Explosives - Frequently asked questions
The UK has left the EU, new rules from January 2021
The transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.
Guidance supporting the Explosives Regulations 2014
The overarching guidance is structured around ‘statements of success’ - what are these?
The statements identify the successful outcomes of the application of appropriate safety and security measures to the explosives operations. Duty holders should look to achieve these in a way that is proportionate to their business. The guidance assists duty holders with how to do this.
You say statements of success are what everyone in the industry should look to achieve; if this is the case wont everyone have to read the overarching documents?
No. All of the guidance documents have been produced in line with these statements to bring consistency, but the information contained in the sub sector guidance documents is specific to that sector. For those who start with the sub sector guides (level 2), the guidance allows the duty holder to achieve the statement in a manner that is proportionate to them. If they feel they need further information then they can refer to the level 3 overarching guidance.
Further information on the guidance structure is available.
Where will the subsector guidance be published?
HSE's Explosives web pages will link to all the subsector guidance once published.
What is a civil explosive?
A civil explosive is an explosive which has been or would be classified in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations as falling within Class 1 but it does not include
- ammunition the acquisition of which is regulated or prohibited by virtue of the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997
- any explosive which it is shown is intended for lawful use by the armed forces or the police of any country
- a pyrotechnic article
Annex 1 to the civil explosives recast directive lists those items that are not within the scope of the definition of “civil explosives”. It should be noted that the list is not exhaustive.
Ultimately the decision whether an item is a pyrotechnic or civil explosive remains the responsibility of the Notified Body.
Many civil explosives will also be relevant explosives
What is a relevant explosive?
A relevant explosive is an explosive for which an explosives certificate is required under regulation 5 of ER2014 for acquiring or keeping that explosive, or would be so required were it not for regulation 3(7), and, in relation to regulations 35 and 37 and paragraph 4 of Schedule 4 it also includes
- ammunition the acquisition of which is regulated or prohibited by virtue of the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997 and
- smokeless powder
Explosives listed in schedule 2 of ER2014 (other than smokeless powder as noted above) and pyrotechnic articles (apart from those listed at schedule 3 of ER2014) are not relevant explosives.
Do I need an explosives licence?
That depends on what you are doing.
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. The manufacture section provides more information.
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. The storage section provides more information.
Do I need an explosives licence to store flares?
The requirement for a licence to store explosives is dependant on a number of issues.
If the flares are explosives, which are not relevant explosives then you may store up to 5kg (net mass) of such explosives without the need for a licence provided that the explosives do not present a hazard type 1 (HT1) or Hazard Type 2 (HT2) hazard. The net mass (weight) of the explosives is the amount of explosive contained in the article not including any packaging or casings, therefore the mass of the explosive may only be a small percentage of the total mass of the item. The storage section provides more information.
If the flares are present a HT1 or HT2 hazard or you are storing more than 5kg (net mass) then you will need to apply for a licence. If you are storing no more than 2000kg of explosives then you should contact your Local Authority or the Police. If you are storing more than 2000kg of explosives then you should contact HSE. Details of which authority to contact in which circumstances can be found on the HSE website.
Who do I apply to for an explosives licence?
This will depend on:
- whether the activity is manufacturing or simply storing
- whether an explosives certificate from the police is needed to acquire and keep the explosives
- the quantity of explosives
More information see how to apply for a licence is available.
Where can I find licence application forms?
Information is available on:
Why do I need to provide plans when I apply for a licence?
When a licensing authority receives an application to license a site it needs to be able to:
- identify the licenced site and its extent
- identify whether the site or the places on the site are suitable for the storage of explosives
- produce a licence that includes the conditions specified by regulation 13 (5)
- make a decision on whether or not to add conditions to the licence under regulation 13 (7)
- produce a licence in a form approved for the time being by the HSE as per regulation 13 (9)
- populate the register that is required by regulation 15 in accordance with Schedule 4
Appropriate plans are therefore necessary if the licensing authority is to properly discharge its duties. Requiring the dutyholder to provide plans as part of their application for a licence removes an administrative burden from licensing authorities in producing such plans and reduces the costs of the licensing process.
The plans appended to a licence can also be used by emergency services in deciding how to manage an incident on, or in the vicinity of, a licensed explosive site and will also help licensing authorities during inspections because they specify where explosives should be located. If explosives are found elsewhere during an inspection a plan allows the inspector to consider their findings in line with relevant enforcement expectations.
Are plans required for ‘zero separation’ distance sites?
Yes. Plans are also required for sites where zero separation distances apply. You can find out in the ‘What should the plans show?’ question immediately below.
What should the plans show?
