In this article I’ll look at how to store your fireworks safely at home along with the current legal limits for each class of consumer firework.
Basic storage advice
At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, I must start by stressing that fireworks are explosives and should be treated with great care and respect.
When storing fireworks at home the main things to ensure are:
Sources of heat or ignition include heaters, naked flames and people smoking (including e-cigarettes and vaping). Never smoke while handling fireworks.
It is essential that your fireworks are kept dry to prevent damage. Beware of storing fireworks outside in sheds which can get damp and avoid anywhere with significant changes of temperatures including greenhouses, conservatories and lofts which could result in condensation.
Some more useful advice:
Storing your fireworks at a retailer
One advantage of using a specialist fireworks retailer is that many are willing to store your fireworks for you. This is particularly the case with early orders (for example, to take advantage of discounts).
Most retailers who can store your order will do so away from the retail shop itself, so will need a few days notice to prepare your fireworks for collection from their shop.
Retailers are very strictly limited on overall storage space so are less likely to be able to store your order the closer to Bonfire Night you are. Also be aware that retailers need the maximum amount of storage space for walk-in customers on and around Bonfire Night so will usually ask for stored orders to be collected before this peak period.
Note: Most seasonal sellers such as supermarkets and similar offer no storage at all. It’s a discretionary service offered only by specialist all-year shops (and not a legal requirement for them to do so).
Taking delivery closer to your display date
If you are having your fireworks delivered, it is worth asking your supplier to deliver closer to your planned display date. This can help massively in keeping your storage legal in terms of time and explosive limits (see below). For example a big order for a Bonfire Night display made in July and delivered then would need to be stored by you for all of that time, potentially taking you beyond the 21 day time limit for larger amounts of explosives. The same order delivered mid-October however would only need to be stored for a few weeks.
Many retailers do in fact prefer early orders to be delivered in October (assuming for Guy Fawkes displays) because they can pick and pack multiple orders and in some cases utilise their own delivery vans.
In my experience, many mail order suppliers like to get their early orders delivered around mid-October to ensure everything is safely delivered well before the mad rush around November 5th.
Fireworks storage – the legal side summarised
UK firework storage laws are governed by the Explosive Regulations 2014 which determines the legal limits for what you can store and for how long. As you will see if you read this legislation (e.g. Section 7, “Authorisation to store explosives”), different limits are given for Hazard Type 3 (HT3) or Hazard Type 4 (HT4) fireworks. So you will need to know what Hazard Type your fireworks are.
When you buy fireworks, aside from their category (Category F2 or Category F3 which is irrelevant in storage terms) they will be classed as either 1.4G or 1.3G. This is usually printed on the sides of their boxes if they come in their own cartons and your retailer will often promote 1.3G fireworks as such because they are more powerful than 1.4G fireworks. This classification relates to transportation and is printed in a large orange diamond on the carton (it’s hard to miss!).
Fortunately, it is safe to assume that 1.4G fireworks are Hazard Type 4 and 1.3G fireworks are Hazard Type 3. This is the assumption used for the remainder of this article however you should consult your fireworks supplier for confirmation of the exact hazard types of the fireworks you are buying.
All storage quantities relate to the Net Explosive Content, or NEC of the firework. This is not the same as the firework’s gross weight. For example, a firework may weigh 5kg but the actual NEC may only be 0.5kg. The NEC of each firework is printed on its instruction label and also on the outer box if supplied in one.
The limits for storing fireworks at home are:
1.4G Fireworks (assuming HT4):
Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time.
Up to 50kg NEC – store for up to 21 consecutive days provided they are not for sale or use at work.
Up to 250kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use.
Any amount for up to 24 hours.
Although these weights might not sound very much, remember they refer to the explosive content of the fireworks and not their gross (overall) weight. Taking this into account, these limits are actually quite liberal for 1.4G fireworks.
1.3G Fireworks (assuming HT3):
Up to 5kg NEC – store for an unlimited time.
Up to 100kg NEC – store for up to 5 consecutive days and in their place of intended use.
Any amount for up to 24 hours.
As you can see the limits for 1.3G fireworks are considerably more restrictive.
Where there is a mix of 1.4G and 1.3G fireworks they are treated as if they were all 1.3G. In practical terms this means if 99% of your fireworks are labelled as 1.4G and you have a single 1.3G firework then legally all of your fireworks would be viewed for the purposes of storage as 1.3G and therefore the limits for 1.3G would apply.
Splitting up your fireworks order
I am occasionally asked if it is legal to split up a fireworks order into smaller quantities and store them in different locations around your property. My understanding of the legislation is that the limits apply “per site” rather than specific locations within that site. So storing some in the garage, shed and house would be considered as one overall site, not three individual ones.
If your firework quantities are likely to take you above the legal limits then talk to your supplier. As stated above, many are willing to store your fireworks until closer to your display date or deliver them when needed.
If you are part of a committee putting on a village or community display or similar and have to take your fireworks delivery early, some of your fireworks could be stored on site (such as the village hall) and some could be split between various committee members. This is not about fudging the laws on storage, it’s about breaking up the fireworks into less hazardous – and legal – quantities and storing them in completely different areas to mitigate any risks.
Storing larger quantities or for longer time
If your storage of fireworks will exceed the above limits either in terms of time or NEC, or if you want to store fireworks for commercial reasons, you may be required to register your fireworks storage or apply for a storage licence. This is done with your local licensing authority. This will usually be either Trading Standards or the local Fire Authority and they will be able to advise you further. Local authorities can grant a licence to store up to a maximum of 2000kg NEC HT3 or HT4. The licence may be issued for up to five years and fees will apply. Remember this will not apply to the vast majority of home users of consumer fireworks!
Storage of HT4 and HT3 at legal and licensed premises is subject to certain separation distances between the storage area and surrounding buildings or places. Separation distances only come in to play for >250kg HT4 or >25kg HT3. To see the tables of distance, refer to the regulations.
If you are looking to store more than 2000kg NEC then you would need to apply to HSE directly. The process is far more involved and proper advice needs to taken. All HSE licensed sites require Local Authority Assent, basically a notice to the local populace and acceptance of your proposal. The whole process can be quite lengthy.
Changes to the regulations
It must be stressed that fireworks laws and regulations can and do change. This article should only be considered as correct at the time of going to press (Mid-2021) and is not a substitute for up to date advice from your fireworks supplier or local licensing authority.
Disclaimer: This article is intended as a guide only. It is your responsibility to ensure you store your fireworks legally and I accept no responsibility if the information here is wrong. Please consult the above links, your retailer or your local licensing authority if you require formal clarification of UK fireworks storage laws.
With thanks to the UKFR members who helped research and write this article, in particular UKFR forum member TGR.