Fireworks – Fun or Fear?
Fireworks are about having fun, aren’t they?
Or at least, they certainly used to be. Thesedays firework use seems to be more and more associated with a loud, disturbing, unwanted nuisance at all times of the year. Nuisance not only for us, but for our pets and our children. They light the main fuse of one of the most annoying and disrupting disturbances around today.
November 5th, Bonfire Night, did this used to be the only night we’d hear fireworks? Maybe not, but increased instances of firework noise and disruption are more a part of our everyday lives than ever before. Birthdays, Celebrations and New Year bangers and crash have always been in existence, co-habiting with the more traditional 5th November celebrations, but do we hear them more and more throughout the year?
On the NFHiB Forums and recent news articles we certainly hear often about increased firework use and those that think it’s fun to annoy and attempt to hurt others with these deadly, ‘legal’ explosives. Pets as well as human beings are often the unwilling victims of firework misuse.
So, have fireworks turned into a 365 day a year occurrence? It can certainly feel that way sometimes. With increased use of fireworks and what seems to be, increased accessibility of being able to buy the products over the shop counter or illegally through the ‘black market’, we think this situation is becoming the ‘legal’ explosive menace of the UK today.
What have fireworks got to do with a Neighbour From Hell Problem?
Often, anti-social behaviour is linked to Neighbour From Hell problems, such anti-social behaviour is regularly linked and associated with a whole host of other Neighbour From Hell issues. With one, often comes the other. So with anti-social behaviour often comes the misuse of fireworks, both within local communities and on individual’s own properties.
Fireworks being used as weapons to be hurled like hand grenades on the streets of Britain seem to be commonplace thesedays. We only have to turn on the news, look at the internet or in the newspapers to see these kinds of events almost every day. At NFHiB, the News section, we list these kinds of events and other antisocial behaviours that people experience regularly throughout their lives.
How many more tragedies does it take to lift the firework problem from our society?
Not only do the adults, children and young people in our communities need to take responsibility for this problem, it is for the law makers to also examine closely. The government and police forces should actively tackle the firework problem, and proactively deal with this explosive situation once and for all.
Neighbour From Hell victims are often taunted, mocked and made subject to ongoing problems with firework misuse. Young people, children or adults that think it’s funny to ‘lob’ a banger into a garden, tie a roman candle to a cat, throw a rocket at a passing car or pedestrian and even ignite a firework through a letterbox.
Neighbours From Hell can use fireworks carelessly in their gardens and properties to annoy their neighbours, with repetitive loud bangs and wallops. They think it’s hilarious to inflict yet more noise damage and trauma on their victims. Well, we don’t think it’s hilarious, we don’t think it’s funny and we think it’s about time this public problem was extinguished, permanently.
Fireworks and their Origins
In the very beginnings the ancient population of past China employed the use of fireworks at festivals and to also scare their enemies during battle.
According to legend, the Chinese population were making the earliest fireworks during the 800’s; they would fill up bamboo shoots using gunpowder and ignite these during New Year periods. The bamboo shoots seem to have been primarily used and explosively lit to frighten off spirits with evil intent.
Marco Polo is then rumoured to have introduced the firework origins and idea within Europe.
Other ideas around the origins of fireworks and their use also stem from India and the Arab communities. Firework existence is widely known to have become apparent in the European areas during the 1300’s and by the 1400’s, Florence in Italy became the epicentre of manufacturing for fireworks. At a later stage from the 1700’s, firework displays became more and more ornate and dazzling, royals were particularly enthralled with the firework design.
Firework use today is normally extensive and they are in use for many different religious festivals, occasions and celebrations throughout the world.
Fireworks in their earliest use were more extensively used for their sounds, rather than colours and designs. During the development of fireworks more and more combinations of chemical compounds and oxygen amounts were discovered to aid the visual enjoyment of the firework experience.
During the 1830’s, the people of Italy began the multi-coloured displays we are familiar with today in 2003. The Italians combined tiny amounts of different metals to burn at extremely high temperatures to display amazing colours and effects.
For the UK, November 5th, ‘Guy Fawkes Day’ (or ‘Bonfire Night’) is steeped in tradition. The 5th of November notes the anniversary of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ which involved a conspiracy in 1605, in which the English Parliament was designated to be the victim of an explosive plot with their intended destruction.
King James I was also an intended recipient of the explosion by Guy Fawkes (a soldier who previously had been in service at Flanders) and his associates and they planned this event to occur while the King was in presence to open Parliament.
Guy Fawkes’ co-conspirators – Robert Catesby, John Wright, and Thomas Winter, who were the originators; Christopher Wright, Robert Winter, Robert Keyes, Thomas Percy, John Grant, Sir Everard Digby, Francis Tresham, Ambrose Rookwood, and Thomas Bates were all foiled in their plans to blow up Parliament.
Fireworks and Legislation – Section A:
Fireworks should not be sold by anyone to people who are under the age of 18 years old according to the The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997.
Sellers of fireworks must register their premises with the local Trading Standards Department or their Fire Authority. Firework sellers must follow formal storage/display and packaging guidelines for all types of firework.
Failure to comply with any listed requirements could well result in a prosecution and a fine of up to £5000 and also a prison sentence of up to six months, or both.
There are two distinct categories of fireworks and The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations of 1997 indicate the fireworks that can be supplied to members of the public. Other types of fireworks under the 1997 Regulations can only be given to a group of individuals and organisations that are within a restricted category.
