A guide to Bonfire Night Safety
Bonfire Night – a special time of the year when millions of people gather with friends and family to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night with fanciful fireworks displays and huge bonfires. Of course, this is cause for celebration across the country, but bonfire night safety should always remain a priority for all those planning to mark the occasion by hosting a planned event.
The misuse of fireworks can lead to serious injury. Adhering to guidelines such as the firework code, taking heed of bonfire regulations, and seeking expert advice on how to plan your bonfire night event safely and properly will help preserve the safety of both you and your guests.
There are many things to consider from a safety perspective when planning a bonfire event. As such, we have put together this comprehensive guide that details all components of bonfire night safety, so you have everything covered when it comes to planning your bonfire night extravaganza.
Things to consider on Bonfire Night
So, what exactly is meant by bonfire night safety, and how can it be implemented to ensure your event runs smoothly? There are many considerations to think about, and forward planning is crucial. Having a strategy months in advance is the ideal preparation, so you can contact all relevant parties, seek advice and put in any contingency plans should they be necessary.
The obvious starting point is considering what events you are planning to include as part of your celebration. Firework displays and bonfires require safety guidelines that must be strictly adhered to in order to minimise risk. Carry out a risk assessment prior to the event, so you can consider all eventualities and determine what the best course of action is to take. Below are all the details you should consider when carrying out your risk assessment.
Bonfire Night Safety – Risk Assessment
Depending on the type of event you intend to hold will determine the initial approach. If you are an organisation intending to hold a public event with many spectators, then you will need to consult the advice of professionals. Smaller events at local places will still require an efficient plan and sign-off from local authorities, however, the same level of detail and planning will not be required.
The starting point for your risk assessment should be any hazards that could pose a risk to safety. The location of your event will determine how much risk there is, but you should always ensure there is a good open space for any bonfire or firework display, well away from any houses, trees and people. Ensure the following points are considered when outlining the potential fire hazards.
- Location – are there nearby properties, woodland, and grassy areas that could catch fire and spread quickly from any flames and embers?
- Consider how rogue or faulty fireworks may impact the surrounding area.
- Sparklers are always a firm favourite with guests at a bonfire event. Consider mishandled sparklers and their potential impact.
Attendees and risk
You will need to consider the risk of those attending the event as a starting point. Also, consider the risk posed for people who will be running the firework display and lighting the bonfire.
You may need to consult neighbours or those close by, other businesses for example, if your event is in close proximity to housing. Equally, you will need to be mindful of pets or any farm animals that may be located near to your event that could potentially be frightened by any firework explosions.
Assign roles for the event
Before the event, you will need to have assigned duties and responsibilities to people who are trustworthy and qualified where necessary. Fireworks can be handled by members of the public, as long as they are classified in category one, two or three. Category four fireworks must be handled by a professional firework display operator.
Make sure you have someone on standby with medical expertise, should injuries on site occur. If the event is smaller, you will still require somebody to be responsible for calling a paramedic should this be needed. If possible, it may be worth liaising with a local paramedic and getting permission to have somebody on site prior to the event. Emergency services are likely to be extremely busy on the night of the event, so having this arranged could be valuable.
Purchase and storage of fireworks
Buying your fireworks from a reputable supplier is always advisable. That way, they can give you the expertise and information needed to ensure the use of any fireworks purchased is done safely and appropriately.
Upon purchase, arrange for the fireworks to be stored in a safe place away from any flammable materials or other potential combustible elements. Discuss any concerns or queries you have with your fireworks supplier either before or at the time of purchase, as they will be able to advise on what you need to do.
Inform your audience of all your safety measures
Throughout your event, you should have safety information displayed on signs that communicate all safety measures to all your guests explicitly. Such signs can include information on where you should and shouldn’t stand when observing a firework display, or warning signs for guests not to get too near to the bonfire.
Equally, all fire safety measures should be outlined visibly so people are aware of any precautions and measures they may need to take.
Fireworks are a great source of entertainment and certainly contain a ‘wow’ factor, but they can also be extremely dangerous if misused. Every year, there are thousands of reported injuries in the UK related to fireworks and bonfires. The majority of hospital admissions come during the peak season in October and November, around Halloween and Bonfire Night. If you are planning on incorporating a firework display as part of your bonfire celebrations, then it is imperative to follow the firework code of conduct to ensure safety.
