I can’t remember when the shops first started to sell fireworks to the general public, maybe it happened gradually with the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury’s along with most of the DIY chains seeing an opportunity to take a share of this growing market; the UK industry alone is worth £64m with around £40m being spent in early November.
Although the UK’s manufacturing role has diminished as a result of cheaper imports and the only firework producer left is Kimbolton Fireworks of Cambridgeshire who deal in the bigger commercial displays. The big business is in China where it is a £4billion industry with 90% of the world’s fireworks being produced there.
That opens up a whole new can of worms given China’s horrendous safety record; Nanyang Export Fireworks Factory in south China’s Hunan province caught fire in September 2014 killing or injuring the mostly female workforce.
So notwithstanding the moral dilemma of buying these cheap imports thereby ensuring the continuation of this kind of disaster, it seems to me that since the Millennium everyone wants to have their own private firework party. Gone are the days when we would all join friends and neighbours at the local display or buy a ticket to our children’s school bonfire night, for some reason we all feel the need to fill our own little patch of sky with colour and smoke risking life and limb, annoying the neighbours and scaring everyone’s pets.
Of course there are many who think the whole affair is a complete waste of money and resources and we are literally sending our money up in smoke – the UK spent in excess of £350m in 2015. For the second year running strap cashed Birmingham City Council will not be holding their previously annual event and they are among several local councils who have stopped organising displays.
RULES & REGULATIONS
But if you are going to hold your own private display how easy is it to buy fireworks and what are the rules and regulations?
You can buy fireworks from registered sellers between 15 October – 10 November, 26 – 31 December and 3 days before the Chinese New Year or Diwali. Otherwise you can buy them only from licensed shops. There are numerous online shops too including Epic Fireworks that rather bizarrely has an image of Stephen Hawking surrounded by fireworks on its homepage.
Then there are the four categories:
- Category F1 – a low hazard with negligible noise level intended for use in confined areas and inside domestic buildings i.e. indoor fireworks
- Category F2 – a low hazard with low noise level intended for outdoor use in confined areas i.e. garden fireworks
- Category F3 – a medium hazard with noise level that is not harmful to human health and cannot exceed 102 decibels intended for outdoor use in large open areas such as fields
- Category F4 – a high hazard intended for use only by specialists with noise level not harmful to human health i.e. professional displays for large open spaces
The legislation is varied and includes the Explosives Act 1875 where it is an offence to throw or discharge a firework in a street or public place and where the police can enforce a fixed penalty of £90.
Regulation 7 restricts the time fireworks can be set off in line with the Noise Act 1996; the curfew is from 11pm to 7am with a few exceptions including 5 November when it starts at midnight, New Year’s Eve at 1am the following day along with the Chinese New Year and Diwali.
Flouting this rule could lead to a fine of up to £5,000 and/or six months in prison. However, I haven’t heard of anyone being charged for this offence and I doubt the police have the manpower or the finance to ensure it is adhered to.
NOT IN YOUR BACKYARD
So given the deplorable lack of workers’ rights and the dangerous work practices of China, the rules and regulations along with annoying your neighbours, perhaps your money would be better spent contributing to your local display where you can enjoy the sight and sounds without the worry and put the money you’ve saved towards Christmas.
Remember remember the 5th of November just forget about doing it in your back garden.