UK Explosives Law
Here I have reproduced some of the what I thought were relevant sections of the Explosives Act of 1875, as it relates to amateur rocketry and pyrotechnics in the UK. Note that I haven't typed in the Act in its entirity since it runs to about 80 pages, and I had problems with the OCR software I tried to use to scan it in. I have left in the sub-section headings (the bits in italics) so that you can see which sections have been left out.
I have also added a few sections of the (much shorter - 4 pages) Explosives Substances Act of 1883, and the whole text of the Explosives Act of 1923 (even though it is not very interesting; I added it as it was only a single page).
I've also provided links to COER, the new MSER regulations, and also to information on UN numbers and hazard categories.
Thanks are due to Nads for helping me find the text of the Act (law students have a use after all! ;-), and to Mat Lawrence (check out MLE Pyrotechnics) and Danny Kay, both of the PyroUK mailing list, for the pointers to MSER.
Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for any mistakes in this text. If you think I have something wrong, however, please email me to let me know.
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New Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations
Note that alot of the Explosives Act is due to be phased out with the introduction of the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations (MSER) in late 2002/early 2003 (click here for a press release from the HSE). Proposals for the new MSER can be downloaded from the HSE here. One interesting point to note for amateur rocketeers/pyrotechnicians in the draft proposal:
Explosives not to be manufactured without a licence
9.(1) Subject to paragraph (2), no person shall manufacture explosives unless he holds a licence for that manufacture and complies with the conditions of that licence.
(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to- (a) the manufacture of explosives for the purpose of laboratory analysis, testing, demonstration or experimentation (but not for practical use or sale) where the total quantity of explosives being manufactured at any time does not exceed 50 grams;
(from page 54 of the pdf downloaded from the HSE)
Update: November 2002
I've recently read somewhere (although I'll be damned if I can remember where!) that MSER is not now likely to be phased in until early 2004.
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One interesting point to note from Section 10:
(2) No person shall keep any explosive in any premises for private use except one or more of the following-
(a) any quantity of fireworks which are kept for less than 14 days before being used and are kept in a safe and suitable place with all due precautions for public safety;
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Ribbands Explosives has a list of UN numbers and hazard categories on their website. UN numbers are assigned to all types of explosives (including fireworks and rocket engines), although the descriptions are very general (e.g. Aerotech ammonium perchlorate-based solid rocket motors are classified under UN0349 and UN0351, both of which have the generic description "Articles, Explosive, NOS [Not Otherwise Specified]"). Another interesting point (at least I think so) is that rocket motors with hypergolic liquids are classified UN0250.
I've recently come across another page with a list of UN classifications. Shax.co.uk also has a list of UN numbers, but this list is more comprehensive than the one on the Ribbands site, i.e. it also lists the UN numbers for non-explosive substances, such as various gases, solvents and other chemicals. Don't know if it'll be of any use to anyone, but its there anyway.
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The Explosives Act, 1875.
AN ACT to amend the Law with respect to manufacturing, keeping, selling, carrying, and importing Gunpowder, Nitro-glycerine, and other Explosive Substances. [14th June 1875.]
1. This Act may be cited as "The Explosives Act, 1875."
3. This Act shall apply to gunpowder and other explosives as defined by this section.
The term "explosive" in this Act-
(1) Means gunpowder, nitro-glycerine, dynamite, gun-cotton, blasting powders, fulminate of mercury or of other metals, coloured fires, and every other substance, whether similar to those above-mentioned or not, used or manufactured with a view to produce a practical effect by explosion or a pyrotechnic effect; and
(2) Includes fog-signals, fireworks, fuzes, rockets, percussion caps, detonators, cartridges, ammunition of all descriptions, and every adaptation or preparation of an explosive as above defined.
General Law as to Manufacture and Keeping of Gunpowder
4. The manufacture of gunpowder shall not, nor shall any process of such manufacture, be carried on except at a factory for gunpowder either lawfully existing or licensed for the same under this Act.
