Beware When Blasting

Explosives are one of man's principal and most powerful tools and yet they can be safe and controllable enough to perform precise tasks accurately. Historically speaking, this is the tool that opened the wilderness and helped build the new country.

Today's construction industry jobs and needs are bigger and more vital than ever; the interstate highway system, more productive mines, new dams, plants, and buildings. Explosives make these projects possible both technically and economically. Explosives remain unmatched for many jobs, and the United States uses more explosives today than ever before - nearly two billion pounds.

Over the past half century the blasting industry has become safer with the development of more stable explosives and superior initiation systems. However, the mere use of new products and equipment has not been a cure-all to prevent blasting accidents.

Blasting accidents still occur and are almost always serious. The detonation of explosives releases tremendous power and energy and the slightest error can have serious consequences. In all blasting operations it is expected that broken rock will move within the blast area. It is standard procedure for the blaster to ensure that no one is in the blast area during a blast and that no rock leaves the blast area.

The most effective step toward preventing accidents is through the proper training of the blaster and the blasting crew. All members of the blasting crew must recognize the hazards involved in their work and must clearly understand the procedures and methods to eliminate or reduce these hazards.

The most important components of a safety program is the education of the blasters and the quality of their training. The following guidelines should be followed in the selection of a blasting crew:

  • All blasting operations shall be performed under the direct supervision of a blaster who is present at the project. The blaster must hold a blaster's certificate which authorizes the performance of the particular type of work that he/she is to conduct or supervise.
  • A supervisor shall consult with a blaster so that both are aware of all work being conducted in a blasting area. No work shall be conducted in a manner which creates a risk of an accidental explosion.

The formal safety meeting is an instrument to convey knowledge and expertise to a relatively large group of people. It is imperative that management at all levels actively participates in and supports these meetings.

Tailgate or toolbox safety meetings are an excellent way to familiarize the blast crew on the specific plans for a blast, or as an outline to the day's activities. A job safety analysis must be performed in the planning of all blasting operations.

Source: laborers' AGC