Explosives - Frequently asked questions

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. Dutyholders should look to achieve these in a way that is proportionate to their business. The guidance assists dutyholders 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 dutyholder 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.

Sub-sector guidance

HSE has worked with a variety of industry groups to produce more detailed guidance specific to each sub-sector. This guidance is available at Explosives Regulations 2014 - Subsector guidance

Explosives licensing

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:

  1. ammunition the acquisition of which is regulated or prohibited by virtue of the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997
  2. any explosive which it is shown is intended for lawful use by the armed forces or the police of any country
  3. a pyrotechnic article

Many civil explosives will also be relevant explosives but ultimately the decision on whether an item is a pyrotechnic or civil explosive remains the responsibility of the Approved Body.

A list of items comprising pyrotechnics and ammunition and therefore not normally considered to be within scope of the definition of 'civil 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:

  1. ammunition the acquisition of which is regulated or prohibited by virtue of the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997, and
  2. 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 dependent 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 do 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 is available on how to apply for a licence.

Where can I find licence application forms?

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 licensed 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 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.

ER2014 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 Regulations 2005 (MSER), which were revoked by ER2014, 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 500kg 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 to whom you are applying 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 as 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 minimising 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 five 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 licences, 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 four months
  • Simple new/variation (less than 10 building schedules) requiring assent – turnaround time to conclusion on receipt of all information is eight 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 for the storage of no more than 2000kg of explosives, the fee is dependent on whether it is a new licence, or a renewal and the period for which it is granted.

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.

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, eg pop-up, 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 five-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 a 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 from the police to acquire and/or acquire and keep explosives. 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 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 licenses 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
  • 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, are 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 guidance 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 licenses 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 (PDF).

When HSE includes conditions on a licence to cover activities such as disposal or the use of explosives it will generally determine separation distances in accordance with schedule 5 to ER2014 but will also include additional conditions relating to protecting people and property derived from industry guidance or specialist publications such as the Ministry of Defence's Handbook of defence ranges safety (JSP403). To reflect our revised approach to licensing since we developed the handbook.

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 three 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.

Who does the manufacturer inform when they identify they have a non-complying civil explosive on the market?

The manufacturer is required to take the corrective measures to bring the civil explosive into conformity or withdraw or recall the product where appropriate. If the civil explosive presents a 'risk', the manufacturer must immediately inform HSE.

What is modification?

When a civil explosive already placed on the market is modified in such a way that compliance with the regulations may be affected.

What happens if a distributor or importer modifies an explosive, or adds their name or trademark to the explosive?

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.


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 overview.

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:

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.

Detailed guidance on conducting tests is available in the United Nations Manual of Tests and Criteria.

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:

For articles:

  • 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?

Your supplier should be able to provide a valid Competent Authority Document from either HSE or a contracting party to ADR.

The transport documentation for any fireworks you receive should also include the reference number that a contracting party to ADR has allocated to those articles. You can check whether reference numbers for fireworks prefixed GB are correct by sending an email to [email protected].

You can find out whether an explosive has been classified by HSE by sending an email containing the name of the explosive, its part number and any details you have relating to the manufacturer and importer to [email protected]. You can find the contact details for other contracting parties to ADR at Competent Authorities | UNECE.

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 (CADs) should state the registered company name, address and company number. CADs do not need to be reissued or revised to reflect changes in the registered company address Companies House publishes a record of any changes.   

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 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 2015 in relation to these articles. BEIS publish relevant guidance.

What do I need to do to enable HSE to transfer a Competent Authority Document (CAD) from one company to another?

HSE requires two letters:

  • a letter from the company to whom the competent authority document 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 require 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:

Where can I access guidance on the disposal of damaged fireworks?

The sub-sector guidance on fireworks in retail premises, which supports the Explosives Regulations 2014 (ER2014), contains general advice on this issue at paragraphs 142 and 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 webpage.

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?

You have three options:

  • Seek a classification using a previously tested explosive as an analogy
  • Conduct UN series 6 tests to prove the hazard
  • Obtain a valid Competent Authority Document from a Contracting Party to ADR 2011 assigning 1.4S

Importing and transferring explosives

Can I import any explosives into Great Britain?

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.

For more information see classification for transport overview, classification forms, and the list of competent authorities on the ADR website.

You should also ensure that you have a transfer approval to transfer the explosives into GB. Details are available on the Transfer of explosives page.

Do I need an import licence for explosives from the HSE?

No but you do need a GB transfer approval for transfers from outside the UK into GB – see question Can I import any explosives into 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.