Provided that nothing in this section shall apply to the making of a small quantity of gunpowder for the purpose of chemical experiment and not for practical use or sale.
If any person manufactures gunpowder or carries on any process of such manufacture at any place at which he is not allowed by this section so to do, he shall be deemed to manufacture gunpowder at an unauthorised place.
Where gunpowder is manufactured at an unauthorised place-
(1) All or part of the gunpowder or the ingredients of gunpowder which may be found either in or about such place or in the possession or under the control of any person convicted under this section, may be forfeited; and
(2) The person so manufacturing shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding one hundred pounds a day for every day during which he so manufactures.
5. Gunpowder shall not be kept at any place except as follows; that is to say,
(1) Except in the factory (either lawfully existing or licensed for the same under this Act) in which it is manufactured; or
(2) Except in a magazine or store for gunpowder either lawfully existing or licensed under this Act for keeping gunpowder; or
(3) Except in premises registered under this Act for keeping gunpowder.
Provided that this section shall not apply-
(1) To a person keeping for his private use and not for sale gunpowder to an amount not exceeding on the same premises thirty pounds; or
(2) To the keeping of gunpowder by a carrier or other person for the purpose of conveyance, when the same is being conveyed or kept in accordance with the provisions of this Act with respect to the conveyance of gunpowder.
Any gunpowder kept in any place other than above in this section shall be deemed to be kept in an unauthorised place.
Where any gunpowder is kept in an unauthorised place-
(1) All or any part of the gunpowder found in such place may be forfeited; and
(2) The occupier of such place, and also the owner of, or other person guilty of keeping the gunpowder, shall each be liable to a penalty not exceeding two shillings for every pound of gunpowder so kept.
Licensing of Factories and Magazines for Gunpowder
Regulation of Factories and Magazines for Gunpowder
Supplemental as to Factories and Magazines for Gunpowder
Application of Act to Existing Factories and Magazines for Gunpowder
Consumers Stores for Gunpowder
Licensing and Regulation of Stores
Application of Act to Existing Stores for Gunpowder
Retail Dealing with Gunpowder
Registration and Regulation of Registered Premises
Sale of Gunpowder
Conveyance of Gunpowder
Application of Part I to other Explosives
39. Subject to the provisions hereafter in this part of this Act contained, Part One of this Act relating to gunpowder shall apply to every other description of explosive, in like manner as if those provisions were herein re-enacted with the substitution of explosive for gunpowder.
Specially Dangerous Explosives
Provisions in favour of certain Manufacturers and Dealers
Existing Factories, Magazines, and Stores
104. Her Majesty may, by Order in Council, declare that any substance which appears to Her Majesty to be specially dangerous to life or property by reason either of its explosive properties, or of any process in the manufacture thereof being liable to explosion, shall be deemed to be an explosive within the meaning of this Act and the provisions of this Act (subject to such exceptions, limitations, and restrictions as may be specified in the order) shall accordingly extend to such substance in like manner as if it were included in the term explosive in this Act.
105. Any person who carries on any of the following processes, namely, the process of dividing into its component parts or otherwise breaking up or unmaking any explosive, or making fit for use any damaged explosive, or the process of remaking altering or repairing any explosive, shall be subject to the provisions of this Act as if he manufactured an explosive, and the expression "manufacture" shall be construed accordingly.
106. It shall be lawful for Her Majesty from time to time by Order in Council, to define, for the purposes of this Act,the composition, quality, and character of any explosive, and to classify explosives.
When the composition, quality, or character of any explosive has been defined by an Order in Council, any article alleged to be such explosive which differs from such definition in composition, quality, or character, whether by reason of deterioration or otherwise, shall not be deemed, for the purposes of this Act, to be the explosive so defined.
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The Explosive Substances Act, 1883.
1. This Act may be cited as the Explosive Substances Act, 1883.
2. Any person who unlawfully and maliciously causes by any explosive substance an explosion of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property shall, whether or not any injury to person or property has been actually caused or not, be guilty of felony, and on conviction shall be liable to penal servitude for life, or for any less term (not less than the minimum term allowed by law), or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding two years.
