Health & Safety Department

Explosives and desensitised explosives

Guidance on the licensing and safe storage of explosives and desensitised explosives.

Licensing and cerification

The Explosives Regulations 2014 define explosives as:

(a) any explosive article or explosive substance which would —

  • if packaged for transport, be classified in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations as falling within Class 1; or
  • be classified in accordance with the United Nations Recommendations as —
    • being unduly sensitive or so reactive as to be subject to spontaneous reaction and accordingly too dangerous to transport, and
    • falling within Class 1; or

(b) a desensitised explosive (i.e. a solid or liquid explosive that is wetted or dissolved to suppress its explosive properties, and which would be a Class 1 substance without that treatment).

To obtain and use explosives you may need to apply for an explosives certificate and a licence. Explosives licensing and certification is managed by Police Scotland, specifically Explosive Liaison Officers from the Firearms and Explosives Licensing Section. Guidance and forms are available on their website at

The Health and Safety Executive also has a guidance section on managing explosives and  desensitised explosives,


There are exemptions for the requirement for certification and for storage licences. Schedule 2 to the regulations lists the substances that do not need a certificate to acquire or keep. The schedule is in two parts - Part 1 List of Explosives, and Part 2 Further List of Explosives. The most relevant sections for University staff are likely to be:

8. Any desensitised explosive acquired, in a quantity not exceeding 5 grams, for the purposes of—

(a) research, analysis or testing at a University; and

16. A solution of the explosive substance 2,4, 6-Trinitrophenol (picric acid) in a concentration no greater than 2% weight per volume intended for use as an analytical reagent, stain, dye or fixative.

Regulation 6 of the 2014 regulations lists the exceptions for the requirement for manufacturing licenses, and exceptions for storage licences are in Regulation 7. Storage exemptions are typically short-term, and depend on the hazard type of the explosive. Guidance on determining hazard type is available on the HSE website. An exemption of note for University staff is that no more than 5kg of hazard type 3 or 4 substances which are in Schedule 2 can be kept without a licence indefinitely.