Any plans should be proportionate to its function, and so where zero separation distances apply it would be expected that the plans would be simple, but still identify:
- the location of any storage rooms or areas within a building primarily used for other purposes as well as the location of display cabinets and, when appropriate, those sales or collection points where significant quantities of explosives can be expected to be present
- the location of any external stores such as containers or designated buildings or the general area that has been identified for such use
- the boundary of the site
- sufficient of the surrounding area that allows the location of the site to be identified eg by way of named streets, numbered roads or recognised local landmarks including intersections
If a plan describes the intended storage locations in terms of general areas rather than specific places it:
- may take longer for the licensing authority to assess the suitability of those places for the storage of explosives
- will generally require the licensing authority to spend more time on site and conduct more detailed examinations when it inspects
- may require more extensive conditions to be included on the licence under the provisions of regulation 13 (7)
- may result in the emergency services taking a more cautious approach to any incident on the site or in its immediate vicinity
Where the plan showing the boundary of the site and its surrounding area is of a suitable scale it would be appropriate to identify both internal and external storage locations on that plan rather than submitting an additional, separate, plan.
ER 2014 gives the term ‘site’ a specific meaning ie ‘…the whole area under the control of the same person…’. This means the plan of the site that you provide should show the whole area over which you have control including car parks and on-site petrol stations etc, as well as any adjoining land that is under your control.
Is the requirement to provide plans new?
The requirement for maps and plans is not new. The Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulation 2005 (MSER,) which were revoked by ER 2014, introduced a requirement for a register to include plans of sites granted a permission to store explosives where separation distances apply to the licensed site (ie including separation distances that are stated as ‘0’ within the relevant schedules). MSER also required the register to include maps in a scale sufficient to show the location of any stores.
How much explosives can I store?
The quantity of explosives that can be stored is governed by:
- separation distances between an explosives store and an occupied building and can be further influenced by its construction and whether it is mounded or not
- the hazard type of the explosive, for example 500 kg of Hazard Type 1 explosives (eg dynamite) requires a greater separation distance than 500 kg of Hazard Type 4 explosives (eg party poppers)
The storage section provides more information.
Will separation distances apply?
Every person who stores explosives at a site must ensure that the relevant separation distances prescribed by Schedule 5 of the Explosives Regulations 2014, are maintained.
Separation distances also apply to the storage of explosives even when a licence is not required.
Generally, the separation distance you will be required to maintain will depend on the:
- type of explosives
- quantity of explosives
- building type
There are exceptions to the requirement to maintain separation distances. Your licensing authority will be able to advise you on whether separation distances will apply.
The section on separation distances provides more information.
How long can I get a licence for?
It depends on what you need the licence for and who you are applying to for your licence.
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. HSE will usually grant a licence for an indefinite period of time when the applicant owns the property where the explosives site will be located, or where the applicant is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the land owner. Where the applicant does not own the land on which the explosives site will be located, HSE will normally expect to grant the licence for the period of any lease or rental agreement for the land on which the site will be located. Where any of the explosives that will be stored would require the applicant to have an explosives certificate, HSE may grant the licence to be co-terminal with any such explosives certificate.
Granting licences without time limit can be seen as minimizing the burdens on both dutyholders and HSE from processing applications for renewals, but there are aspects of the approach that can present practical difficulties to both land owners, HSE and to the wider land use planning system.
These can include for example:
- disputed access to the facility or use of the licence when a site is subject to a lease or a rental agreement;
- challenges with respect to ownerless property which can by law pass to the Crown;
- planning ‘blocking’
Disputed access to facilities or the use of the licence tends to occur when a tenant’s lease runs out but they remain the licensee for the site. Essentially the tenant refuses to transfer the licence to either the site’s owner or to the new tenant because they see the licence as having monetary value and want to be compensated. This acts as an obstacle to the site’s owner using the facility and in extreme cases can result in explosives being stored in a place to which the licensee no longer has lawful access. HSE therefore recommends that how a licence is to be managed at the end of any lease or rental agreement is covered in the terms and conditions of that agreement.
Licences for the storage of no more than 2000kg of explosives can be issued by the licensing authority for up to 5 years as the licensing authority determines.
How long to does it take to get a licence?
For licences issued by the police or local authority
Contact your relevant licensing authority.
For licences from HSE to manufacture, or the storage of more than 2000kg.of explosives, or the storage of no more than 2000kg where separation distances can’t be met
Target times for HSE to agree licenses, as of the 4 April 2011, are:
- Simple variation (less than 10 building schedules) not requiring assent – target turnaround time to conclusion on receipt of all information received is 4 months
- Simple new/variation (less than 10 building schedules) requiring assent – turnaround time to conclusion on receipt of all information is 8 months
- Complex new/variation (more than 10 building schedules, structural justification, consolidating licenses) requiring assent – turnaround time to conclusion on receipt of all information is 12 months
For licences from HSE for the storage of no more than 2000kg, at a mine or in a harbour where separation distances can be met
It depends on whether it is a new licence or a renewal.
If it is a new licence HSE will normally visit the site as part of the application process, so the target time can vary, depending on whether the site is suitable and all the information is correct.
If the application is for a renewal licence, there is no change to the quantity or hazard type being stored and there have been no changes to the available separation distances around the store the target time to agree licences is approximately 2-3 weeks.
How much does it cost for a licence?
The price of a licence depends on the type of licence requested.
