Fireworks policy in the European Union

- Jun 15, 2018-

Fireworks policy in the European Union is aimed at harmonising and standardising the EU member states' policies on the regulation of production, transportation, sale, consumption and overall safety of fireworks across the European Union.

History

After a 2003 consultation, the European Commission introduced a proposal for a European guideline to harmonise the international trade in and safety of fireworks on 11 October 2005.The proposal classified fireworks into four categories on the European level. It stipulated that Category 4 is exclusively meant for professional usage, and that member states are allowed to limit the sale of fireworks to the public concerning the categories 2 and 3. The proposed minimal requirements for age limits can be heightened by the member states.

This led to the 'Pyrotechnic articles' Directive in 2007, which was to be embedded into the member states' laws by 4 January 2010, to be applied by 4 July 2010 to fireworks of category 1, 2 and 3, and to be applied to all other pyrotechnic articles by 4 July 2013. On 12 June 2013, a new 'Pyrotechnic articles' Directive was adopted, which the Member States were to enact in national law by 4 July 2017.

Since 2010, safety testing of fireworks is required in the entire Union, but companies are allowed to test their products in one member state before importing and selling them in another. A 2010 document from the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment revealed that several fireworks importers in the Netherlands did not yet comply to the new testing regulations, but were not penalised for it, because a number of companies claimed they needed more time to implement the changes and were granted exceptions by the Ministry. Dream Fireworks owner Frits Pen, who claimed to have had his fireworks tested in Hungary for thousands of euros, sued the Ministry for failing to punish his competitors who were allowed to import and sell untested fireworks for free. In 2014, the Ministry stated that, by then, 80% of the fireworks imported into the Netherlands had a CE marking and were being checked.

Category of fireworks

Fireworks in the Europe Union are classified into four categories:

  • Category F1: fireworks which pose very little danger (such as sparklers), and are intended for use in a closed space, including fireworks intended for use outside residential buildings;

  • Category F2: fireworks which pose little danger, and are intended for use outside residential buildings in a closed space;

  • Category F3: fireworks which pose average danger, and are intended for use outside residential buildings in a large open space;

  • Category F4: fireworks which pose grave danger, and are exclusively intended for persons with specialised knowledge, often called "fireworks for professional usage".

The minimal ages set by the Directive are:

  • Category 1: 12 years old

  • Category 2: 16 years old

  • Category 3: 18 years old

Category F4 fireworks are restricted to professionals throughout the EU. Individual member states are allowed to prohibit the sale, possession and usage of other categories by consumers as well, if they so choose. In Belgium, Germany and Denmark, amateurs cannot buy category F3; in the Republic of Ireland, they can neither buy category F3 nor F2. Germany and France have also raised the age for category F2 fireworks from 16 to 18.

Member state policies

The EU's regulations on fireworks are the minimum standards for all member states, but the states are allowed to legislate on additional restrictions within their respective territories.


Belgium

Fireworks over the city of Mons, 2007.

Main article: Fireworks policy in Belgium

Since 5 July 2017, the sale of category F3 fireworks to non-professionals is a criminal offence in Belgium. The non-professional customer needs to be at least 12 years old for category F1 and at least 16 years old for category F2; the vendor is required to verify the customer's age. In Flanders, the Gemeentedecreet (Municipal Decree) gives the 308 municipalities of the Flemish Region the authority to introduce a required licence for lighting fireworks, or to prohibit the ignition of fireworks on certain locations.


Germany

In Germany, amateurs over 18 years old are allowed to buy and ignite fireworks of Category F2 for several hours on 31 December and 1 January; each German municipality is authorised to limit the number of hours this may last locally. The sale of Category F3 and F4 fireworks to consumers is prohibited.Lighting fireworks is forbidden near churches, hospitals, retirement homes and wooden or thatch-roofed buildings.All major German cities organise professional fireworks shows.


Finland

In Finland those under 18 years old haven't been allowed to buy any fireworks since 2009. Safety goggles are required. The use of fireworks is generally allowed on the evening and night of New Year's Eve, December 31. In some municipalities of Western Finland it is allowed to use fireworks without a fire station's permission on the last weekend of August. With the fire station's permission, fireworks can be used year-round.


Netherlands

File:Veiligheidsrisico's Jaarwisseling.webm

2017 Dutch Safety Board report on fireworks risks (English subtitles).

Main article: Fireworks policy in the Netherlands

Fireworks in the Netherlands are mostly regulated by the Vuurwerkbesluit ("Fireworks Decree"), a 1993 law that has subsequently been amended many times to make the rules surrounding the production, testing, transportation, storage, trade, sale, consumption and overall safety of fireworks stricter and in harmony with other EU countries. During most of the year, most fireworks are restricted to usage by professionals, but there is an exception for ordinary citizens without any special training or licence to ignite fireworks during New Year's Eve from 6 pm on 31 December to 2 am on 1 January. Especially since the 2000 Enschede fireworks disaster,and more so since the accident-laden New Year's Eve of 2007/08, public discussion on more rigorous regulation or even prohibition on (consumer) fireworks has been frequent and ongoing.


Republic of Ireland


Fireworks show in Malahide, 18 March 2012.

See also: Regulation of UAVs in the Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, only category F1 fireworks (such as sparklers) are available for sale, possession and use to amateurs.This makes Ireland one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to consumer fireworks.


The original law banning ordinary citizens from the purchase of fireworks, the Explosives Act 1875, was adopted when the island was still part of the United Kingdom. Subsequent amendments and additional acts were passed to make the policy even stricter.For example, because the 1875 Act did not contain a provision on the possession of fireworks,the law was amendend in 2006 to ban amateurs from owning fireworks as well.A person selling, buying, owning or lighting fireworks from categories F2 to F4 without a licence is now punishable with a fine or even imprisonment. Only pyrotechnicians are allowed to ignite such heavier fireworks.


United Kingdom

Main article: Fireworks law in the United Kingdom

The British Standards Institution is responsible for the regulation of fireworks in the United Kingdom. Since the 1996 Guy Fawkes Night resulted in two deaths and several other victims, stricter legislation has been adopted over the course of several years. Starting in 1997, the consumer age was raised from 16 to 18, and some of the most dangerous types of fireworks were prohibited.