European Law Monitor

Make your voice heard!

European measures for safer fireworks

As fireworks will soon again light up the skies to celebrate the new year, important steps have been taken to create better safety and more competitive markets as of 2010 for so called pyrotechnic articles. The European Parliament and the Member States have recently agreed upon proposals from the European Commission for a clear set of common rules to enhance safer usage and a true single market for pyrotechnic articles throughout the EU. Fireworks can be a major risk for consumers and injuries can result from the misuse of fireworks, but there is also concern about the quality and safety of some products. Rules governing the sales of pyrotechnic articles vary across Member States. This makes it more difficult to address safety concerns and hampers the activities of manufacturers. The Member States are expected to finally adopt the new Directive on pyrotechnic articles soon.

Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “This agreement will make the use of fireworks safer and at the same time establish a clearer basis for protecting consumers. It also frees enterprise from unnecessary administrative burdens. It is easier and more efficient to deal with one piece of EU legislation than 27 different national laws. This removes barriers to the free movement of goods".

The proposed Directive requires that pyrotechnic articles must meet essential safety requirements, which in return gives them access to the internal market. For its practical implementation, the Commission will ask the European standardisation organisation CEN to develop standards which can also be used internationally as ISO standards. In order to allow the necessary technical standards to be drawn up, the new rules will come into force from 2010, after a transition period of three years for consumer fireworks. For other pyrotechnic articles, like professional and theatre fireworks, the applications of the new directive will be as of 2013, after a transitional period of six years.

In order to demonstrate that their articles comply with the essential safety requirements, manufacturers must, have the following properties assessed by independent testing institutes (notified bodies):

    * Physical and chemical stability; compatibility of all components
    * Resistance to normal, foreseeable handling and transportation
    * Resistance against water and low and high temperatures
    * Safety features to prevent untimely or inadvertent initiation or ignition
    * Suitable instructions in the official language or languages of the recipient Member State
    * Ability to withstand deterioration.

The proposed Directive defines categories of pyrotechnic articles and sets minimum age limits for persons acquiring and handling them, but leaves open the possibility for Member States to increase the age limits for consumers or to lower them for trained staff

In view of religious, cultural and traditional festivities, mainly in southern Europe, , fireworks built by a manufacturer for his or her own use will not need to comply with the Directive if a Member State approves their use on its territory. On the other hand, Member States will have the possibility to ban the sale to consumers of certain categories of noisy pyrotechnic articles, including bangers, flash bangers and banger or flash banger batteries.

Storage and manufacturing

The new Directive deals with product characteristics, not with questions arising specifically from the storage and manufacture of pyrotechnic articles. These aspects are dealt with by Council Directive 96/82/EC (better known as the Seveso II Directive), which aims to prevent major accidents involving dangerous substances and to limit the consequences of such accidents for people and the environment.