New guidelines have been published to replace the old HSG 123 and HSG 124 framework relating to planned firework display events. There are now two separate documents that should be followed depending on the type of event you are planning.
- Red Firework Guide – If you are planning on giving your own firework display, then you will need to follow the guidelines set out in the Red Firework guide.
- Blue Firework Guide – The Blue Firework guide sets out guidelines for major public events, usually run by professional firework operators.
Regardless of how big your event is, misuse of fireworks can occur and cause serious problems for attendees. To preserve the safety of all, it is imperative that a firework code of conduct is followed at all times. Brief anybody who will be handling the fireworks or lighting them prior to the event, or distribute a copy of this physically or via email so that everybody is aware of what measures to take.
Firework code of conduct
There are slight variations of the firework code of conduct, but generally, these ten points are the standard requirements that you should ensure you, your fellow organisers, and all attendees must follow for the duration of the event.
- Only purchase fireworks from a professional, reputable supplier. Guidelines state that all fireworks must comply with British Standards and be conformity marked in order to meet health and safety requirements.
- You should have already located a designated area where the firework display will take place. Fireworks should be set off well away from spectators and any surrounding dwellings. Also, ensure the angle of the fireworks is away from any spectators or buildings in the event of a firework that doesn’t set off correctly.
- Make sure all your spectators are safely guarded away from the fireworks. There should be a dividing barrier between those responsible for setting the fireworks off and the rest of the attendees. Children should be supervised at all times.
- Ensure all fireworks are kept in a closed box, ideally the one they came in upon purchase. Fireworks should be taken out individually at the point of use rather than being emptied as one.
- When lighting fireworks, always make sure they are lit at arm’s length. Using a taper or a gaslighter is advisable. Stand back immediately once the firework is lit and warn all attendees the firework is lit.
- Never return to a firework once lit, regardless of if it looks like it could go off course once it releases. It may explode at any moment, and you and any attendees will be much safer by just letting it go off.
- Ensure you have read each firework instruction before use. All fireworks should be treated with care and set off correctly. Always take heed of any instructions displayed on your fireworks.
- Do not set fireworks off after 11 pm. As a planned event, a firework display should have a start and finish time. If fireworks are set off after unsociable hours, this will likely result in complaints from local residents.
- Do not use petrol or any type of flammable liquids to help either light or restore bonfires. You will quickly lose control of the fire, causing danger and making it harder to extinguish.
- At the end of the event, do a check of the venue. Make sure any potential hazards are removed or extinguished, such as an unlit sparkler, or fireworks and make sure the bonfire is completely out before leaving.
Disposing of Fireworks and Bonfires
After the event, you should ensure that you or someone responsible correctly dispose of all used materials. As per the firework code of conduct, the bonfire should be extinguished fully on the night of the event. It can be difficult to gather all waste materials due to darkness, so there should be a secondary check carried out the morning after the event to ensure all hazardous materials are gathered and disposed of safely.
All fireworks should be disposed of safely after use, including any that are spent, damaged or unused. Fireworks should be collected in a refuse bin and submerged in water for several hours. This will ensure the firework is non-explosive and eradicate any potential risk. Check for any specific instructions on the fireworks you have purchased with regards to the eventual disposal of them once soaked.
Bonfires should be extinguished by pouring cold water on them. Even if there are little to no flames remaining, ensuring your fire is completely out will ensure no embers are reignited.
Fire safety with UK Safety Management
Bonfire Night is enjoyed by millions of people across the country, so we want to ensure people can enjoy the festivities safely and responsibly. A fire risk assessment is a great way to ensure the safety of a planned firework display. Our experts can evaluate all potential hazards and risks before your event and offer their expertise and advice on what you should consider.
Aside from Bonfire Night, we know that fireworks displays are a great way to mark a special occasion or celebration. We can attend at any time to carry out our extensive fire risk assessments, ensuring your event is as safe as possible from any adverse effects of fire or fireworks.
For effective safeguarding at your bonfire event, contact us today to obtain a quote, discuss your options or get more information on our fire risk assessments. We’ll always be here to help!