For a licence the storage of no more than 2000kg of explosives, the fee is dependant on whether it is a new licence, or a renewal and the period for which it is granted for.
For a licence requiring local authority assent, an initial fee is charged with a fee per hour worked on the licence. The actual amount will vary depending on processing time and work involved.
Will my current explosives licence or registration issued prior to the 1st October 2014 still be valid?
Your current licence or registration issued under The Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005 (MSER) will remain valid under the transitional provisions of the Explosives Regulations 2014 until it either reaches its expiry date or you need to change it. Contact your licensing authority if you require further advice.
I am a licensing authority, and have received an application for storage of explosives for 5 years-do I have to grant the licence for 5 years?
No. Licensing authorities will be expected to take a proportionate, risk-based approach that recognises the nature of business and the likely lifetime of the licensed site. e.g. pop up shops, freehold retail. Other factors that should also be considered:
- new retailer with no inspection or enforcement history - the licensing authority will consider granting a licence for a shorter period that may then be extended at renewal.
- new site where the dutyholder can demonstrate robust safety management systems and/or has a good history of compliance at another licensed site - the licensing authority will expect to grant the licence for the period requested by the applicant (up to the 5 year maximum).
- existing site with a mixed or poor history of compliance (but where the site and person remains fit) - the licensing authority will consider granting a licence for a short period.
- site with history of regularly requiring advice, where minor breaches have been identified at inspection, or that has for example high (relevant) staff turnover - the licensing authority will consider granting the licence for a period of less than five years.
Regulation 6(2)(a) allows the manufacture of small quantities of explosives without a licence provided the explosives are being manufactured for laboratory analysis, testing, demonstration and experimentation. What do these terms mean?
Laboratory analysis, testing, demonstration and experimentation are not defined in the regulations but in order to ensure the purposes for which an explosive can be acquired or acquired and kept are consistently described and understood the enforcing authorities have agreed that:
- "laboratory analysis" - is an examination of the physical and chemical composition and properties of an explosive where that examination has been undertaken by following a systematic methodology.
- "testing" – is the initiation of an explosive solely for the purposes of evaluating the explosive performance of that article or substance where that evaluation has been undertaken by following a systematic methodology.
- "demonstration" – is the giving of a practical exhibition and explanation of how an explosive is manufactured or how it behaves as part of a recognised training event or recognised educational activity.
- "experimentation" - is any act of manufacture of an explosive that follows a systematic methodology and which is undertaken to make a discovery or test a hypothesis, and which results in the collection of data.
Even if you don’t need a licence to manufacture explosives, you may still require an explosives certificate to acquire and/or acquire and keep explosives from the police. Contact your local police explosives liaison officer for advice
I have applied to HSE for a licence. What format will my licence be in?
The licence will be in a format approved by the HSE. This will depend on the type of licence that is being granted and the type of activities that it authorises but all licences will include conditions that specify:
- the site;
- the places within a site where explosives may be stored;
- the places within a site where explosives may be manufactured where the licence has been granted for the manufacture of explosives;
- the hazard type, if any, of the explosives;
- the description of the explosives that can be stored;
- the maximum quantity of explosives that may be stored, manufactured or otherwise present.
When HSE licences the manufacture of explosives or the storage of more than 2000kg of explosives it will also include conditions that relate to separation distances and may include conditions that relate to:
- the construction, siting and orientation of buildings where explosives activities take place;
- the explosives activities that can be undertaken in buildings, rooms, structures or other places; and
- the manufacture and storage of the ingredients of explosives that are liable to ignite spontaneously, are flammable or are otherwise dangerous in ways that could initiate or aggravate a fire or explosion.
For most of the licences granted by HSE these conditions will be contained within:
- a licence header which identifies the person in law that the licence has been granted to and the address of the site;
- conditions of Licence which place the plans and schedules into a context;
- plans which show the extent of the site and the places within it where explosives activities can take place;
- an Explosives Schedule which describes the explosives that are authorised to be manufactured, used in manufacture and/or stored;
- a Building Schedule which identifies for each individual place:
- how the store or building is or shall be constructed;
- the activities that can take place;
- the description, hazard type and quantities of explosives that can be present;
- the separation distances to be maintained to different classes of protected places
and which may also include limits on the quantity of the ingredients of explosives or other articles and substances that are liable to spontaneous ignition, flammable or otherwise dangerous where it has been assessed that their expected presence could initiate or aggravate the likelihood or consequence of a fire or explosion.
I have applied to HSE for a licence. How will HSE determine the separation distances to be maintained?
When they grant licences HSE will normally follow the distances given in schedule 5 of ER2014.
HSE has the discretion to follow different approaches to setting separation distances to those given in schedule 5 of ER2014. HSE can, for example, use distances interpolated from the tables given in schedule 5 of ER2014 or from the mathematical functions that support the tables.
HSE can also accept separation distances based on technical and structural justifications describing risk and hazard reduction or mitigation measures. Examples could include buildings constructed to the standards published in the Ministry of Defence’s Explosives Regulations (JSP 482) or buildings that have been built to deliver the standards of mitigation described in industry guidance. These justifications should be supported by an appropriate demonstration provided by the applicant. HSE’s inspectors will assess the suitability of the demonstration and discuss its applicability with the applicant.
