WORKING TOGETHER ON FIREWORK DISPLAYS A guide to safety for by tyndale


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Bonfires and fireworks displays: Guidance for Suffolk Schools
Contents (this document has 10 pages)
Introduction:            The source of the information and the types of event it for which it is relevant.
Basics:                  The legal framework and responsibilities.
Organisation:            Key points and tasks to help with the preparation of the event.
Procedures:              Risk assessment, setting up, firing and clearing up.
Who to Contact:          Essential advice on making sure the right people know what‟s happening.
Site Facilities:         Covers site security, access and egress, supervision, communication & first aid.
Crowd safety:            Stewards and related matters.
Bonfires                 Basic advice
Last Minute Changes:     Check and actions to take just before the event.
References:              Useful publications by government and other agencies.
Websites:                Links to HSE and other useful sites.
Definitions:             Terms used in this document explained.
Contacts:                Some useful local addresses etc. for further advice.

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This guidance is based on advice issued by the Health and Safety Executive and other organisations. Suffolk County Council
commends it to you as good practice. If you follow the guidance you will normally be doing enough to comply with the law.
Although following the guidance is not compulsory you may be required to show that the steps you did take met the
requirements in some other way. Health and safety inspectors seek to secure compliance with the specific legislation and
may refer to this guidance and other Health and Safety Executive publications in determining whether breaches have

The advice covers two basic types of event:
1       Bonfires and/or fireworks displays which are run by a school (or a group of schools) without a specialist competent
        display operator.
2       Bonfires and/or fireworks displays which are managed by a external specialist competent display operator.

The guidance applies whether or not the event is run in association with a PTA or other community group. Similarly, the
guidance applies if the event is run for to raise funds for charity or for the school, PTA, etc.

NB: Even if the school‟s involvement is limited only to providing the venue for the event, the school must satisfy itself that
basic safety precautions and requirements are met. This guidance will assist schools to do this.

The advice does not cover in detail the display operator‟s responsibilities and duties. This is a specialist function and a
competent operator should not rely on this brief guide which is primarily intended for use by Suffolk schools.

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Fireworks displays run by schools, for schools or on school premises are covered by the general requirements of the
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The head teacher represents the employer. Generally speaking the head teacher
would be expected to ensure the event has been properly organised. The head is not expected to be an expert in
firework safety but should be satisfied that the guidance in this document has been followed. The head teacher may not
necessarily be the event safety officer.

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Organising an event can be a complicated task and it is recommended that a team of people shares the workload. Bear in
mind that liaising with the relevant authorities (Fire, Police, Local Council etc.) and people living near the display site can
be very time consuming.

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It is important to ensure that one person (event safety officer) has overall responsibility for health and safety at the display.
That person will usually be one of the organisers, and will be responsible for implementing a system for the management
of health and safety to ensure the organisers, the display operator and any other people working at the display, for
example a catering firm, comply with their duties under health and safety legislation. In most cases, none of the organisers
will be experts in setting up and firing fireworks and you are therefore advised to appoint a display operator to assist you
with firework safety matters.

It may be useful to have a formal contract which defines the extent of responsibility of yourselves and the operator. This is
particularly important if a professional fireworks display operator is engaged to run the event.

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Risk assessment
This is an essential part of the process and it must be recorded.

Both the organiser and the display operator should prepare a risk assessment. The display operator's assessment will
form a part of the organiser‟s overall risk assessment.
General guidance on risk assessment is given in the Health and Safety Executive leaflet “Five steps to risk assessment”
(Risk assessment)

The LEA has also produced general guidance on risk assessment which is on the Schools Portal

For a firework display you would need to do the following:
 Identify the hazards;
 Identify who might be harmed and how;
 Evaluate the risks;
 Identify appropriate and adequate precautions;
 Record the findings.

For the display operator the risk assessment need only cover the display itself and anything that might affect it.. The
display organiser needs to take account of every aspect of the event including any additional activities, such as the sale of
refreshments, crowd control, access for the emergency services etc.

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It is particularly important to go through this process in the following areas:
Display site location and layout
Is the layout and size of the firing area adequate, bearing in mind:
      the risk of the burning debris from one firework accidentally setting off another firework and endangering people
         and property;
      prevailing weather conditions;
      and the need for firers to be able to move safely out of the area etc?

Are the distances between the firing area and the spectator area adequate for the fireworks to be fired, taking into
     the risks from the malfunction of those fireworks;
     the effects of wind or rain on their range and trajectory and other eventualities?

Is the spectator area suitable for the anticipated size of the audience ?
 Consider how a limit on the numbers allowed to attend the display would be enforced.
 Are the barriers to segregate the firing area, safety area and the spectator areas sufficiently robust.
 What provision should be made to supervise the barriers.

