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Fireworks in Transit: An Explosive Situation

Throughout the United States, from small towns to large cities, the Fourth of July is a day to celebrate our nation's independence. Festivities may vary from place to place, but some are staples of this all-American holiday: food, parades, street fairs, and of course, fireworks.

Public fireworks displays date back to 1777, when the city of Philadelphia lit up the night sky at the first commemorative Independence Day celebration. Since that time, both public and private use of fireworks has continued to gain popularity.

Fireworks are an American tradition, but more importantly, they are a class of explosive pyrotechnic articles and a Department of Transportation (DOT) Hazardous Material (HAZMAT). As Class 1 Explosives, fireworks must be carefully transported to reduce the risk of fire, unnecessary accidents, injuries, and even death. HAZMAT certification and training ensures that fireworks are safely packaged, transported, and in compliance with the relevant DOT and PHMSA regulations.

All explosives, including fireworks, must be classed and approved by the DOT prior to transportation into and within the United States. Display fireworks, also known as professional grade, fall under Division 1.3 of Class 1 Explosives. This division is characterized by a fire hazard and their ability to produce considerable radiant heat or burning, resulting in minor blasts or projectiles. Consumer fireworks are under Division 1.4, which means they present no significant hazards. However, in the event of ignition or initiation during transport, they may present a small hazard. It is the responsibility of the person offering a hazardous material for transportation to ensure that they have sufficient HAZMAT shipping training to stay compliant with HMR packaging requirements.

HAZMAT regulations authorize the DOT to issue classification documents, known as EX Approvals, that are in accordance with the Hazardous Materials Regulations for the shipping and transport of fireworks. Applications for EX Approvals must include a cover letter, the request application, a diagram of the explosive device (internal components, dimensions, component tables, etc.), and a chemical composition sheet. Approvals may be denied if information is missing, unclear, or inconsistent. EX Approval applications can have a lengthy approval process - typically, around 120 days. If the application is denied, explanations for denial will accompany the denial letter.

EX Approvals, when granted, serve three primary purposes:

  1. Provide written consent, including competent authority approval, to perform a function that requires prior consent under the HMR;
  2. Ensure safe HAZMAT shipping of explosives/fireworks; and
  3. Assign the EX Approval number, proper shipping name (general marking), UN identification number, and hazard class for the fireworks device.

EX Approval numbers must be placed on the shipping or packaging documents to ship and transport into and within the U.S. They are issued by the Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, or a designated official. A company's EX Approval may be canceled or suspended if the required terms and conditions are not met.

The Department of Transportation works on many fronts to ensure the safe transport and handling of fireworks. Commercial vehicles carrying Class 1 Explosives may be subject to roadside inspection by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. FMCSA inspectors examine shipping papers, labels, safety permits, placards, packaging, and other federal and state safety requirements. Safety and enforcement investigators from various Federal agencies, including the DOT, routinely conduct compliance and safety inspections for companies and persons granted EX Approval.

Non-compliance with DOT regulations for shipping and transporting fireworks is nothing to celebrate. Online HAZMAT training helps those in the chain of transportation stay compliant with proper handling and safeguarding of hazardous materials as prescribed in the HMR. Comprehensive DOT HAZMAT training is required at least once every three years to increase safety awareness and reduce hazmat incidents.

Compliance Training Online brings you high quality, easy-to-use training courses for a variety of safety standards and regulations. Keep your company safe and compliant with our online training courses, complete with a management system to track compliance and printable certificates and wallet cards for successful course completion.



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