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Bonfires and firework displays

The presence of incendiary devices and crowds of people can result in personal injury or property damage. These guidance notes, if followed, will help to ensure that your event will be conducted without anyone being injured.  Please make sure you inform us if you are planning a bonfire or fireworks display. Further guidance about fireworks is available in our Functions Guidance.  An additional premium may need to be charged.

Where possible the display should be organised and operated by the manufacturer of the fireworks or a professional operator. You should ensure that they have adequate Public and Employers’ Liability insurance.

  • Before setting up your event, make sure you have informed your local Fire Brigade and Police and secured attendance by a first aid association, if deemed necessary

  • Prepare a drill for calling out the emergency services. You should also inform your local authority (you may require a licence)

  • Keep spectators at a safe distance – preferably 50 metres away; but at least 25 metres away from a fireworks display

  • Remember to take wind direction into account making sure smoke does not drift across busy highways

  • A rope or a strong barrier should be used to clearly mark off the display area

  • Keep well clear of buildings, trees and other hazards, such as overhead electricity and telephone cables

  • The site chosen should have as many entrances and exits as possible and should be kept clear of obstructions

  • Entrances and exits should be well lit and clearly signposted

  • To ensure proper crowd control, you should arrange for stewards to be present – at least one steward for every 250 spectators. Stewards should be easy to identify (perhaps by using fluorescent bibs or jackets). The stewarding team should be aware of what to do in an emergency and should have practised these drills thoroughly before the event.

Regulation and controls

The reference standard for fireworks is BS EN 14035, which has partially replaced BS 7114. The primary control on the supply and acquisition of fireworks are the Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 as amended by the Fireworks (Safety) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 and the Pyrotechnics Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010. Under these regulations only certain defined fireworks within BS categories 1, 2 and 3 may be supplied to the public. Category 4 and larger category 2 and 3 fireworks are prohibited to the public and may only be supplied to specified types of people, which include a professional organiser or operator of firework displays.

Detailed guidance is available from the HSE website or from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills website, www.berr.gov.uk/fireworks, Ref: URN 08/1110.

Fireworks display

Where possible the display should be organised and operated by the manufacturer of the fireworks or a professional operator. When employing an external contractor, it’s vital that you obtain written confirmation that they have adequate Public and Employers’ Liability insurance. In a recent case, a club committee was found to be liable for damages following an injury, even though a contractor was undertaking the fireworks display. The club believed them to be insured; they were not, and it was held that the club failed to select a ‘suitable’ contractor for the fireworks display. Where it is not possible to employ professionals, a responsible adult from the organising committee should be given sole control of storage and lighting of fireworks. Only use fireworks which comply with BS EN 14035.

  • Try to recruit at least one person with previous experience of organising firework displays

  • The display area should be at least 50 metres x 50 metres and an additional dropping zone of 100 metres x 50 metres for spent fireworks

  • Car parking areas should be sited well away from the display area and dropping zone. Signpost clearly and keep vehicular entrances away from pedestrian access

  • Do not allow any spectators to enter the site with their own fireworks and clearly display signs to this effect at each entrance

  • Fireworks should be stored in a metal container and removed one at a time with the lid replaced each time

  • Fireworks which fail to ignite should not be returned to the metal container and no attempt should be made to relight them

  • Fireworks should only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions

  • Firefighting equipment, such as extinguishers, buckets of water and sand, should be available close by

  • Crowds should be controlled at a safe distance behind barriers and the wind direction taken into account when setting the display

Bonfires

  • Keep the bonfire well away from any fireworks display

  • Dangerous rubbish, such as foam-filled furniture, aerosols, tins of paint and bottles should not be burned

  • The bonfire should be stable and checked to ensure that it will not fall to one side

  • Paraffin, petrol or solvents should not be used to light the fire; use firelighters instead

  • Bonfires should be kept to a manageable size and additional materials to be burnt kept at a safe distance

  • The bonfire should be under the control of a responsible adult, and one person should be in charge of all safety arrangements

  • Firefighting equipment should be available, such as a hose, fire extinguishers and buckets of water and sand

  • Qualified first aiders with suitable equipment should attend all organised bonfires and firework displays

  • Water should be poured on the embers of the fire and the site should not be left until the bonfire is out and safe

These guidance notes are based on current legislation and we have tried to make them thorough and informative.

If you require any further assistance, please contact the relevant organisations mentioned in the notes.

This advice is given in good faith and is based on our understanding of current law and practice. Neither Ecclesiastical, nor its subsidiaries accept any liability whatsoever for any errors or omissions which may
result in injury, loss or damage, including consequential or financial loss. It is the responsibility of the Insured or any other person to ensure that they comply with their legal responsibilities and any interpretation or implementation of this guidance is at the sole discretion of the Insured or other party who may read these notes.

Full advice can be found in our fire guidance notes. For more information call 0345 777 3322.
Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.