I am transferring explosives into Northern Ireland from an EU Member State. What should I do?

Under the provisions of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland will remain aligned with the EU in respect of the transfer of explosives.  Transfers into Northern Ireland from an EU member state will therefore require an ICT to cover Northern Ireland and all EU member states through which the explosives will pass. Applications should be made to PSNI.

Do I need a GB transfer approval to transfer explosives from Northern Ireland to Great Britain?

No. You will not need a GB transfer approval to transfer explosives from NI to GB.  You will however require an RCA for this transfer.

I am transferring explosives directly into Great Britain from a non-EU country. What should I do?

You should apply to HSE for a GB transfer approval for the transfer.  Applications can be made using the GB transfer approval formThe GB transfer approval will be valid from the start date specified on the transfer approval. 

How can I apply for a GB transfer approval?

Applications can be made using the GB transfer approval form.

How much does a GB transfer approval cost?

There is currently no charge for the issue of a GB transfer approval.

How long will a GB transfer approval be valid for?

The period of validity of the GB transfer approval will depend on a variety of factors including whether the application is for a single or multiple transfer and the expiry of the relevant explosives (acquire and keep) certificate.  The duration of the approval will be discussed with the applicant.

How long will it take for a GB transfer approval to be issued?

HSE will endeavour to issue GB transfer approvals within 20 days of receipt of all necessary information.

A range of regulatory controls apply to explosives in addition to classification. You can find details on HSE's Explosives webpages, but in summary you should be aware of:

  • transport – the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 (as amended)
  • movement through ports and harbours – the Dangerous Goods in Harbour Areas Regulations 2016

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  for the purposes of explosives certificates apart from those listed under Schedule 2 of ER2014, pyrotechnic articles other than those listed in Schedule 3 of ER2014 and ammunition the acquisition of which is regulated or prohibited by virtue of the Firearms Acts 1968 to 1997.

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.

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. Explosives 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.

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.

Transporting explosives

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:

The structure of the Regulations is consistent with, and based on 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 in a timely manner. Therefore, when a vehicle 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 when 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 in a timely manner. Therefore, when 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 a 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.

How to apply for a licence

Where can I get further help and advice?

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.

I work for a company based in GB, we buy some of the civil explosives that we use from manufacturers based outside the EU and consequently they bear a GB site identification code (code).  Some of these products occasionally need to be transferred from GB into the EU or Northern Ireland for use in contract work.  Do I need to get an EU code and relabel the products before they can be transferred from GB into the EU?

Yes because after the UK left the EU, GB is not part of the European traceability system, so the EU no longer recognises GB codes.  Applications for an EU code can be made to the competent authority of the EU Member State that the explosives are being imported into.  The explosives should then be relabelled before they are transferred from GB into the EU.

If the manufacturer supplies civil explosives directly to a company in an EU Member State, they will have been issued with an EU code which may be used to mark the explosives.  GB unilaterally recognises EU codes, providing details of the code have been pre-notified to HSE as part of the transfer approval process; these items would not need to be relabelled prior to transfer from GB to EU.

People who import uncoded civil explosives directly into Northern Ireland must apply to the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) for a code.  GB and NI bilaterally recognise each others' codes so transfers between the two countries do not need to be re-coded.

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 manufacturer's or importer's 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.

More information

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.

Ammonium nitrate detonation resistance testing

I am an importer of chemicals and amongst the list of substances I import for supply are nitrates of barium, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, nickel, potassium and sodium. Also nitrites of ammonium, sodium and potassium. I have been informed that there is an import control on these substances and that I will need to obtain a detonation resistance test certificate from the Health and Safety Executive for each consignment as part of my import documentation.

There is no requirement for any of the substances listed above to undergo a detonation resistance test (DRT). This import control refers the test required for relevant ammonium nitrate material, ie ammonium nitrate in solid form, where its nitrogen content is more than 28% of its weight. This law only applies to ammonium nitrate only and is enforced by Defra (not HSE) under The Ammonium Nitrate Materials (High Nitrogen Content) Safety Regulations 2003.  Defra has some guidance on the requirements with a contact email address for advice and enquiries Manufacturing and marketing fertilisers - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Can you please tell me what I need to do? My company uses technical grade ammonium nitrate which would not pass the detonation resistance test.

If you plan to import technical grade relevant ammonium nitrate not intended for use as fertiliser, then you may apply to HSE for an exemption from the requirement for a DRT – please see HSE Explosives - Ammonium nitrate with high nitrogen content for details and send any enquiries to [email protected]. Similarly, the exemption (if granted) would need to be issued to you prior to import.

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