The BPA, TESA and The Institute of Explosive Engineers

First appeared in Fireworks (magazine) Summer 2015

Well, we’re now firmly set into 2015 and I find myself chairing the UK professional display trade association for one more year. I say one more year, I actually did 2008-2010, and then returned for 2013-16, although I have said 2016 will be my last year. My motivation thoughout has remained the same - to ensure the interests of the UK display industry are put first and represented at all levels, so that businesses large and small are treated fairly, with our UK work to promote and ensure competence and training being recognised throughout the country.

We’ve had a lot of challenges throughout the years, particularly from European Directives, but I actually think the UK display industry is the strongest it has ever been and our work to ensure that our people are highly trained with accredited qualifications is an example for the world to see.

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The BPa, tesa and the institute of explosive engineers  

May 2015

Earlier this year I was saddened to learn of the death of two individuals who had played a significant role in the UK fireworks industry. Ron Lancaster’s beloved wife Kath passed away in January after a long illness. Ron and Kath were married for a very long time and I know she was instrumental in the running of their family business, even working out on the firing site, way before many of us would have ever heard of the name Kimbolton Fireworks. Also in January we learned of the sad death of Nigel Claydon’s father, Bob. Bob was a true character in the industry and well respected. A true gentleman and friendly individual, his work in the setting up Dynamic Fireworks was instrumental in establishing it as the business it is today. Kath and Bob will be dearly missed, my deepest sympathies to both families.

At the end of April I was honoured to be invited to give a presentation to the annual conference of the Institute of Explosives Engineers. A daunting task, at first sight, addressing a large number of senior professionals from the explosives industry on the subject of the UK professional displays. The Institute is trying to engage more with its various industry sectors, with President John Wolstenholme (principal inspector at Sellafield within the Office of Nuclear Regulation) telling me he had made it one of his targets during his term. We heard from various experts with experience in bomb disposal, anti-terrorism, regulation and one very interesting presentation from a senior government security adviser based within the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, whose captivating talk of the work of the Centre I am not permitted to reproduce here!

In my presentation I talked about some of the issues our industry faces and how we have responded to those issues. Topics included competence, the BPA, the firer’s training scheme, C&G accreditation, quality and the changing environment in China, legislation, Europe, engaging with enforcers and stake-holders, COMAH and the Instittute/fireworks. What became apparent to me was how positively our own industry work to address competence, quality and work with enforcers and legislators was being received. Some attendees approached me after and said that as an sector we were doing things that didn’t exist in some parts of the wider explosives industry and that there were clear lessons to be learned by other sectors from professional displays. It was a very pleasant day and I am very grateful to the Institute for the invitation.

At a recent Westminster meeting of the Pyrotechnic Articles Liaison Group (PALG) - made up of representatives from the Department for Business (BIS), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Trading Standards and industry, BIS representatives told us that they have now approached the European Commission for clarification of the ‘own use’ aspect of the Pyrotechnic Articles Safety Regulations. I know I keep mentioning this in every column I write for Fireworks Magazine, and indeed at every meeting I chair at the BPA, but this really is so very important for the all parts of the professional display industry, especially so for smaller operators who had previously imported.

The view of the UK is that if you import for your own use, there is no need to spend huge sums on CE marking, which by its very nature allows for free movement of the product within the EU supply chain. If it’s for your own use you don’t intend to supply it to anyone else! This doesn't compromise safety though - all fireworks CE and non-CE still have to comply with the essential safety requirements. CE stipulates things like labelling, instructions, some performance criteria that would most benefit a customer you might sell the product to rather than you, who already knows this information.

To give you an indication of part of the argument, CE marking is required when a product is ‘placed on the market’. The most recent edition of the Commission’s own ‘Blue Guide’ on the implementation of EU product rules states:

Placing on the market is considered not to take place where a product is:

• manufactured for one’s own use. Some Union harmonisation legislation however covers products manufactured for own use in its scope

BIS actually wrote to the Commission at the end of December 2014 and as I write this in May, we are still waiting for a response (it has been chased up a number of times). Hopefully we can take this as an indication that the UK position may hold merit and some serious consideration is having to be given to the situation. I have actually read the letter that the Department wrote to the EC lawyer responsible for explosives, and a compelling argument has been presented on our industry’s behalf.

