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The Explosives Regulations 2014

BACKGROUND


The new Explosives Regulations 2014 (ER 2014) came into force on 1 October 2014.


ER 2014 consolidates and therefore revokes a number of existing explosives regulations. It brings together the requirements of health and safety related explosives legislation into a framework based around common topics such as authorisation, safety, security and placing on the market. These regulations were subsequently amended in 2016 in respect of civil explosives used for quarry blasting and mining.


The main changes to the regulatory framework include:


  • Merging registrations into the licensing system;

  • Allowing local authorities to issue licences up to 5 years, aligning them with equivalent HSE/police-issued licences;

  • Extending licensing to address storage of ammonium nitrate blasting intermediate (ANBI);

  • Exceptions for keeping higher hazard and desensitised explosives without a licence have been updated;

  • Tables of separation distances have been restructured to better allow for sites with more than one store. The tables have also been revised to cover quantities of explosives greater than 2000kg;

  • A revised list of explosives that can be acquired or acquired and kept without an explosives certificate from the police;

  • The repeal of the Fireworks Act 1951, as its remaining provisions have been superseded by the Pyrotechnic (Safety) Regulations 2010.


A current licence or registration issued under the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005 will remain valid under the transitional provisions of the Explosives Regulations 2014 until it either reaches its expiry date, or it is needed to be changed.

 

KEY PROVISIONS


The main safety provisions of ER 2014 as embodied in the Regulations are:


  • Regulation 26requires anyone manufacturing or storing explosives to take appropriate measures: to prevent fire or explosions; to limit the extent of fire or explosion including measures to prevent the spreading of fires and the communication of explosions from one location to another; and

    to protect people from the effects of fire or explosion.

  • Regulation 27requires people storing explosives to maintain separation distances, identifies the circumstances in which separation distances do not need

    to be applied, and identifies how separation distances are applied to certain sites that are granted a licence by HSE or ONR (Office for Nuclear Regulation) in the case of ONR regulated sites.

  • Regulation 28requires anyone discarding or disposing of explosives, or who is decontaminating explosive-contaminated items, to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that they are undertaking those activities safely.

  • Regulation 29prohibits the manufacture and storage and import of pyrotechnics containing sulphur and/or phosphorus mixed with chlorates without the approval of HSE.


Under ER 2014, the term explosive includes explosive articles, explosive substances and desensitised explosives. Explosives are defined according to their properties and by the criteria in the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Pyrotechnic substances are considered to be explosives for the purposes of the Regulations along with pyrotechnic articles that would, if classified for transport, fall within UN Class 1 or be too dangerous to transport because of their explosive properties. However, this does not mean that a substance or an article has to have been subject to formal classification procedures before it is considered to be an explosive.


An explosive substance can be a single substance or a mixture of substances. The definition in the Regulations contains two important qualifications:


  • The definition of explosive substance excludes gases and mixtures of gases; and

  • The explosion effect must be created by a reaction in the substance or preparation in itself (or in the case of a pyrotechnic effect, by a self-sustaining reaction).


This does not therefore include a secondary reaction which involves substances or preparations which were not part of the original explosive substance.

 

LICENSING


Under ER 2014 a licence is required for most manufacturing activities. Manufacturing includes processes where explosive articles or explosive substances are made or assembled, or unmade or disassembled. The term also includes the repair or modification of explosive articles and the reprocessing, modification or adaptation of explosive substances.


A licence is also required for the storage of explosives, unless only a small quantity of explosives is involved, or certain explosives are being stored for a short period.


Licences can be granted by either, Local Authorities, Police, HSE or ONR, depending on:


  • Whether the activity is manufacture or storage;

  • Whether an explosives certificate from the police is needed to acquire and keep explosives;

  • The quantity of explosives;

  • Whether or not the separation distances can be met.


The duration of the licence depends on its purpose and the issuing authority:


  • Licences for the manufacture of explosives, and the storage of more than 2000kg of explosives, issued by HSE can be granted for any period and remain in force until such time that they are revoked or varied.

  • Licences for the storage of no more than 2000kg of explosives can be issued by the licensing authority for up to a period of 5 years as the licensing authority determines.

