OSHA Explosives Regulations

I hadn't paid any attention to OSHA and in fact had never scrolled down that far in my regular examination of the Federal Regsiter Daily Digest. But recently I noticed that the NRA (not NAR) types were up in arms over new regulations. So I took a look.

Notice of Proposed Rule Making (published 13 April 2007)

(Note: the comment period was closed shortly after being extended)

current regulations

The changes were ostensibly to update regulations that hadn't changed in many years. I thought that the ATF had been slow in updating their regulations to reflect the change by the DOT to use the UN hazardous materials standards. DOT made this switch in 1990 and the ATF followed in 1998. OSHA is only just now getting on board.

One of the big changes is that OSHA is dropping most of their storage requirements because they are already regulated by the ATF. In fact in their discussion of why they are deleting those regulations they actually prove that they are already pre-empted and therefore null and void.

They do keep storage regulations for things that the ATF exempts. Like small arms ammunition and components.

The OSHA definition of "explosives" includes everything classified by the DOT as Division 1. Which covers much more than what the ATF regulates as explosives.

Explosive means any device, or liquid or solid chemical compound or mixture, the primary or common purpose of which is to function by explosion.
(i) The term "explosive" includes all material included as a Class 1 explosive by DOT in accordance with 49 CFR chapter I. The term includes, but is not limited to, dynamite, black powder, pellet powders, detonators, blasting agents, initiating explosives, blasting caps, safety fuse, fuse lighters, fuse igniters, squibs, cordeau detonant fuse, instantaneous fuse, igniter cord, igniters, pyrotechnics, special industrial explosive materials, small arms ammunition, small arms ammunition primers, smokeless propellant, cartridges for propellant-actuated power devices, and cartridges for industrial guns.

This of course includes rocket motors.

Where things get interesting is in the requirements for "facilities containing explosives". A phrase that is not in the existing regulations but is so sweeping that it includes your local Home Depot or other hardware store (explosive propellant cartridges for nail guns), car dealers and garages (explosive air bag inflators and seat belt pre-tensioners), and hobby shops, not to mention local gun stores, and other businesses that might come more immediately to mind.

One of the more poorly thought out requirements in the regulations would prohibit carrying a firearm in any "facility containing explosives". Which would put quite a damper on gun stores.

Several days after granting a request to extend the comment period, OSHA abruptly closed the comments and said that they would reissue the proposed rules later:

SUMMARY: On April 13, 2007, the U.S. Department of Labor published a proposed rule entitled Explosives with a comment period that ended 7/ 12/2007. On July 9, 2007, the comment period was extended to 9/10/2007. At this time the U.S. Department of Labor is closing the comment period effective July 17, 2007. The Department intends to re-propose the Explosives NPRM at a later date in order to clarify the intent of the rulemaking.

This was apparantly in response to the several thousand comments stirred up by the NRA. Alas since most of these focus exclusively on ammunition I have my doubts about OSHA fixing things so that a hobby shop that stocks rocket motors will not be affected.