panda                                 Panda,  Bright Star
Men Shun                           Men Shun, Sacred Arrow
Other Significant Players     1st Galaxy, Blue Moon, Bulldog, Dancing Red Devil, Devco, Diamond,
                                          Firework Factors, Fireworks International, Ghost, Global, Imperial, Kimbolton,     
                                          Millennium, Red Dragon, Sandling, Sparky, Spook.

In 1990 the High Street was served by Standard, Brocks, Sohni Esco, Octavius Hunt and Astra with a few specialist firework retailers offering items supplied by the larger Firework Display Companies, today there are at least 30 Brand names on the streets. Growth in the number of new names has been rapid with some of the new names not appearing in the usual High Street retail outlets, preferring instead to be distributed illegally through pubs. clubs, car boot sales and door to door, with of course an attendant reduction in overheads for the Companies concerned and a reduction in safety for the general public.

Trade Groups
Yellow Pages  160
EIG Members 87
BPA Members 23
BFA Members 16

The firework industry is supported by three organised groups promoting the interests of fireworks, offering central contact points for Government organisations and assisting the industry to keep abreast of the rapidly changing legislative scene. The trade association catering for the interests of those supplying the retail trade is the British Firework Association (BFA). While the British Pyrotechnists Association (BPA) is the Trade association catering for the interests of those involved in providing Professional Firework Displays. The Explosives Industry Group (EIG) of the Confederation of British Industry, is a lobbying group with particular interest in the promotion of health and safety in the manufacture storage and use of all explosives, including fireworks. The vast majority of the member companies of the BPA and BFA are also members of EIG. however there is still around half of the firework industry not represented and more importantly not informed by any national group.

Markets Old and New

The Traditional

Tobacconists General Stores

The New

Garden Centres
Firework Specialists
Convenience Stores
Mail Order

The traditional cigarette, tobacconist newsagents and general stores on the corner are still a major part of the consumer Firework supply chain, but increasingly they are not the only retail outlets. Toy shops, firework specialists, garden centres, convenience stores and supermarkets have all joined those outlets providing fireworks over the last fifteen years or so. More recently than this of course is the growth in mail order and internet sales for fireworks. The latter two presenting interesting challenges for legislators and policing authorities.

Key Firework Retail Outlets
Beyond any doubt the major influence on the sales of fireworks has been in the entry of the Supermarket Chains into the firework marketplace, pre 1994 there were very few Supermarkets selling Fireworks, last year they had around one third of the total retail sales. As with every other commodity they deal with, the Supermarkets rely on selling in bulk, this brings special problems with fireworks because of the limitations on storage weights.

Product Changes
Industry voluntary agreements.
Reduce banger powder content. Eventually adopted by BS and by Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue flash powder bangers. Eventually adopted by Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue jumping crackers adopted by BS and by Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue random flight items. Eventually adopted by Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue mini rockets. Industry eventually broke this agreement, but it was eventually adopted by Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue Airbombs and cheap rockets.

Over the last 40 years or so, the Consumer Firework Industry has tried to influence control over the product available in the supply chain, among some of the earlier measures taken were the abandonment of the sale of Thunder Flashes, and in 1961 to advise retailers not to sell Bangers more than one month prior to November
5th These latter two may be of interest to those who believe things have got worse with the passage of time! I can report from personal experience that things were much more "exciting" pre 1961.

Other measures adopted since 1961 have been to:
Reduce banger powder content. Eventually adopted by BS and by Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue flash powder bangers. Eventually adopted by Firework Safety Regulations.
Only sell Bangers in Boxes
Advise retailers not to display fireworks in shops until three weeks before November
Reduce the number of Bangers available for sale.
Discontinue the sale of small cheap fireworks other than Sparklers or as part of a larger pack
Discontinue jumping crackers. Eventually adopted by BS and Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue random flight items. Eventually adopted by BS and Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue mini rockets. Industry broke this agreement, but it was eventually adopted by Firework Safety Regulations.
Discontinue Airbombs and small rockets. This is a 2002/3 Industry initiative which will hopefully receive Government endorsement.

Product Changes Continued
Industry product initiatives.
Larger multi shot devices.

In 1999 it became apparent that Fireworks were going to be a feature of the Millennium Eve celebrations by millions of families around the country, accordingly the firework industry designed product for this occasion. Bearing in mind that the likely usage time would be approximately one second past midnight during the coldest month of the year when most concerned would have been celebrating significantly, the target was to produce something that was as safe as possible, as easy to use as possible and more to the point difficult to accidentally misuse, and which did not require two hours to set up and set off. The answer was the Single Ignition Display.