Only the following kinds of fireworks can be supplied and sold to persons who are under 18 (caps, cracker
snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents and throwdowns must not be supplied to people who are under 16):
The following fireworks must not be supplied to the general public:
- Aerial shells, aerial maroons, shells-in-mortar and maroons- in-mortar
- All bangers (including ‘batteries’ containing bangers, such as Chinese Crackers)
- Fireworks with erratic flight (e.g. ground spinners, jumping crackers, squibs)
- Some Category 2 and 3 fireworks (as classified by BS 7114) which exceed size limits specified in the 1997 Regulations
- All Category 4 fireworks
- It is also recommended that sparklers are not given to Children under 5 years old (the heat from sparklers can be many more times hotter than boiling point).
Retail Selling of Fireworks
Within a code of practice that is voluntary, the fireworks industry has made an agreement that fireworks should only appear to be generally on sale to members of the public during the three weeks before November 5th and a short period following this date. There is also an understanding that fireworks should also only be sold between the dates of 8th December and January 1st.
How to report retailers for breaking the guidelines?
Contact your local trading standards office. You can find your local office by typing in your postcode at GOV.UK.
Fireworks and Legislation – Section B
Within specific situations it can constitute an actual offence to cause a disturbance with fireworks.
Legislation that directly applies to fireworks (and indeed Bonfire Nuisance) is the Noise Act 1996 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Main Legislation – Fireworks
Legislation: The 1997 Firework (Safety) Regulations
These regulations were made originally on an emergency basis. They were permanently set into law in 1997. Includes prohibitions and restrictions on firework sales as previously discussed.
Legislation: Town Police Clauses Act 1847 Section 28
Stipulates: ‘It is an offence for any person, in any street and to the obstruction, annoyance or danger of the residents or passengers, to throw or set fire to any firework’.
Legislation: Explosives Act 1875 Section 31
Stipulates: ‘It is an offence for a person to sell gunpowder to any person apparently under the age of 16 years’.
Legislation: Explosives Act 1875 Section 80
Stipulates: ‘It is an offence for a person to throw, cast or fire any firework in or into any highway, street, thoroughfare, or public place’.
Legislation: Explosives Act 1875 Section 131
Stipulates: ‘It is an offence for a person, without lawful authority or excuse, to discharge any firework within 50 feet of the centre of a highway which consists of or comprises a carriageway, and in consequence thereof the highway is damaged’.
Legislation: Explosives Act 1875 Section 161
Stipulates: ‘It is an offence for a person, without lawful authority or excuse, to discharge any firework within 50 feet of the centre of a highway which consists of or comprises a carriageway, and in consequence thereof a user of the highway is injured, interrupted, or endangered’.
Legislation: Sporting Events (Control of Alcohol etc) Act 1985, Section 2A (1)
Stipulates: ‘It is an offence for a person, without lawful authority , to have in his possession any firework’:
i) ‘at any time during the period of a designated sporting event when he is in any area of a designated sports ground from which the event may be directly viewed, or’
ii) ‘while entering or trying to enter a designated sports ground at any time during the period of a designated sporting event at the ground’.
The government is currently supporting new restrictions and measures to control the use and sale of fireworks through the Fireworks Bill which is in current progress.
Melanie Johnson, Consumer Minister has backed this private member’s bill which has had the introduction from MP, Bill Tynan, Labour.
Melanie Johnson has said:
“This new bill, which the government is supporting, will provide a raft of new powers to control the misuse of fireworks.”
The noisiest fireworks would be made illegal and a ban placed on firework use during “anti-social” hours.
“There is too much noise, with fireworks being let off late into the night and lasting for far too long beyond the traditional fireworks season”.
View the Fireworks Bill 2003
Firework Injuries In Great Britain: 2001 (4 Week Period In October – November)
Source: DTI – Home Safety Network
Place of accident:
1. Family or private party = 598
2. Semi public party (e.g. scouts, club) = 73
3. Large public display = 158
4. Casual incident in street or other public place = 442
5. Indoors = 17
6. Other = 40
7. Not Specified = 34
Type of firework:
1. Banger = 114
2. Rocket = 264
3. Air Bomb = 102
4. Roman Candle = 120
5. Sparkler = 136
6. Other proprietary fireworks = 117
7. Home made or extracted powder = 14
8. Not known (not bonfires) = 494
9. Not Specified = 1
TOTAL = 1362
Neighbours From Hell in Britain recommends this to keep yourself and your pets more protected during firework periods and other ‘seasonal nuisances’ such as Halloween:
Seal up your letter box and cat flaps where appropriate. This can help unwanted items falling and coming into your home.
Close curtains and blinds: To prevent firework flashes from upsetting your pets and you.
Turn the television on: To help drown out firework noises for you and your animals.
Make sure that your pets/animals are inside, especially on November 5th and the weekends of the 1st/2nd & 8th/9th November.
Clean up leaves in your garden. Stray fireworks could ignite these deliberately or accidentally.
Report illegally trading firework retailers to your trading standards and Police where appropriate.
Report misuse of fireworks (according to legislation) to your local police and insist this is recorded and acted upon wherever possible.
Remember, follow the Firework Safety Code (below) if you are using Fireworks.
If you’re planning your own display, remember this, it could save your life or someone else’s –
“The Firework Safety Code”
Source: DTI – Home Safety Network
- Only buy fireworks marked BS 7114.
- Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks.
- Keep fireworks in a closed box.
- Follow the instructions on each firework.
- Light them at arm’s length, using a taper.
- Stand well back.
- Never go near a firework that has been lit. Even if it hasn’t gone off, it could still explode.
- Never put fireworks in your pocket or throw them.
- Always supervise children around fireworks.
- Light sparklers one at a time and wear gloves.
- Never give sparklers to a child under five.
- Keep pets indoors.