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   How do the organisers, stewards and other people controlling the event communicate during the event.
   What arrangements are needed for the emergency services (first aid, fire etc) to gain access to the various areas
    should they be required ?

Setting up the fireworks
     Are the precautions to be taken while setting up the fireworks adequate, taking into account risks to those doing
     the work and other people, including the general public?
     Have the risks to people from the possible problems arising with shells and other fireworks which can explode
        violently, or which project debris, been fully considered, and adequate precautions taken?

Firing and clearing up
Have the risks associated with these operations for your display been fully considered and adequate precautions taken?

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The Display site

Definitions used in the text
The display site is the whole site used for the display and is made up of:
 the spectator area - where spectators watch the display;
 the safety area - a clear area between the spectators and the firing area to ensure spectators are at a safe
     distance from the fireworks during the display;
 the firing or display area - from which the fireworks are set off,
 the fall-out area (sometimes known as the dropping zone) - an area kept clear of people, where debris from spent
     aerial fireworks lands; and
 the bonfire area - the area provided for the bonfire (if there is to be one).
The diagram shows the location of these areas in relation to each other and the prevailing wind direction. The bonfire
site is not shown and in most cases will be in a safe place outside the areas shown below. Department of Trade and
Industry advice suggests they should be at least 18 metres away from houses, trees, hedges, fences or sheds.

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 Prevailing wind

This is not a scale diagram

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The table below gives guidance on minimum dimensions. The safety distances given will be adequate in many cases, but the
display operator may require greater distances for certain sizes or types of fireworks and must set out the rationale for the
type of display and the dimensions of the display area in the risk assessment.

In special circumstances the safety distances given in the table may not always be appropriate. In these cases it will be
necessary for the display operator to carefully assess the risks and decide on suitable spectator areas.

Ensure the site is free of dry, cut grass and other readily combustible materials

                      A          B        C         D                           E

                      50                                             As required, to prevent
    distance                   100*       25        50*
                    approx.                                               overcrowding

* The distances in columns B and D may have to be modified for certain types and sizes of firework

                           Locate this anywhere, provided it is:

                           • at least 15 m from other areas, buildings, roads, railways
                           and public rights of way;
  Bonfire area
                           • a safe distance from flammable or otherwise dangerous
                           materials (eg petrol, fuel oil, liquefied petroleum gas) and
                           overhead electric power lines; and
                           • downwind of spectators.

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It is advisable to contact the following well before the display and keep in touch as your plans proceed. Reconfirm your
arrangements on the day of the display. As a general rule, if you are unsure whether or not to get in touch with
anyone - get in touch with them.

Contact the police as soon as possible. Inform them of the location of the display site and its layout, including all entrances
and exits.

District or Borough Council
You may need to contact the local authority under entertainments and related legislation to ensure requirements on noise
nuisance and certain byelaws are met.

Suffolk County Council, (Fire Service and Trading Standards are now part of the county
council’s Public Protection Directorate)
Contact the fire service at least 28 days before the event. They will assist with general advice and resources relating to fire
safety. They may also discuss access fire crews may require, etc.

NB: The Fire Service will not take part in the actual running of the event and most particularly
will not assist with the lighting of bonfires.

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Your Insurer
It is important that your insurance cover is adequate for the event. In recent years insurance has been increasingly costly
and it is vital that the insurance for the organiser, the display operator and others involved are adequate and current. Your
insurer may impose higher conditions than the recommended minimum standards contained in this advice and it
is essential that these conditions are met to minimise liability. The advice in this document is primarily intended
to control the risk of injury.

Trading Standards staff have statutory functions relating to the storage of fireworks before the display. The place of
storage may need to be licensed or registered under explosives legislation.

Local institutions and neighbouring landowners/users:
In the interests of good public relations, inform local hospitals, old people's homes etc of the event.
Contact with neighbouring landowners or users at an early stage will enable them to move livestock where
Local people likely to be affected by the display may not be aware of it through local advertising. Contact such
as a leaflet drop is preferable to leaving them unaware of the nature, scale, timing and duration of the event

Local electricity distribution company
If the site has overhead power lines or they are near to the firing area or fall out area it is essential to contact local regional
electricity company for advice. If it is impossible to arrange the site so the firing and bonfire areas are well away from
obstructions, you may need to look for another site. In some cases the display operator may advise that certain types of
fireworks you have requested cannot be fired safely at your chosen display site.

If the display is to be held near the sea it is important to inform the local coastguard in advance. Aerial fireworks
could be mistaken for distress signals.

Harbour authority
Inform the harbour authority as soon as possible, and at least 24 hours in advance, if the display is to be
anywhere in a harbour area, or if the fireworks have to be taken through a harbour area to reach the display site.