When HSE licences the manufacture or storage of ammonium nitrate blasting intermediate (ANBI) it will use the tables found at appendix 2 of the relevant sub-sector guidance. When HSE includes conditions on a licence to cover activities such as disposal or the use of explosives it will generally determine conditions relating to distances to people and property from industry guidance or specialist publications such as the Ministry of Defence’s Handbook of defence ranges safety (JSP403)
You have told me that the Explosives Schedule on a licence granted by HSE describes the explosives that are authorised to be manufactured, used in manufacture and/or stored. What to these terms mean?
For most of the licences that HSE grants HSE uses the explosives schedule to describe the explosives which can be present on the site. The Schedule will generally divide these explosives into 3 groups, namely:
- Explosives which may be manufactured, used in manufacture or stored;
- These are explosives which will be made from non-explosives materials and/or other explosives at the site, may also be used as components to make other explosives at the site and may be stored there. An example would be percussion caps which are made at the site using explosives compositions, are used at the site as a component to make small arms cartridges and are stored there.
- Explosives which may be used in manufacture or stored;
- These are explosives which will not be made at the site. They will be brought in ready-made and then used as components to make other explosives and stored there. An example would be percussion caps which are not made at the site, but brought in ready-made to be used as a component to make small arms cartridges at the site and stored there.
- Explosives which may be stored;
- These are explosives which will not be made nor used to make other explosives at the site, but merely stored. An example would be plastic explosive stored at a site which does not make plastic explosive, nor uses plastic explosive to make other explosives, but stores it for use in demolition work elsewhere.
Is there anything I need to do after I have been granted a licence by HSE or had a licence varied in a way which affects the separation distances required to be maintained?
Within 28 days of the licence being granted or varied you must provide HSE and the local planning authority with a plan of the site and its immediate surrounding area that shows the separation distances that the licence requires you to maintain. This plan is generally known as a safeguarding plan.
HSE’s website includes detailed guidance on how to prepare safeguarding plans.
Can I make changes to my licence?
Yes you can. Regulation 16 of ER2014 describes the circumstances in which a licence can be changed or varied.
If you have a licence from HSE to manufacture and store, or store more than 2000kg of Ammonium Nitrate Blasting Intermediate and other explosives you should use the application form LP42 to apply for a variation. If you have a licence from HSE to manufacture and/or store Ammonium Nitrate Blasting Intermediate only, you should use form LP47
Changes will be made by way of the grant of a variation to your licence. Generally, the variation will only modify those parts of the licence that are directly relevant to the changes applied for.
Where the changes are extensive or where a licence has already been varied a number of times, HSE will consider granting a variation that consolidates all of the changes into a new document (aka a ‘consolidating licence’) to ensure that the licence remains straightforward to understand and comply with.
If you have a licence from another licensing authority they will be able to tell you what arrangements they have in place for varying your licence.
Recast of the civil explosives directive
Do the translations of instructions and safety information have to be accurate?
The recast civil explosive Directive specifies that instructions must be clear, understandable and intelligible.
Who does the manufacturer inform when they identify they have a non-complying civil explosive on the market?
The recast requires the manufacturer to take the corrective action measures necessary to bring the civil explosive into conformity, to withdraw it or to recall it where appropriate. If the civil explosive presents a ‘risk’, the manufacturer must immediately inform the competent authorities of the member States in which they have made the civil explosives available (for Great Britain it is the HSE) giving details of the non-compliance and the corrective action taken. Further information on what economic operators must do when a product is not in conformity is available.
Does a quarry mixing its own explosives, such as ammonium nitrate fuel oil (ANFO), for blasting on its own site need to CE mark the explosives?
We are awaiting further clarification from the EU Commission on whether Article 5(1) of the recast intends for this to be considered as ‘own use’ and within the scope of conformity assessment. HSE will provide updates through the explosives communities’ webpage and industry representative groups once clarification has been received.
Does a blasting service provider need to CE mark their explosives?
Yes. This falls under Article 5 (1) of the recast Directive. The intention is to bring this activity within scope as the explosives are being placed on the market or used for their own purposes by the blasting provider in the delivery of the service.
Blasting service providers can submit the mix composition for their explosives to a notified body to be conformity assessed. The paper work, including the CE mark can then accompany the blasting service provider. HSL (UK’s ENB) have confirmed that the CE mark can be for a family consisting of a range of mix values as long as the full range is declared at the time they are assessed.
Does ‘own use’ cover other purposes such as research and development, trials, education, experiments, incorporation into a formulation or article, disposal or extraction for disposal?
No. "Use for own purposes" in Article 5(1) of recast only covers the manufacturer's use for own purposes relating directly to the blasting effect of the explosives, and not the manufacturer's use for other purposes, such as research and development, trials, education, experiments, incorporation into a formulation or article, disposal or extraction for disposal. The conformity assessment and CE-marking requirements in Article 5(2) of the new Explosives Directive do not apply to explosives excluded from Article 5(1). This maintains the status quo.