 

HAZARD TYPE


Fundamental to both the safety provisions and the licensing requirements of explosives is the need to consider the Hazard Type. This defines and describes the nature of the hazards arising from an explosion in manufacture and storage conditions as set out in the following Table:

Hazard Type

Definition (Regulation 2 ER2014)

Explanation

Type 1

An explosive which, as a result of, or as a result of any effect of, the conditions of its storage or process of manufacture has a mass explosion hazard.

A mass explosion is one in which the entire body of explosives explodes as one.

Type 2

An explosive which, as a result of, or as a result of any effect of, the conditions of its storage or process of manufacture has a serious projectile hazard but does not have a mass explosion hazard.

 

Type 3

An explosive which, as a result of, or as a result of any effect of, the conditions of its storage or process of manufacture has a fire hazard and either a minor blast hazard or a minor projection hazard, or both, but does not have a mass explosion hazard.

Those explosives which give rise to considerable radiant heat or which burn to produce a minor blast or projection hazard.

Type 4

An explosive which, as a result of, or as a result of any effect of, the conditions of its storage or process of manufacture has a fire or slight explosion hazard, or both, with only local effect.

Those explosives which present only a low hazard in the event of ignition or initiation, where no significant blast or projection of fragments of appreciable size or range is expected.

Hazard type represents the potential behaviour of the explosives in the form in which they are manufactured or stored. This means that explosives do not have inherent hazard types that can be automatically ascribed without consideration of other features. Hazard type will be dependent on:


  • The quantity and types of explosives;

  • The loading density;

  • Packaging (if any) or containment;

  • The presence of barriers or other controls that will prevent rapid communication of an event between explosives;

  • Orientation;

  • How an event involving the explosives might progress or degrade any controls.


For those explosives being kept as packaged for carriage, and that have been classified, there will generally be a direct correlation between the UN hazard division (HD) assigned them on classification for transport and the hazard type (HT) they should be allocated for storage, i.e.:


  • UN HD 1.1 = HT 1

  • UN HD 1.2 = HT 2

  • UN HD 1.3 = HT 3

  • UN HD 1.4 = HT 4


Explosives that have been assigned to UN HD 1.5 and 1.6 will need to be considered in detail and on a case-by-case basis before a hazard type can be allocated.


As well as requiring a licence, an explosives certificate issued by the local Police Authority must also be obtained with the objective of identifying a person as being fit to acquire and/or keep relevant explosives. There are two types of certificate:


  • ‘Acquire only’ certificate – to permit a person or company to obtain explosives that are to be used immediately, and not kept overnight;

  • ‘Acquire and keep’ certificate – to allow a person or company to obtain explosives and keep them in an approved storage place.


 

FIREWORKS


It should be noted that sellers of fireworks have additional duties under:


  • The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2015. These include requirements on the types of fireworks that can be sold to members of the public as well as on the age of purchase;

  • The Fireworks Regulations 2004. If fireworks are sold outside certain times of the year, a licence for the sale of fireworks will be required – this is in addition to any licence allowing the storage of fireworks.

 

SURVEY EXPECTATIONS


Where explosives are encountered, enquiries should be made as regards the status of licensing, together with the compliance of any licensing conditions that have been imposed, and the appropriate information recorded in the report.


In addition, an assessment should be undertaken of the risks presented including the adequacy of the fire and explosion safety precautions in place, management arrangements and security provisions.


The storage of explosives can be encountered in several industries, for example in connection with quarrying and demolition operations and in the form of commodities such as fireworks and other pyrotechnics, distress flares and shooting supplies including ammunition. Christmas crackers are exempt from ER 2014, but party poppers are not.  

 

FURTHER REFERENCE


A vast amount of information on explosives is published by the HSE and can be accessed via its explosion microsite  www.hse.gov.uk/explosives.


This includes the following publications to which Consultants may refer:


  • L150: Explosives Regulations 2014 – Safety provisions

  • L151: Explosives Regulations 2014 – Security provisions


These documents are extensive, illustrating the detail to which the risks associated with explosives should be assessed and the level of fire and explosion safety and security provisions required. Queries concerning a specific case should be directed to the Technical Helpline.

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