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July 2009

(updated March 2010)

Copyright 2009 Commonwealth of Virginia

Commonwealth of Virginia

Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy

Division of Mineral Mining

900 Natural Resources Drive, Ste. 400

Charlottesville, VA 22903

(434) 951-6310


Introduction 1


  1. Duties and Responsibilities of the Certified Blaster 3-8

  1. Hazard Recognition in Blasting 9-18

  1. Basic Knowledge of Blasting 19-44

  1. Blasting Design/Control 45-54

  1. Blasting Effects 55-76

  1. State Law and Regulations applicable to Surface Blasting Certification 77-88

Appendix A1-A234

  1. Blasting Related Accident Abstracts A2-A10
    A. Injury/Fatality Cases

B. Flyrock Incidents

  1. Associated Articles A11-A16

  2. Example Record Forms A17-A22

  3. Suggested Blasting Equipment Lists………………………………………A23-A24

  4. Safety Talk Outlines/Summaries A25-A30

  5. Flyrock Prevention Communication Memorandum A311-A32

  6. Flyrock Hazard Alert A33

  7. Bibliography A34

This Guide has been developed for the purpose of preparing individuals for the Virginia Board of Mineral Mining Examiner’s Surface Blaster certification examination. This Guide is not intended to cover all particular circumstances surrounding the design, loading, and firing of explosives. The Division of Mineral Mining assumes no responsibility for the specific application of the material presented in this Guide.


This study guide was prepared to assist in providing basic blasting knowledge and understanding of safe practices necessary to perform the duties of a surface (mineral mine) blaster. Every blaster must possess knowledge of theory and principles of explosives, as well as practical know-how in their storage, handling, transportation, and use. More importantly, every blaster must be aware of what is necessary to prepare and conduct good blasting operations that protect the health and safety of miners and other individuals. Considerations for the adjacent community and the environment must also be a top priority.

Mineral Miners must have one (1) year of blasting experience on a surface mineral mine working under the direct supervision of a certified blaster (or equivalent experience approved by Division of Mineral Mining) in order to qualify for State certification. A minimum score of 80% is required on each section of the State examination to obtain certification.

The use of explosives in the mineral mining industry continues to present a potentially serious risk of injury and death to miners. The prevention of such accidents depends, to a large extent, on two factors: (1) the knowledge and experience of persons responsible for the use of explosives and (2) well defined safety precautions to guide mine operators and miners in the safe conduct of blasting operations.

The prevention of blasting related accidents depends on careful planning and the faithful observance of proper blasting procedures and practices. Even the slightest abuse or misdirection of explosives can result in serious injury or death to mining personnel or the public.

Two cardinal rules must be acknowledged and understood when using explosives:

  1. A blaster’s most important responsibility is safety.

  2. The safety of every blast is dependent on the people involved.

A surface blaster must have essential training and experience that not only develops skills, but proper safety attitudes as well. The same holds true for other mining personnel who handle explosives or assist in any way with blasting operations. All persons involved must know what is, and what is not safe…and why. Explosives safety is a habit that can only be developed through training and the repetition of proper procedures.

A surface blaster shall always follow State and Federal Laws and applicable regulations, as well as manufacturer’s instructions when transporting, storing, handling, and using explosives. The appropriate manufacturer should be consulted in any situation when a blaster has any doubts or questions involving explosives.

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SECTION 1 -- Duties and Responsibilities of the

Certified Blaster

  • Regulatory Responsibilities

  • Responsible person in-charge

  • Activities conducted safely

  • Experienced Person

  • Task Training

  • Design and Loading (flyrock/dangerous effects)

  • Reviewing Detailed Drill/Borehole Logs

  • Pre-Inspection

  • Hazard Alert

  • Clearing of Blast Site

  • Weather Monitoring

  • Loading Procedures

  • Weather Monitoring

  • Clearing of Blast Area

  • Blasting Signals

  • Firing of Shot

  • Reporting Requirements

  • Post-Blast Examination

  • Disposal of Misfires

  • Blast Reports/Shot Record

  • Inventory Log

  • Report Theft or Loss of Explosives


Virginia Mineral Mine Safety Laws and Safety and Health Regulations for Mineral Mining require certain tasks to be performed by an individual certified as a Surface Blaster. Following is a list of the most critical duties and responsibilities of the certified surface blaster, with direct reference to the applicable section of the law or regulations.

