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Explosives and Reactive Agents

Licensing and Certification

The Explosives Regulations 2014 define explosives as:

(a) any explosive article or explosive substance which would —

  • if packaged for transport, be classified in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations as falling within Class 1; or
  • be classified in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations as —
    • being unduly sensitive or so reactive as to be subject to spontaneous reaction and accordingly too dangerous to transport, and
    • falling within Class 1; or

(b) a desensitised explosive (i.e. a solid or liquid explosive that is wetted or dissolved to suppress its explosive properties, and which would be a Class 1 substance without that treatment).

It is University policy that Class 1 explosives or desensitised explosives should not be acquired, manufactured or stored by the University. It is policy that only Schedule 2 substances can be acquired or stored, subject to compliance with the 'General Safety Requirements' outlined below.


There are exemptions for the requirement for certification and for storage licences. Schedule 2 to the regulations lists the substances that do not need a certificate to acquire or keep. The schedule is in two parts - Part 1 List of Explosives, and Part 2 Further List of Explosives. The most relevant sections for University staff are likely to be:

8. Any desensitised explosive acquired, in a quantity not exceeding 5 grams, for the purposes of (a) research, analysis or testing at a University

16. A solution of the explosive substance 2,4, 6-Trinitrophenol (picric acid) in a concentration no greater than 2% weight per volume intended for use as an analytical reagent, stain, dye or fixative.

Guidance to determine hazard type is available on the HSE website. An exemption of note for University staff is that no more than 5kg of hazard type 3 or 4 substances which are in Schedule 2 can be kept without a licence indefinitely. An inventory of such materials must be maintained to ensure the limit is not exceeded.

General Safety Requirements

Any explosive substance must be added to the chemical inventory for the department / space. Ensure regular checks on the condition of the substance are carried out where required. All time limited substances must be suitably disposed of before the deadline. NB Picric acid becomes a Class 1 explosive if allowed to dry out.

All detonators and charges must be stored segregated from each other.

Anyone wishing to carry out work involving the use of the above exempted substances must notify us before the activity takes place and provide a suitable risk assessment which covers all the significant risks and the controls to mitigate those risks. There must be suitable secure storage for the substances and the risk assessment must also consider spillage the required emergency arrangements for the planned activity

For further information or advice contact Health and Safety Services