At the same PALG meeting I made it clear that the transition to CE for those in the professional industry that do wish to import CE product has not been a smooth one. Importers have been visiting China and reporting back that CE provision is patchy. A few factories are on top of CE, or reaching that point, whereas many others have little experience. This contrasts with retail manufacturers who seem to be at a more advanced stage of CE provision. As a result, importers were being forced to import some non-CE product in 2015, in many cases a mix of CE and non-CE fireworks, irrespective of whether they had originally intended for that product to be all CE marked.

I also highlighted at the meeting that a lack of availability of CE product forcing some importers to still import non-CE product in 2015, together with ongoing delays in the definition of ‘own use’ will inevitably lead to stocks of non-CE display fireworks remaining in the United Kingdom post 4th July 2017. I warned that this was despite the fact that the professional display industry was making best efforts to use as much non-CE product as possible before the deadline and to import CE product as required. The nature of professional displays is that companies frequently have hundreds of lines and finishing every one in these circumstances is impossible. I also made sure everyone understood that after July 2017 remaining product could not just be locked away and ignored, or destroyed in large fires (my suggestion was in the middle of Parliament Square). It was generally of a higher hazard type - the product needs to be used as intended. There will undoubtedly be further discussions on this topic.

The line-up for this year’s British Firework Championships is very encouraging, particularly after the huge efforts made by the event organisers to address many of the industry suggestions over how to improve running of the event. Having been a participant in discussions with TESA, I have to say how impressed I have been with their very clear desire to develop the competition and produce a real national event that the professional display community has faith in.

Some of the key changes include:

  •  A regular professional panel of judges who will be actual firework professionals or people with a proper vast experience of fireworks - the intention is that the same people judge each year to introduce some consistency and experience
  •  Professional judges points account for 50% of the score, lay judges for the other 50% • Pro and lay judges each have different criteria to score each show on
  •  Judges receive a set briefing to try and avoid perceived ‘second night bias’. They can also review their scores - the prime objective being to get a proper 1st, 2nd and 3rd
  •  Prize money increased, back to 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize and an innovation prize (no winner on each night as last year)
  •  Adjudicator stays on Mountbatten until the shows have finished firing - scoring/ judging on the Citadel side is managed by TESA/Council
  •  Rule breaches or unsafe practise are reported by Adjudicator to the pro judges, and the pro judges are the only people who decide if a sanction shall apply (e.g. point deduction)
  •  Risk assessment - less prescribed ‘rules’ (e.g. firing angles), the onus is on you to justify what you are planning
  •  Plastic shells permitted in 2015 (as a 1 year trial)
  •  Crews of up to 20 which will be popular with some teams
  •  Scores and comments will be published within 5 days
  •  Road sweeper will clear the site once competitors and explosives removed after the first night
  •  TESA seeking to re-open relationship with an international competition, with the winner of British Firework Championships to become the British representative
  •  Annual de-brief in late November / early December to be organised by TESA
  • Public drawer for competitors
  •  Industry representative to be present throughout the competition to monitor the setup and firing and help ensure fair-play.
  • The BPA has been invited to provide the monitor, any feedback once again will go to the judges - the monitor has no pointscoring/deduction ability.
  •  Plymouth City Council have increased innovation prize money to encourage innovative elements that link to Plymouth (e.g. the stunning lighthouse lancework by Rob Lewis of G-Force a few years ago)

It was brilliant move to have the competitors drawer take place live on the Heart FM SW Breakfast show. Well done to 1st Galaxy Fireworks, Gala Fireworks, Fantastic Fireworks, Spyrotechnics, Phoenix Fireworks and Essex Pyrotechnics - it should be a really great year to watch!

Well, I had better stop writing now before the Editor reminds me again that the publication is only A4 sized and not a broadsheet. I hope you all have a brilliant summer and a safe and successful Guy Fawkes Night.


Andy Hubble