1. A certified blaster shall be in direct charge of blasting activities. (4 VAC 25-40-800.A.)

2. Ensure that all activities under their supervision are conducted in a safe manner

(45.1-161.292:6 (B) & 4 VAC 25-40-190)

  1. Blasting crew has appropriate personal protective equipment.

(4 VAC 25-40-1710/20/20/40)

  1. Blasting crew not under influence of drugs/alcohol. (4 VAC 25-40-250)

  1. Finger rings prohibited. (4 VAC 25-40-1780)

  1. Prevent smoking within 50 feet of explosives or detonators. (4 VAC 25-40-800.F.)

3. Ensure that all miners with less than six months experience work with, or under the supervision of, an experienced person. (4 VAC 25-40-110)

4. Provide task training for all new, or reassigned, employees involved in blasting activities.

(4 VAC 25-40-100)

5. Design and load the shot to prevent flyrock or other dangerous effects (ex: air overpressure, ground vibration, ground control). Report flyrock incidents immediately to DMM and note the details on the blast record. (4 VAC 25-40-800.D.)

6. Inspect the blast site for hazards. (4 VAC 25-40-800.G.2.)

7. Alert blasting crew to hazards involved: (4 VAC 25-40-800.B.)

8. Ensure that the blast site is cleared of all nonessential personnel and equipment prior to bringing explosives to the site. (4 VAC 25-40-800.G.4.)

9. Monitor weather conditions to ensure safe loading & firing. (4 VAC 25-40-800.G.1.)

10. Ensure proper loading procedures are followed: (4 VAC 25-40-800.H. through K.)

  1. Review the drill logs for each borehole to determine specific downhole conditions prior to loading the shot. (4 VAC 25-40-800.H.)

  1. Load boreholes as near to the blasting time as possible. (4 VAC 25-40-800.I.)

  1. Blast as soon as possible upon completion of loading. (4 VAC 25-40-800.I.)

  1. Keep explosives & detonators a safe distance from each other until made into a primer. (4 VAC 25-40-800.J.)

  1. Ensure primers are not made up or assembled in advance. (4 VAC 25-40-800.K.)

  1. Make sure detonators are inserted completely and securely into explosive cartridges used as primers and that priming is sufficient to detonate the explosive column in the borehole. (4 VAC 25-40-800.M.)

  1. Ensure that primers are inserted into the borehole slowly to prevent accidental detonation from impact, and that tamping is not done directly on the primer. (4 VAC 25-40-800.N.)

11. Remove all personnel/miners from the blast area prior to connection of the detonation device. (4 VAC 25-40-800.S.)

12. Ensure blasting signals (audible warning signal) are given & posted. (4 VAC 25-40-800.R.)

13. Fire the shot from a safe location. (4VAC 25-40-800.T.)

14. Report to the operator (who must report to DMM) any unplanned explosion, serious fire, serious or fatal injury, or any occurrence of flyrock. (45.1-161.292:51 & 52; 4 VAC 25-40-800.D.)

15. Perform a post-blast examination of the blast area, and ensure that the all clear signal is given prior to miners returning to work in the area. (4 VAC 25-40-800.U.)

16. Properly dispose of all misfires after waiting 15 minutes. Guard or barricade & post warning signs until corrected. (4 VAC 25-40-820.A., B., & C.)

17. Complete a detailed blast record for all blasts and maintain the records on-site for at least 3 years. (4 VAC 25-40-810)

18. Keep on-site an accurate inventory log of all explosives and detonators stored at the mine.

(4 VAC 25-40-780.D.)

  1. Ensure that any theft or unaccounted loss of explosives is reported to the local police, the State Police, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the Division of Mineral Mining. (4 VAC 25-40-780.E.)

*In addition to the items listed above, some mining operations have blasting requirements set by a local government jurisdictional authority that the blaster must follow.

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