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Information for traders: storing explosives and selling fireworks

Document summary

Date: March 2021

Document summary

If you store fireworks, bird scarers and ammunition it is likely you will require a licence from the local authority: East Sussex County Council Trading Standards.
Our Trading Standards service has prepared this leaflet to help businesses. It is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. For further advice please contact us:

Trading Standards
County Hall
Floor D, West Block
St Anne’s Crescent

Fax: 01323 463422
Telephone: Telephone: 0345 60 80 197
Email: Trading Standards team

Selling and storing explosives

If you storing more than 5kg fireworks, bird scarers and ammunition, you require a licence from Trading Standards. 

The licence is granted to a person (or company) and not to the site. With agreement from the Licensing Authority a Licence may last up to 5 years.  

The quantities in the Regulations refer to Net Explosive Quantity (NEQ). NEQ is the quantity of the actual explosive contained within the product and is sometimes also referred to as Net Explosive Content (NEC) or Powder Weight (PW). It is the responsibility of the person storing explosives to know this, it can usually be found on outer packaging and/or documents from suppliers.

Who needs to be licensed

A licence is required if storing: 

  • between 5kg and 2,000kg of explosives if this includes hazard type 1 and 2 explosives
  • between 5kg and 2,000kg of hazard type 3 explosives
  • between 5kg and 2,000kg of combination of hazard type 3 and hazard type 4 explosives
  • between 5kg and 2,000kg of hazard type 4 explosives or
  • between 5kg and 2,000kg of small arms ammunition and percussion caps. 

This includes both the amount held on the shop floor and at the rear of the premises.

Most fireworks in retail premises are Hazard Type 4, but if in doubt please contact your supplier. 

If you store less than 5kg of explosives, then there is no need to be licensed, but you should still ensure you are storing safely. 

In addition to the need to ensure safe storage of explosives, if you are keeping more than 250kg of Hazard Type 4 explosives (1.4G or 1.4S), or more than 25kg of any combination of Hazard Type 3 and 4 there are additional restrictions on where these can be stored. They must be kept in a separate building or container and the ‘Separation Distances’ specified in Schedule 5 of The Explosives Regulations 2014 must be followed. 

In the case of fireworks, most for retail sale are Hazard Type 4, but some may be Hazard Type 3 (boxes of which are usually marked 1.3G). If you are storing any Hazard Type 3 explosives your entire stock should be treated as such and therefore if more than 25kg are in one place, you are also subject to separation distances from other buildings, accommodation or public areas.

General storage requirements

If storing explosives, you must take appropriate measures to: 

  • prevent fire or explosion
  • limit the extent of fire or explosion including measures to prevent the spreading of fires and the communication of explosives from one location to another, and
  • to protect persons from the effects of fire or explosion. 

Also, no person who stores explosives shall permit a person under 18 years to work in that storage except under appropriate supervision. 

All explosives must be stored in a suitable place depending on the quantity and type of explosives being kept. The key principles are to ensure that the store, container or cupboard is, where appropriate: 

  • suitably waterproof
  • designed to ensure that explosives do not come into contact with substances with which they are incompatible
  • kept clean with steps taken to prevent grit entering unpackaged explosives
  • used only to keep explosives and tools/implements connected with the keeping of explosives. 

Suitable precautions must be taken to exclude possible sources of ignition such as matches, smoking materials, grit, rust and other contaminants. 

Fireworks should be kept in closed transport packaging and only opened when needed, unless on display in a cabinet. 

It is not good practice to decant loose fireworks into metal dustbins. There is a danger that the articles will become mixed up or damaged with loose compound collecting at the bottom of the dustbin. 

Where fireworks are kept in a warehouse (or similar room or building) that holds significant quantities of other combustible materials, the storage should be either: 

a) in an ISO transport container (or similar fully enclosed metal structure)

b) using storage cupboards or cabinets

c) building a structural partition

d) using a wire mesh screen or cage or

e) metal dustbins (provided fireworks are kept in their transport packaging) 

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has produced two overarching guidance documents, L150 on Safety of Explosives and L151 on the Security of Explosives. Additional sub-sector guidance will also be published on their website when it becomes available (including storing fireworks in retail premises which expands on this leaflet and provides useful guidance for anyone who stores and sells fireworks to the public).

See Explosives Regulations 2014 - subsector guidance

Selling fireworks

The following guidance is not exclusive to fireworks and much of it applies equally to other explosives, however it is written principally to give advice to those storing who have a Licence to store fireworks. Please contact us if you would like particular advice on the storage or sale of other explosives. 