Does ‘own use’ cover own use by natural persons for non-commercial purposes?
No. "Use for own purposes" in Article 5(1) of the new Explosives Directive only covers economic operators, be they legal or natural persons, and hence excludes own use by natural persons for non-commercial purposes (e.g. shooters).The conformity assessment and CE-marking requirements in Article 5(2) of the new Explosives Directive do not apply to explosives excluded from Article 5(1). This maintains the status quo.
What is the difference between "making available on the market" and "placing on the market"?
Any transfer between economic operators of a product is considered as “making available” on the market. "Placing on the market" is the first time that the product is introduced on the market. This operation is reserved either for a manufacturer or an importer, i.e. the manufacturer and the importer are the only economic operators who place products on the market. Any subsequent operation, for instance, from a distributor to another or to an end-user is defined as making available.
If a company buys individual components (all CE marked) to form a detonation train, for them to use on their own site or for them to deliver a ‘service’ on another businesses site, then they assemble the items into a single item for immediate use, is a further CE mark needed on the all-up assembly?
No further CE mark is required on the ‘ready to fire’ all-up assembly, providing that where additional initiation hazards are identified, a further conformity assessment of the assembly regarding these additional risks is carried out. Where assembled items are not immediately used, but stored elsewhere, a further CE mark on the all-up assembled item would also be required.
How will notified bodies CE mark site mixed explosives used by blasting service providers?
The mix composition for the explosives can be submitted to a notified body to be conformity assessed (HSL are the UK’s ENB). HSL have confirmed that the CE mark can be for a family consisting of a range of mix values as long as the full range is declared at the time they are assessed. The paper work, including the CE mark, can then accompany the blasting service provider.
Does the test data submitted under the Module B conformity assessment need to be to ISO/ IEC 17025 test house standards?
Yes. Any tests conducted to demonstrate compliance with the essential safety requirements (module B assessment) must either be:
- Conducted by a ISO/IEC 17025 accredited test laboratory, or
- Conducted by the applicant in accordance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025. Selected tests would then be witnessed by HSL’s ENB staff to ensure compliance.
Which information must be included in the EU declaration of conformity?
If a manufacturer produces an EU declaration of conformity that follows the model set out in Annex IV to Directive 2014/28/EU, it shall contain the elements specified in the relevant modules set out in Annex III and shall be continually updated.
Do the Explosives Regulations 2014 (ER 2014) still apply?
Yes. The amending Regulations only amend certain parts of ER2014. The amending Regulations need to be read with ER 2014.
Will existing exclusions from scope relating to use by the military and the Police continue to be in place?
Yes. The existing approaches remain unaffected by the recast and the amending regulations.
Are there any Explosives Notified Bodies in the United Kingdom?
The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) is the Explosives Notified Body in the United Kingdom.
The Tracking and traceability Directive (2008/43/EC amended by 2012/4/EU) excludes both explosives transported and delivered unpackaged or in pump trucks for their direct unloading into the blast-hole; and explosives manufactured at the blasting sites, and that are loaded immediately after being produced (in situ production), from the record-keeping requirements. Does this mean records don’t need to be kept under the recast in these scenarios?
The recast directive retains the same exclusions from the Tracking and traceability requirements set out in Directive 2008/43/EC amended by 2012/4/EU). However, for the explosives excluded from that system, the recast does require manufacturers to ensure that the explosives they have placed on the market bear a type, batch or serial number or other element allowing their identification (or where the small size, shape or design of the explosive does not allow it, that the required information is provided on its packaging or in a document accompanying the explosive). They must also indicate on the explosive their name, registered trade name or registered trade mark and the postal address at which they can be contacted or, where that is not possible, on its packaging or in a document accompanying the explosive. The address shall indicate a single point at which the manufacturer can be contacted. The contact details shall be in a language easily understood by end-users and market surveillance authorities. Manufacturers, their authorised representatives, and importers must also keep a copy of the EU declaration of conformity and the technical documentation for 10 years after the explosive has been placed on the market.
What is modification?
For the purposes of Civil explosives Directive, it is when an importer or distributor modifies the explosive already placed on the market in such a way that compliance with the Directive may be affected.
What happens if a distributor or importer modifies an explosive, or adds their name or trademark to the explosive?
The civil explosives directive states that any importer or distributor who places the explosive on the market under their own name, trade mark, or modifies an explosive already on the market, shall be considered a manufacturer and shall be subject to the manufacturer’s obligations.
Does my explosive need CE marking?
All civil explosives and pyrotechnic articles for civilian use that are placed on the market within the European Union must carry a CE mark unless they are pyrotechnic articles subject to the transitional provisions of the pyrotechnics directive.
The section on placing on the market provides more information.
What is classification?
‘Classification’ identifies the hazard posed by explosive substances and articles and verifies their safety, as packaged, for transportation. It involves assessing an explosive to determine whether it is assigned to, or excluded from, Class 1 of the UN classification scheme for the transportation of dangerous goods in ADR.
