NASA’s Explosives Safety Program Makes Major Changes

NASA’s Explosives Safety Program Makes Major Changes

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Explosives Safety Program Changes

In 2013, NASA Headquarters and center Explosives Safety Officers (ESOs) retooled the agency's Explosives Safety program, putting emphasis on requirements, qualifications, tools, training and audits to ensure the safe handling, storage and application of explosive materials, including pyrotechnics.

The creation of the Explosives Safety Working Group in the spring of 2013 was instrumental to the program's revival.

The group has been collaborating on revisions to NASA-STD-8719.12, Safety Standard for Explosives, Propellants and Pyrotechnics. It was important to make the standard development a collaborative process with the people responsible for upholding it.

"It doesn't do any good for me to write it in a vacuum," acknowledged Sandra Hudson, explosives safety program manager and working group chair.

The working group will continue to fine-tune the standard throughout the year. One of the biggest changes in the works is the addition of training and certification requirements for ESOs. ESO is a very high-level position that requires extensive understanding of explosives safety. Group members are determining what qualifications ESOs should have in terms of education, certifications and training.

To check on how the standard is being implemented, the Explosives Safety program is participating in Institutional, Facility and Operational (IFO) Safety Audits. The audits serve as an independent assessment of how the program is doing and how well the standard is being upheld in practice. The program recently completed an IFO Safety Audit at Marshall Space Flight Center.

"The process went really well, and overall, it was a good audit," said Hudson. "The ESOs and the auditors both learned a lot."

The second audit is scheduled for Glenn Research Center later this month.

The working group also has been working hard to develop comprehensive explosives safety training. Although some centers have training, other, smaller centers will benefit greatly from having easily-accessible training. Despite different projects and requirements, there is a basic level of training that remains constant across the centers, so those with training are working together to create an explosives safety basics course for all members of the community agency-wide. In addition to the basics, the training will include specialized modules that allow each center's employees to take the training specific to their center work and needs.

The new training will have an impact beyond increasing explosives safety knowledge: It will make the process of "borrowing" employees from other centers for special projects much easier. Sometimes, centers need additional explosives safety personnel and may ask another center for the extra hands. Once the new training is in place, employees working in Explosives Safety agency-wide will have had the same basic explosives safety training and access to the specialized training needed for collaborating with another center.

The working group's efforts have improved communication, clarified expectations and requirements, and enhanced employee capabilities, setting up the explosives safety community for continued success. These improvements also serve to rectify findings from the 2013 Inspector General report on NASA's Explosives Safety program.

"After a thorough review, updates and changes of the NASA Explosives Safety program at Headquarters and each of the centers, we feel that we are regenerated and committed to safe and successful missions and operations," said Hudson.

About the Explosives Safety Working Group

The Explosives Safety Working Group is made up of an ESO from each center as well as pyrotechnic specialists. The working group supports program needs and provides a forum for members of the explosives safety community to come together, collaborate and learn. The group discusses center issues and brainstorms solutions. Members also examine things happening outside of NASA that would be of interest to the community and make an effort to learn from others' experiences.