3. Any person who within or (being a subject of Her Majesty) without Her Majesty's dominions unlawfully and maliciously-
(a) does any act with intent to cause by an explosive substance, or conspires to cause by an explosive substance an explosion in the United Kingdom of a nature likely to endanger life or to cause serious injury to property; or
(b) makes or has in his possession or under his control any explosive substance with intent by means thereof to endanger life, or cause serious injury to property in the United Kingdom, or to enable any other person by means thereof to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the Untied Kingdom,
shall, whether any explosion does or does not take place, and whether any injury to person or property has actually been caused or not, be guilty of felony, and on conviction shall be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding twenty years, or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding two years, and the explosive substance shall be forfeited.
4. (1) Any person who makes or knowingly has in his possession or under his control any explosive substance, under such circumstances as to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that he is not making it or does not have it in his possession or under his control for a lawful object, shall, unless he can show that he made it or had it in his possession or under his control for a lawful object, be guilty of felony, and, on conviction, be be liable to penal servitude for a term not exceeding fourteen years, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years with or without hard labour, and the explosive substance shall be forfeited
(2) In any proceeding against any person for a crime under this section, such person and his wife, or husband, as the case may be, may, if such person thinks fit, be called, sworn, examined, and cross-examined as an ordinary witness in the case.
5. Any person who within or (being a subject of Her Majesty) without Her Majesty's dominions by the supply of or solicitation for money, the providing of premises, the supply of materials, or in any manner whatsoever, procures, counsels, aids, abets, or is accessory to, the commission of any crime under this Act, shall be guilty of felony, and shall be liable to be tried and punsihed for that crime, as if he had been guilty as a principal.
9. (1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires- The expression "explosive substance" shall be deemed to include any materials for making any explosive substance; also any apparatus, machine, implement, or materials used, or intended to be used, or adapted for causing, or aiding in causing, any explosion in or with any explosive substance; also any part of such apparatus, machine, or implement.
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The Explosives Act, 1923.
1. (1) Where the Secretary of State is satisfied that owing to the existence of any special circumstances special precautions require to be taken under section twenty-three of the Explosives Act, 187 (in this Act referred to as the principal Act), for the prevention of accidents by fire or explosion in any such factory, magazine, store, or registered premises as is referred to in that section, or for preventing unauthorised persons having access thereto he may by order prescribe the special precautions to be taken, and any contravention of or failure to comply with the terms of such order shall be deemed to be a breach of that section.
(2) Without prejudice to any penalty imposed by the said Act, it shall be lawful for the Secretary of State, where he is satisfied that the provisions of any such order are not complied with, to cause steps to be taken to secure compliance therewith, and to recover from the occupier as a debt due to the Crown the expense of taking any such steps.
[S. 2 makes amendments in ss. 10, 17 of 38 & 39 Vict. C. 17 : see that Act.]
3. The maximum fine to which a person shall be liable for an offence under section five or for an offence under section twenty-two of the principal Act (which relate to the keeping of gunpowder) shall be either a fine of the maximum amount specified in the relevant section or a fine of one hundred pounds, whichever is the greater; and those sections and any other provisions of the said Act relating thereto shall have effect accordingly.
4. (1) The powers of the Minister of Transport to make byelaws under section thirty-four of the principal Act as respects any part of the coastal or tidal waters for which there is no harbour authority may, as respects any dockyard port, be exercised by the Admiralty.
(2) In this section the expression "dockyard port" means a dockyard port as defined under the Dockyard Port Regulation Act, 1865, and the powers given by this section shall be in addition to, and not in derogation of, any powers otherwise invested in the Admiralty.
5. (1) This Act may be cited as the Explosives Act, 1923, and the principal Act and this Act may be cited together as the Explosives Acts, 1875 and 1923.
(2) This Act shall not apply to Northern Ireland.
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