What is ADR?
Why do I need a classification?
It is a requirement under the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (as amended) (CDG) that explosives must be classified before they can be carried in Great Britain. For more information see Classification for transport.
What is meant by ‘a Contracting Party to ADR’?
A ‘Contracting Party’ is a country that is a signatory to ADR.
How do I get explosives classified by HSE?
What information do I need to provide to prove the hazard?
There are three basic ways of proving the hazard presented by an explosive:
- By conducting tests as set out in the United Nations Manual of Tests and Criteria
- By using an existing, very similar classified explosive as an analogy for classification
- By using a classification issued by another national Competent Authority contracting to ADR
Can I carry out my own tests?
Yes you can but they must be conducted in accordance with the test protocols set out in the current edition of UN Manual of Tests and Criteria. The tests must be recorded using video and full supporting evidence must be provided with the application.
I have a range of similar items for classification – how can I make my job easier?
It is possible to classify groups or families of similar explosive substances or articles by conducting UN series 6 tests on the largest or most aggressive member of the family.
If the worst-case explosive is tested and the hazard identified then it is assumed that the other lesser members of the family will present the same hazard.
There are strict criteria which must be met:
- The articles must be of a similar construction and contain similar compositions
- Full details of constructional variations and compositions must be supplied
- The applicant must provide details of the varying parameter relating to the family, for example:
- Smokes with various functioning times
- Stage gerbs with varying heights and burn times
- Smokes with different colours
- For substances:
- Full details of the composition and form. If the substance is a powder or granular then include the size, form and specific surface, as appropriate
- The applicant MUST provide a full technical justification for the assumption that the worst-case result will adequately cover the other members of the family. This may be particularly challenging where dealing with a family of substances such as propellant powders where both the compositions and the explosive’s form may affect the hazard
Is my explosive classified?
Check if the explosive is already classified by looking on the List of Classified Explosives and Fireworks (LOCEF) or ask your supplier to provide a valid CAD from either HSE or a Contracting Party to ADR.
How long does it take to get an explosive classified?
It is difficult to give a precise timescale, but HSE aims to agree classifications within 20 working days of receipt of all necessary information.
How much will a classification cost?
The costs for work done on a classification are charged at an hourly rate. The amount of work required to process a classification depends on several factors:
- The technical complexity
- Whether the classification is based on tests or analogy
- Availability and clarity of all necessary information and any supporting evidence
Are festive crackers explosive?
Crackers are not considered to be explosives for the purposes of classification in Great Britain. However, the snaps found in the crackers are considered explosives and if transported outside of the cracker, eg in packs, they will need to be assigned a classification by a Competent Authority who is a signatory to ADR.
What do I do for a change of registered address?
Competent Authority Documents should state the registered company name, address and company number. Where there is a change in the registered company address HSE can issue a letter, listing the affected Competent Authority Documents and stating the details of the change in address. For any future changes in registered address please advise HSE and we will issue a change of address letter which can be appended to the relevant Competent Authority Documents.
What do I need to be aware of if I intend to change the manufacturer of fireworks which are currently classified?
Where a manufacturer changes HSE generally follows the approach taken by other Competent Authorities, and considers that the articles manufactured by that different manufacturer are new articles. You should therefore apply for a new competent authority document (CAD) for the articles produced by the new manufacturer. The section on how to apply provides further information.
You may also wish to review your arrangements for compliance with the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 in relation to these articles. The section on CE marking provides further information.
What do I need to do to enable HSE to transfer a Competent Authority Document (CAD) from one company to another?
HSE requires 2 letters:
- a letter from the company to whom the CAD was issued stating that they wish the CAD to be transferred to another company as well as
- a letter from the company to whom the CAD is being transferred confirming that they wish the CAD to be transferred to them
If it is not possible to obtain a letter from the company to whom the CAD was issued, HSE would accept a letter from the receivers confirming which products you have purchased the intellectual property rights for and confirming that they are content that the CADs which relate to these products can be transferred to you.
Disposing of explosives
How do I dispose of explosives?
The Explosives Regulations 2014 requires that explosives and explosives contaminated items are discarded and disposed of, safely.
The Confederation of British Industry’s Explosives Industry Group (CBI-EIG)) has published guidance on disposal of explosives:
- Guidance for the Safe Management of the Disposal of Explosives Confederation of British Industry 2007
The Chief Fire Officers Association has published guidance on the disposal of damaged fireworks:
Where can I access guidance on the disposal of damaged fireworks?
The subsector guidance on fireworks in retail premises, which supports the Explosives Regulation 2014 (ER 2014), contains general advice on this issue at paragraphs 142 & 143. HSE advises dutyholders to contact their suppliers where they have concerns regarding any products to obtain information which is specific to the particular product or to the circumstances. The supplier should be the person best able to advise on the hazards presented and the controls of resultant risks.
Fees and payments
How much does it cost to get a licence or certificate, or to get an explosive classified?
The various fees charged and hourly rates are given on the Fees web page.
Who do I make my cheque out to?