If the display is to be held near an aerodrome, inform the airport authority at least seven days in advance.
Alternatively, contact the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Safety Regulation Group, Aviation House, Gatwick
Airport South, West Sussex RH6 OYR, particularly if you are unsure whether there are aerodromes near the
display site. Observe height restrictions laid down for aerial fireworks stipulated by the airport authority or CAA.

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 Keep spectators out of the safety, fall-out, bonfire and display areas by a suitable form of physical barrier.
 Check that fire-fighting facilities at the site are adequate and think about asking the fire service or a fire-
   fighting specialist for advice. The following is advised as a minimum:
   Have equipment for putting out small fires (eg fire extinguishers, buckets of water, fire blankets) available
   throughout the display site; and
 Ensure there is an adequate number of stewards who know how to use this equipment. Tell the stewards not
   to attempt to fight major fires.
 Provide at least two spectator exits from the site which are large enough, spaced well apart, clearly marked, kept free
   from obstructions and well lit.
 Keep agreed emergency service routes clear of obstruction and readily accessible at all times.
 A small public address system or loudspeaker will ensure announcements and instructions can be clearly heard by all
   spectators at larger displays. It is advisable to ensure the display operator, event safety officer and at least the senior
   stewards can keep in touch by radio or mobile phone.
 Provide at least one suitably equipped first-aid point, with a qualified first aider. Signpost it clearly and make it easily
   accessible to an ambulance. Ensure that you have suitable means available to contact the emergency services quickly
   should the need arise. A fully charged mobile phone with good signal strength is a minimum.

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   Provide suitable litter receptacles throughout the spectator area.
   Any car-parking area ought preferably to be well away from the display site and upwind of it (ie with the wind blowing
    from the car park towards the site). Do not allow parking anywhere else. The parking area needs to be clearly
    signposted, with vehicle and pedestrian routes segregated. Where appropriate, supervise parking to prevent
    obstruction of emergency access routes.
   Locate the sale of alcohol well away from the display site and do not allow alcohol to be taken away from the bar area.
    No one involved in running the display should be under the influence of intoxicating substances.

This is the responsibility of the display operator. However, for very small events where specialists may not be involved
there are some clear general rules including keeping the fireworks safely stored away from the risk of sparks or heat,
making sure they stay dry until they are fired, making sure children cannot get access to them.

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 Provide an adequate number of stewards responsible solely for crowd safety. Ensure stewards receive adequate
  briefing, and that a clear chain of command exists. Make them easily identifiable, for example they could wear
  fluorescent jackets. Instruct them to be on constant watch for emergencies. There should be at least one steward for
  every 250 spectators.
 Pay particular attention to keeping spectators out of the safety, firing and fall-out areas. Control entry to the
  spectator area to avoid overcrowding.
 Do not admit spectators to the display with their own fireworks. Publish proper notice of this in advance and post
  notices at all the entrances. No fireworks should be on sale at the site.
 Make every effort to start the display on time because crowd control becomes more difficult if people are kept
  waiting. If a delay is unavoidable, tell the spectators and ask for their co-operation at an early stage.
 Some important points on crowd safety will be found in the Health and Safety Executive leaflet Managing crowds

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Make one person responsible for the bonfire, and only allow that person and designated helpers into the bonfire area.
Do not allow anyone to use petrol or paraffin to light the fire. It is safer to use paper and
solid firelighters in two or three places to ensure an even burn. Do not burn dangerous rubbish such as foam-filled
furniture, rubber, aerosols, tins of paint, pressurised gas cylinders, tyres and bottles. Materials producing light ash which
could blow about, such as corrugated cardboard, are unsuitable for burning.
Before lighting the fire, carefully check its construction to make sure it is stable, and there are no children or animals inside.

People looking after the bonfire should not wear lightweight clothing that could easily ignite. It is safer to wear a substantial
outer garment of wool or other low flammable material and strong footwear. They need to know what to do in the event of a
burn injury or clothing catching fire, and also have a fire blanket ready in the bonfire area.

It is advisable NOT to light the bonfire until the all fireworks have been set off.

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Plan in advance
Well before the display you need to consider what could go wrong on the day. Draw up a plan to deal with each
emergency or contingency, answering the questions „What action will be taken?' and „Who will take that action?' Involve
the display operator in this exercise where necessary.

Stopping the display early or cancelling it due to adverse wind conditions
You will have based the display site layout on the prevailing wind direction. If the wind is blowing from a different
direction on the day, the display operator may suggest modifying the layout to ensure people's safety.

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In high winds it may be necessary to modify the display (for example eliminate aerial fireworks) or, in extreme
conditions, cancel it or finish early. Involve the display operator in these decisions, and do not continue if the operator
advises cancelling or stopping the display.

