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Ammonium nitrate Materials (high Nitrogen content) regulations 2003

OC 279/3

This OC provides an overview of these regulations, which are primarily enforced by Trading Standards Officers, with assistance from HM Revenue and Customs and HSEs Hazardous Installations Directorate ( HID Policy Unit – Mines, Quarries and Explosives).


1 The Ammonium Nitrate Materials (High Nitrogen Content) Safety Regulations 2003, the AN(HNC) Regulations, came into force on 1 May 2003. Although made under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) they were sponsored by the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). DEFRA developed the regulations in response to concerns that poor quality Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser was being imported, increasing the risk of a explosion on the scale of the Toulouse incident of 2001.


2 The regulations prohibit the importation, manufacture, supply or keeping of ammonium nitrate materials where the nitrogen content derived from ammonium nitrate is greater than 28% by weight unless the material has a certificate attesting that it has passed a Detonation Resistance Test (DRT). This confirms that it has an appropriate degree of resistance to detonation.

3 The test must be carried out in line with the requirements of the regulations, by a laboratory accredited in line with various international standards. Currently, the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) is the only laboratory in the UK that meets all the requirements of the regulations.

4 For material manufactured in Great Britain, or imported from within the EU, a detonation resistance certificate (DR certificate) covers a batch, which may be up to 92 days production. The DR certificate remains valid for so long as there is no material change to the ammonium nitrate.

5 For material imported from outside the EU, each consignment must be accompanied by a DR certificate that has been issued following a detonation resistance test, carried out no more than 60 days before the arrival of the material in Great Britain. This may however be extended if there were delays outside the importers control, such as bad weather affecting shipping. Once in GB the DR certificate remains valid for so long as there is no material change to the ammonium nitrate.

6 Records relating to the importation, manufacturing, supply or keeping of material must be kept for at least two years.

7 The regulations apply only to solid materials. Therefore, ammonium nitrate solutions (used as an explosive in some quarries) and ammonium nitrate used in medical anaesthetic gases are exempt.

8 Most materials covered by the regulations are used as fertilisers. HSE may exempt substances that are used for other purposes which would otherwise fall under the regulations, although the requirements to keep records still apply. Examples of such substances include solid ammonium nitrate materials used as an explosive in quarries. A limited number of exemptions have been issued. HID Policy Unit – Mines, Quarries and Explosives Policy Team operate the exemption regime.

9 The regulations do not apply to end users, such as farms. Also, amounts that are less than 500Kg in total are also exempt (therefore, a shipment of several 500Kg bags would be covered by the regulations, but the importation or supply of a single 500Kg bag would not).

Enforcement of the regulations

10 The regulations are enforced by local authority Trading Standards Officers (TSOs) in England, Wales and Scotland (Northern Ireland has its own arrangements). HM Revenue and Customs assist TSOs by providing information on imports of material.

11 HSE ( Explosives Inspectorate HID SI2) may be called upon from time-to-time to assist and advise any TSO who discovers material that is suspect or has failed a DRT, with a view to ensuring adequate remedial action, including disposal, where appropriate. TSOs contacting field offices to seek this assistance should be advised to contact HID SI2on 0151 951 4025.

12 HSE enforce the exemptions arrangements discussed in paragraph 8 at premises allocated to HSE under the enforcing authority regulations, such as manufacturers. At premises allocated to other authorities HSE will follow up reports from TSOs of concerns regarding exemptions. Normally, HID SI2 will carry out enforcement work. FOD Inspectors dealing with ports may encounter companies claiming exemption from the regulations. If there are concerns regarding these claims, inspectors should contact HID Policy Unit – Mines, Quarries and Explosives Policy Team or HID SI2 for advice.

13 A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been developed between DEFRA, the Local Government Association representing TSOs, HSE and HM Revenue and Customs setting out the roles and responsibilities of these bodies in enforcing the regulations. The MoU also lists relevant contacts in each department.

14 The MoU is available from HID SI2. Queries regarding the MoU, including the roles and responsibilities of each of the parties involved (HSE, DEFRA, HMRC, LGA) should be referred to HID SI2.

15 The regulations do not affect the existing legal position or current guidance on storing or handling ammonium nitrate. HSW Act, the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, and legislation concerning the packaging and labelling of dangerous goods continue to apply. Where ammonium nitrate is involved in a fire, oxides of nitrogen can be produced. Therefore, hazards and risks to health in such circumstances will need to be considered under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.


16 Inspectors are asked to:

17 OC 279/3(v2) Cancel and Destroy.

Updated 08.03.11