Cheques should be made payable to Health and Safety Executive.
Does HSE take credit cards?
Yes. Details of how fees can be paid, including by debit or credit card are included on your invoice. For methods of payment for applications to other licensing authorities
you should contact your licensing authority.
Do I need a licence to organise a firework display?
You do not need an explosives licence for a firework display, nor do you normally need a licence to store fireworks at a display site for less than three days. You may need to contact your local authority to check if any other licences are needed.
More practical information on giving your own firework display is available in the section on organising firework displays.
The UN firework default table does not assign 1.4S to fireworks. How do I get low hazard fireworks classified as 1.4S?
Can I import any explosives into the GB?
Yes, but before explosives are carried in GB they need to be classified.
You need to have had your explosives classified by either HSE or by a Contracting Party to ADR. If the explosives have been classified by a non-Contracting Party to ADR, then HSE will need to recognise any classification that has been granted.
If the explosives have not been classified by a national Competent Authority, you should apply to HSE for those explosives to be classified.
Do I need an import licence for explosives from the HSE?
No – see question Can I import any explosives into the GB?
What do I do if I have an old import licence?
You don’t need to do anything if the explosives have a valid classification. If the explosives aren’t classified you should either obtain classification from HSE or a classification from a Contracting Party to ADR.
Do any other legal requirements apply to my explosives?
A range of regulatory controls apply to explosives in addition to classification. You can find details on HSE’s Explosives web pages, but in summary, you should be aware of:
- Transport – the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (as amended)
- Transfer, CE marking and Recipient Competent Authority documents – the Placing on the Market and Supervision of Transfers of Explosives Regulations 1993
- Market Surveillance and CE Marking - Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008 on Accreditation and Market Surveillance, the Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010, and the Placing on the Market and Supervision of Transfers of Explosives Regulations 1993
- Security – the Control of Explosives Regulations 1991, and the Marking of Plastic Explosives for Detection Regulations 1996
- Movement through ports and harbours – the Dangerous Substances in Harbour Areas Regulations 1987
- Storage – the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005
Recipient Competent Authority documents (RCAs) and police certificates
What is an an explosives certificate?
An explosives certificate is a document that identifies a person as being fit to acquire and/or keep relevant explosives and is issued by the police. 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
Do I need an explosives certificate?
If you wish to acquire and/or keep relevant explosives, you will need an explosives certificate. All explosives are relevant explosives apart from those listed under Schedule 2 of ER2014.
For more information see authorisations.
Who do I apply to for an explosives certificate?
Anyone who wishes to acquire and or keep relevant explosives needs to contact their local police explosives liaison officer.
I store explosives that used to be listed under schedule 1 to the Control of Explosives Regulations. Schedule 2 to ER2014, which replaces schedule 1, no longer lists them. Does this mean I will need an explosives certificate to store the explosives?
Not necessarily. It might be that the explosives are pyrotechnic articles under ER2014. Contact your licensing authority for advice.
What is an RCA?
A Recipient Competent Authority document is the approval for all transfers of explosives that a consignee is legally entitled to acquire or keep.
The consignee is the person/company that will be in physical possession of the explosives after the transfer has taken place.
Do I need an RCA?
You will need an RCA if you receive certain explosives, for example gunpowder. The section on the transfer of explosives provides further information.
For most of these explosives you will also need a police explosives certificate, which you should obtain from your local police explosives liaison officer. Explosive certificates issued after 1st June 2012 will incorporate the RCA.
How do I renew my RCA document?
If you have an Explosives Certificate issued after 1st June 2012 you should find that the RCA document is incorporated into it and you do not need to contact HSE.
If you have a pre 1st June 2012 Explosives Certificate , send us a copy (not the original) of both sides of your current Explosive Certificate, by post or email, to HSE’s Explosives Inspectorate.
What are the requirements for acquire and/or keep and storage of black powder?
You will need an explosives certificate for the acquisition and/or keeping of black powder. The licensing requirements for storing shooters powders (including black powder) are set out in regulation 7 of ER2014. The separation distance requirements for shooters powders (including black powder) are set out in regulation 27 of ER2014. Information on how to store shooters powders in a safe and suitable place with all due precaution for public safety can be found in Appendix 7 of L150.
What do I have to do to comply with the law when I transport explosives?
Explosives must be transported in compliance with Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (CDG). There are exemptions and derogations to these Regulations which can apply in certain circumstances and the Department for Transport’s Dangerous goods advice.
What are the Modal Transport Regulations?
These are rules governing the different modes of national and international transport of dangerous goods. The Regulations applying to the common modes of transport of dangerous goods are:
- Road - European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR);
- Inland Waterways - European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways (ADN);
- Sea - International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG);
- Air - International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Technical Instructions.
The structure of the Regulations is consistent with, and based upon the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods, Model Regulations.
If I leave explosives in a vehicle next to my site are they considered as still being in transit?
The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations require a journey where hazardous substances such as explosives are transported to be completed a timely manner. Therefore if a vehicle is reaches its destination it should be unloaded at that premises as soon as it arrives or shortly thereafter.