Spectators in the safety, firing or fall-out areas
If spectators break through the barrier into the safety, firing or fall-out areas, ensure that firing of fireworks stops as soon
as is practicable.

Disorderly behaviour by spectators
If trouble seems to be developing call the police before attempting to deal with the matter yourselves.

Announcements to spectators
Prepare announcements in advance which can be made in the event of an emergency, telling spectators what has
happened and what they are required to do.

It is advisable to have a two-way radio link between the display operator and those with key responsibilities for emergency
action. At large-scale events it is preferable to have several channels operating, eg control to stewards; control to firework
crew; firework crew to musicians/producer etc. Have an agreed procedure on radio for dealing with emergencies.

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Giving your own firework display: how to run and fire it safely (HSG 124 HSE Books 1995 ISBN 0 7176 0836 0)
BS 7114: 1988 Fireworks
         Part I : Classification of fireworks ISBN 0 58 017026 8
         Part 2: Specification of fireworks ISBN 0 58 017027 6
         Part 3: Methods of test for fireworks ISBN 0 58 017028 4
Firework (Safety) Regulations 1997 SI 1997 SI 1997/2294 HMSO
The Fireworks Regulations 2004/1836
         imposes new restrictions on the use of fireworks at night, use by young persons and the types available to the
         general public. Legislation is aimed at reducing nuisance and improving public safety.
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 c37 HMSO
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 SI 1999:3242 HMSO
Explosives Act 1875 c 17 HMSO
Dangerous Substances in Harbour Areas Regulations 1987 SI 1987 HMSO
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 SI1995/3163 HMSO
Private Places of Entertainment (Licensing) Act 1967 C19 HMSO

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Health and Safety Executive
Department of Trade and Industry
National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations
        This site has a number of useful pages, including advice on fundraising activities and a code of practice for
        fireworks events which the NCPTA will email or post to enquirers. Members of the association have access to
        fuller guidance.

Zurich Municipal

Health and Safety Executive Publications
Health and Safety Executive publications (index to free leaflets available from HSE)
Risk assessment
Managing crowds safely

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What is meant by a 'competent display operator' or ‘display operator’?

A display operator has sufficient knowledge, training and experience to set up and fire the fireworks and clear them up
after firing, in a way that ensures the health and safety of the operator, the operator's employees and other people at, or
affected by, the display. Competence will normally be achieved through a combination of theoretical and practical training
gained from planning, setting up and firing displays.

They are expected to be able to demonstrate competence and experience in the following:

   The various types of fireworks available to professional firework operators, their effects (including duration, burst height
    etc), debris pattern and potential risks;
   Basic risk assessment including assessment and mitigation of risks;
   Site planning including layout, effects of wind and weather, special requirements of unusual sites etc;
   The nature of firing areas, safety area and fall-out area in relation to the overall display site, together with constraints
    or opportunities that it might present;
   Methods of modifying show content at the display site to reduce risk, eg repositioning aerial items, removing items,
    cancelling the display;
   Firing area layout;
   Fusing methods;
   Ignition systems - advantages and disadvantages;
   `Rigging' including aspects of unusual sites;
   General legal aspects including duties under the HSW Act etc;
   Specific legal duties including those involved with manufacture, storage, transport and disposal of fireworks;
   Basic display design;
   Basic first aid;
   Clearing up after the display.

It should be noted that this list is not exhaustive but simply provides an indication of what a training course should typically

Display operators sometimes use only fireworks on sale to the general public, which comply with BS 7114 Part 2: 1988.
Public displays may also include fireworks which are incomplete and/or not intended for sale to the general public (BS
7114 Category 4). Not all display operators claim competence in using Category 4 fireworks. It is very important that the
operator should be competent for the fireworks to be used at your display. You should also be aware that the supply of
fireworks is controlled by the Firework (Safety) Regulations 1997 and that certain types of fireworks, including some
subject to BS 7114, may only be supplied to professional display operators.

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Who is the ‘employer’ ?
The LEA (Suffolk County Council) is the employer for the majority of schools in Suffolk. In the case of voluntary aided
schools, the employer is the Governing Body. The head teacher is not the employer in respect of health and safety
requirements, but may act as the employer‟s representative and, as such, has certain specific duties to fulfil to ensure the
employer can meet its responsibilities.

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What does the Event Safety Officer do ?
The event safety officer ensures that all the risks associated with the event are properly assessed and that adequate
control measures are in place for all of them. The person will ensure that the organiser(s) of the event are kept informed
and deal with all of the health and safety issues connected with the event.

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Suffolk Fire Service
Suffolk Police
Nick Wilding: Education Health and Safety Manager, Endeavour House, Ipswich.

County Risk Management and Insurance Section, St Giles House, Ipswich.

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