There 's Safety in Numbers
There has been some concern in the media over the introduction of "Big Powerful Fireworks" such as the Single Ignition Displays however, this type of firework by its nature is big but it is not necessarily any more powerful than a small Category 2 Roman Candle The Single Ignition Display is made up of a series of single shot Roman Candles, each in their own right capable of meeting the requirements of BS 7114 Category 2 and The Firework Safety Regulations.

However there are added safety spin-offs from combining these together in a single unit weighing up to 10kg.

It is expensive and therefore not hooligan attractive.

It is too heavy to hold,

too heavy to aim

too heavy to throw

too large to put in your pocket

In accordance with BS 7114, the labelling calls for the item to be buried, even if this is not done, the item is still very stable and will not fall over during functioning.

Finally for an equivalent entertainment level from a Selection Box, over 100 Fireworks would have to be set up, approached and individually lit with all the attendant risks of mishap.

The Future
The Control of Fireworks Bill
The European Standard
Further Industry Voluntary Measures
Tighter Controls on Imports

We have heard from John Woodhead and Ron Rapley about the Control of Fireworks Bill and the Forthcoming European Standard and the consequences of these, I would like to endorse John's view of the Bill by offering our full support to all reasonable and enforceable regulatory measures which may come from the Bill if it be successful.

With regard to Industry voluntary controls, I believe that the responsible Fireworks industry has exercised great self control in the past, however there are a number of recently arrived players outside the responsible sector of the industry who have demonstrated their willingness to ignore regulatory controls and so clearly will not be bound by mere voluntary measures, unless these are brought to book it will be a case of one man's Voluntary Control is another's Commercial opportunity!

This leads on to the need for imposing an obligation on the enforcement agencies to closely monitor all imports to determine that their storage and sales destinations are both suitable and legitimate, this has to start at the point of importation, or the enforcement agencies will find themselves chasing numerous White Vans.

The Future II
Less Noisy Fireworks
Increased Usage of Fireworks

While I know that Fireworks were louder and less controlled in my youth than they are now, I also know that today there is a far greater likelihood of malicious misuse as opposed to the mischievous misuse I indulged in as a boy (under 16 at that). I am also aware, notwithstanding the excellent presentation from Chris Case, of the difficulties faced by the police and others in enforcing the law relating to setting off fireworks in a public place and accordingly if the only way to bring back sanity is to remove certain types of fireworks then as an industry we have demonstrated our willingness to do this.

Finally it is a matter of fact that fireworks are increasingly becoming a part of many legitimate celebrations outside November 5th and New Year, for example, weddings, concerts, summer fetes etc. this need not become a problem, provided that the items used are suitable for the purpose and the use is carried out in a responsible manner. Here education and publication of codes of conduct would be of help. Once again the firework industry would be prepared to help with this.

Just in case any of you out there are beginning to think that I believe the firework industry is a suitable role model for any budding Mother Theresa, I would point out that our willingness to help is based on the real concern that the end of our business will come when the majority of people regard fireworks as a nuisance rather than as a pleasure, from a recent survey we carried out around
3 million people purchase fireworks each year. and even that each purchase will probably be watched by Mum, Dad and 2.4 Children, that is over 13 million people enjoying fireworks.

Neal Snowdon, from the Manchester Evening News, contributed a letter to the delegates pack.  Here it is.

Neal Snowdon
Manchester Evening News
164 Deansgate
M60 2RD

Phone: 0161-211-2324 E-mail:

Dear Delegate,

Like you I am attending today's conference as I have an active interest in the field of fireworks and, more specifically, fireworks safety.

At the
Manchester Evening News, we have repeatedly reported on incidents where people have been injured and maimed by fireworks. Every year we deal with a stream of unfortunate incidents where people have suffered severely through contact with fireworks.

As recently as five days ago - more than three months since Bonfire Night we reported on a mother and her six children who were trapped in their home when a yob threw a firework through their lounge window.

Unfortunately, this was no isolated incident, as fireworks now appear to be in use all year round.

For this reason, the
Manchester Evening News has been campaigning for much tighter controls on the use and sale of fireworks. We are aware of proposed changes to the law, but we believe that only a total ban on the sale of fireworks to the public will remove the danger that they pose.

As far as we are concerned, fireworks should only be sold to people who are running properly-organised and licensed events.

While we understand that many people may find this stance a little drastic, we are sure that such restrictions are the way forward. I am sure that you will have an opinion on this and I would welcome your views whenever you feel able to volunteer them to me.

You may see me today at the conference, as I will be here with my
Manchester Evening News billboard and some examples of our campaigning articles. If, however, you are unable to chat to me today, please phone or e-mail me in the next few days.

I would very much like to hear what you think about fireworks safety and our campaign. Your opinions will go a long way to helping me gauge the feelings among those in the know on this issue.

I hope to speak to you very soon.
Enjoy the conference.

Yours faithfully,
Neal Snowdon

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