Regulation 2(6) of the Explosives Regulations 2014 states that if during the transport of any explosives, those explosives are not kept in any place for more than 24 hours, they are not considered to be in storage. (This provision only applies to stops during a journey and not where they have arrived at their destination, as then the explosives would be regarded as in storage and the relevant licence requirements would apply.)
If explosives are likely to be kept on a vehicle which is in one place for more than 24 hours then this is to be treated as storage and then either that vehicle should be parked on an area of a site licensed for the storage of explosives in vehicles or the explosives should be offloaded into appropriately licensed storage.
Can I leave explosives in a vehicle which I park in one place during the day and another place overnight?
The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations require a journey where hazardous substances such as explosives are transported to be completed a timely manner. Therefore if a vehicle reaches its destination it should be unloaded at that premises as soon as it arrives or shortly thereafter.
What do I need to do if I want to transport explosives and repackage them?
In order to transport explosives they must first be classified by an European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR) signatory country. If they have not been classified by an ADR signatory country, classification is required. This can be provided by HSE. The section on classification provides further information.
Where an explosive is already classified by an ADR signatory country no further action is required, provided it conforms to the conditions (including packaging) of the original Competent Authority Document (CAD). A copy of the original CAD should be kept by the importer or the manufacturer and should be available on demand.
If you wish to repackage the explosives, any current classification would no longer be correct and as such, a new classification would be required prior to transportation.
Where can I get further help and advice?
A qualified Dangerous Goods Safety Adviser
An industry body such as:
Confederation of British Industry’s Explosives Industry Group
British Pyrotechnists Association
British Fireworks Association
Institute of Explosives Engineers
Department for Transport
Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register
The HSE website
Identification and Traceability of explosives
Do all explosives need a unique identification?
Manufacturers or importers are required to mark most civil explosives with a unique identification code. Where it is required the unique identification code must be marked on (or in certain cases attached to) each individual item. Different marking requirements apply depending on the size of the explosive. This requirement applies to all civil use explosives, covered by Directive 93/15/EC , manufactured or imported after 5 April 2013. It does not apply to civil explosives manufactured for export to a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
Does the Manufacturers name need to be printed in full as part of the unique identification on the explosive or can an abbreviation be used?
If the abbreviated name is a commonly known and recognisable trade name, this would be acceptable. The abbreviation should not make it impossible to identify the manufacturer.
What about Site codes for manufacture located outside the EU?
Where manufacturing sites are located outside the EU, the procedures of Article 3(5) of Commission Directive 2008/43/EC should be followed. However, in cases where the overseas manufacturer is also established in the EU, he could contact the national authority of the Member State in which he is established or of first import and obtain a single code for the manufacturing site to be used for all imports into the EU. The manufacturer established in the EU would assume responsibility for compliance with the Directive for all those imports, including in particular the obligations of undertakings in relation to record-keeping.
In all other cases where the manufacturing site is located outside the EU, the importer of the explosives will have to obtain a code in accordance with the second subparagraph of Article 3(5) of the Directive.
To further reduce the administrative burdens, and also in cases where the overseas manufacturer is not established in the EU, the imports need not physically go through the location of the importer or of the EU legal entity of the manufacturer, but any point of entry, provided that they are handled in line with the single authorisation for simplified procedures (SASP)/centralised customs clearance used throughout the EU under customs legislation, whereby the import paperwork is submitted in one Member State, but the products can be shipped directly to another Member State or States (with the customs authorities there not requiring additional paperwork).
The section on identification and traceability provides further information.
We are a distributor and the manufacturers/importers original unique identification is no longer clearly marked on the item. What should we put on the item to ensure identification in the supply chain?
Where a distributor repackages the civil explosive they have a duty to ensure that the unique identification is marked or affixed to the item (Regulation 33(7)). However, where the manufacturers or importers code is no longer marked as a result of the repackaging, the EU working group which leads discussions in Europe on the requirements, in association with FEEM guidance agreed it would be practical for ‘distributors’ to also allocate unique identifications to the civil explosive. This isn’t specified in the Directive but was seen as a practical solution to ensure that the items were traceable as they moved through the supply chain.
A site identification code can be obtained from HSE. Details of ‘how to apply’ are available.
The section on identification and traceability provides further information.
What should I do if I have concerns regarding the sale and potential misuse of explosive products?
If you have concerns regarding the sale and potential misuse of explosives products, you may wish to contact in the first instance:
- your local Trading Standards Department regarding sale
- your local Police regarding potential misuse
What insurance do I need?
Most employers are required by law to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment. The Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969 ensures that you have at least a minimum level of insurance cover against any such claims.
Public liability insurance is not required by health and safety law. However, if you are manufacturing or storing explosives (including fireworks) you may wish to take out public liability insurance. Many industry trade associations and professional bodies require this as a condition of membership. Professional display operators using category F4 fireworks, T2 theatrical pyrotechnics or P2 pyrotechnic articles are required by product safety law to have public liability insurance in place covering their use.