Please note: a Licence under The Explosives Regulations 2014 is to store explosives, separate restrictions control the sale of fireworks, please see below.

Storage and display in shop sales area

Explosives on the shop floor must be kept in a designated area well away from sources of ignition), and in a display case or storage cupboard or cabinet. 

Smoking must not be allowed anywhere where explosives are stored or sold. 

Display cases/storage cabinets must be designed to protect against sparks or other sources of ignition. No other goods should be kept in the cabinet/case except any instruction leaflets/safety literature. Lights or electrical fittings in cabinets/cases must be disconnected. 

Each storage cabinet or display case must hold no more than 12.5kg (NEQ).

Quantities in sales area

Maximum quantities that may be kept in the sales area of premises
Floor area of sales area (square metres) Quantity of explosives (kg)
not exceeding 20 12.5
not exceeding 40 15
not exceeding 60 20
not exceeding 80 25
not exceeding 100 30
not exceeding 150 35
not exceeding 200 40
not exceeding 250 45
not exceeding 300 50
not exceeding 350 55
not exceeding 400 60
not exceeding 450 65
not exceeding 499 70
equal to or exceeding 500 75

Larger amounts may be kept at some stores where separation distances apply and different amounts may be allowed in such cases. Please contact us if you require further advice.

Storage adjoining or in the same building as domestic/sleeping accommodation

If more than 75kg of Hazard Type 4, or any Hazard Type 3, are kept in a store within or adjoining, a building containing domestic/sleeping accommodation, suitable steps must be taken to protect residents of those premises in the event of a fire. The following precautions must be taken: 

a) a fire detection system must be installed in the shop

b) the domestic parts of the building must have access/exit routes that are fire-separated from those used for the pyrotechnic store

c) there must be suitable fire separation between the pyrotechnic store and the domestic accommodation, and 

d) the store must be closed off and secured from the domestic part of the property in order to prevent unauthorised access and to help prevent accidental introduction of sources of ignition.

Risk Assessments

Licence holders should carry out or update their risk assessments to identify and implement appropriate measures that need to be considered when fireworks (or other explosives) are being stored. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has published a ‘Retailers Risk Assessment checklist’ for people who sell fireworks to help them carry out a Risk Assessment and plan what actions need to be taken to protect the safety of staff and customers. See further guidance on Selling & storing Fireworks.

Premises and sales

It is an offence: 

  • to keep explosives on premises which have not been registered with the local authority for that purpose. It is an offence to sell fireworks at market stalls, car boot sales or other temporary sales points.
  • to sell fireworks to persons under 18 years of age, and
  • to hawk, sell or expose for sale any fireworks upon any highway, street, or public place.

The maximum penalty for selling explosives to persons under the age of 18, is a £5,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment. Note that caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches, party poppers, serpents and throw downs must not be supplied to persons under 16.

The following fireworks must not be supplied to the general public: 

  • air bombs, aerial shells, aerial maroons, shell-in-mortar and maroons-in-mortar
  • all bangers (including “batteries” containing bangers, such as Chinese Crackers)
  • mini rockets
  • fireworks with erratic flight (e.g. ground spinners, jumping jacks, squibs)
  • all category 4 (i.e. F4) fireworks
  • Fireworks marked BS7114:Part 2 

The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015 contain a duty for distributors to act with due care.  This includes ensuring that products they sell are accompanied by safety information which is intended to be provided with them.

All consumer fireworks sold in the UK must comply with Part 2 of the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015, which includes the need for them to be CE marked.

Fireworks Regulations 2004

These regulations require that suppliers of fireworks to the public display in a prominent position an A3 notice stating the following:

It is illegal to:

  1. Sell adult fireworks or sparklers to anyone under 18
  2. Or for anyone under 18 to possess adult fireworks in a public place

Such notices will usually be provided by or be available from your firework supplier. 

Important notes

It is your responsibility to ensure you are aware of, and complying with the regulations governing manufacture and storage of explosives. 

The licensing authority will normally visit your premises before granting a new registration. The authority may prohibit storage of explosives at the site if it believes the site is unsafe. It may also take enforcement action if you are not storing safely. 

New applications may also require the involvement of the local planning authority. 

If you are planning to sell fireworks outside the following periods of the year:

  • 15 October to 10 November
  • 26 December to 31 December
  • On the first day of Chinese New Year and the 3 days immediately preceding it
  • On the day of Diwali and the 3 days immediately preceding it

You will also need a year round sales Licence under the Fireworks Regulations 2004 at a cost of £500. For further information or to make an application for a year round sales licence, please contact us.