This page pertains to the manufacture, use and storage of explosives for other than construction-related tasks. The use of explosives for blasting operations in construction is discussed in the blasting and explosives safety and health topic page.
An explosive is any chemical compound, mixture, or device, the primary or common purpose of which is to function by explosion, i.e., with substantially instantaneous release of gas and heat, unless such compound, mixture, or device is otherwise specifically classified by the U.S. Department of Transportation (see 49 CFR chapter I).
What are the explosive classifications?
The term "explosives" includes all material which is classified as Class A, Class B, and Class C explosives by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Explosives include, but is not limited to, dynamite, black powder, pellet powders, initiating explosives, blasting caps, electric blasting caps, safety fuse, fuse lighters, fuse igniters, squibs, cordeau detonant fuse, instantaneous fuse, igniter cord, igniters, small arms ammunition, small arms ammunition primers, smokeless propellant, cartridges for propellant-actuated power devices, and cartridges for industrial guns. Commercial explosives are those explosives which are intended to be used in commercial or industrial operations.
Class A explosives: Possess detonating, or otherwise maximum hazard. Examples: dynamite, nitroglycerin, picric acid, lead azide, fulminate of mercury, black powder, blasting caps, and detonating primers.
Class B explosives: Possess flammable hazards. Examples: propellant explosives (including some smokeless propellants), photographic flash powders, and some special fireworks
Class C explosives: Includes certain types of manufactured articles which contain Class A or Class B explosives, or both, as components but in restricted quantities.
What are the hazards associated with explosives?
Serious bodily injury, death, and significant property damage due to detonation and fire.
What can I do to protect myself?
Some of the precautions to follow regarding the handling and storage of explosives include not storing blasting caps, detonating primers and primed cartridges in the same magazine as other explosives. Be sure that only non-sparking tools are used around explosives and explosive materials. Employees of manufacturers of explosives should ensure that they have been informed about any chemical processes in their work area(s) and know about procedures associated with changes to these processes. Employers are required to ensure that employees have been trained about the health and physical hazards of chemicals in their work areas and about any processes involving any high hazardous chemicals
What resources are available to employers?
Safety and Health Programs
Example programs on hazard communication, emergency action plan and fire prevention plan, respiratory protection and PPE hazard assessment can assist the employer with their hazard communication, emergency planning and identifying the appropriate personal protective equipment required in the workplace.
Training and Outreach Services
Presentations on hazard communication, exit routes, emergency action and fire prevention plans, respiratory protection and personal protective equipment (general industry and construction) can assist employers in training their staff. These presentations should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards.
In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.
Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video service) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).
A-Z Safety and Health Topics
Other relevant resources can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics pages for exits and exit routes, hazard communication, personal protective equipment, HAZWOPER, blasting and explosives, emergency action plans, process safety management, respiratory protection and fire prevention plans.
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
Which standards apply?
OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to explosives in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
29 CFR 1910.109 - explosives and blasting agents
29 CFR 1910.119 - process safety management of highly hazardous chemicals
29 CFR 1910.120 - HAZWOPER
Additional OSH standards relevant to the manufacture, storage and use of explosives include:
29 CFR 1910.38 - emergency action plans
29 CFR 1910.39 - fire prevention plans
29 CFR 1910.132 - personal protective equipment, general requirements
29 CFR 1910.134 - respiratory protection
29 CFR 1910.1020 - access to employee exposure and medical records
29 CFR 1910.1200 - hazard communication
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.
Where can I learn more?
Compliance Directive: CPL 02-02-045, Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals - Compliance Guidelines and Enforcement Procedures, establishes enforcement policy and provides an explanation of the standard to ensure uniform enforcement.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training, provides requirements for standards related to general industry.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-707-7876.