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The obligations of retailers in the build-up to bonfire night

Although the fast approaching bonfire night reminds us that many retailers will be storing fireworks the fact is that fireworks are no longer restricted to this traditional time of the year as they are also used to celebrate birthdays, the New Year and religious festivals.

A famous rhyme urges people to 'remember, remember the 5th of November,' and there are several important things that retailers need to bear in mind when storing fireworks.

 The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced guidance for anyone storing fireworks and advises businesses to take carry out a risk assessment and ensure several key questions are addressed in the process.

How could a fire start? How could it spread? And what do I need to do to protect people if there is a fire?

Subsequently, actions need to be taken to prevent a fire starting, stop any fire spreading and protect people in the event of a fire.

Employees who may be involved with fireworks should be made aware of the risk assessment and be given the appropriate training.

Under the Fireworks Regulations 2004 there are two categories of supplier – those 'licensed' for all year round supply or those ‘registered’ for supplying fireworks in the following periods – November 5th (October 15th to November 10th) New Year (December 26th to Decemer 31st), Chinese New Year (the day of the Chinese New Year and 3 days immediately before), Diwali - the day of Diwali and three days immediately before. This is in addition to any licence or registration allowing fireworks to be stored.

The Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005 carry guidance on how retailers should deal with the storage of fireworks on their premises.

Retailers must be registered or licensed (depending on the quantities involved) to sell fireworks and, unless kept for private use, it is an offence to keep more than 5Kg Net Explosive Quantity of fireworks on premises that have not been registered or licensed.

The responsibility for issuing a licence varies – in the Metropolitan counties it is the fire service while in other areas it is the local trading standards.

Once steps have been taken to ensure a retail premise is legally entitled to store and sell fireworks, additional precautions should be taken to ensure this can be done so safely.

The prevention of a fire is essential to this, and there are several common sense measures which can reduce the risk associated with storing and selling fireworks.

These include: removing sources of ignition where fireworks are stored, restricting entry to the storage area, keeping fireworks away from space heaters, and following suppliers' advice on returning unsold items.

Furthermore, fireworks should not be stored alongside caustic substances or products containing peroxides, nor should they be allowed to become wet or damp.

It is also of vital importance that retailers do not store more fireworks than their licence or registration states they are allowed to.

The HSE's guide on the matter also contains advice on preventing a fire from spreading, including leaving fireworks in their closed transport boxes until they are ready to be moved to the use of suitable storage and display cabinets.

In the event of a fire breaking out, it is imperative that escape routes and fire exits are kept clear to facilitate an easy departure from the building. Fire detection and alarm systems should be properly maintained and in working order, while staff need to be well-briefed on the correct procedures to follow when a fire occurs.

Full guidance can be obtained from the HSE's 'Storing and Selling Fireworks Safely' which is supported by 'Fireworks in shops – Retailers risk assessment checklist'. ADNFCR-2134-ID-800125735-ADNFCR