NASA’s Explosives Safety Course Revamped

NASA’s Explosives Safety Course Revamped

3-minute read
Explosives Safety

NASA is rolling out an Explosives Safety course to replace center-specific courses and provide consistent training throughout the agency. Goddard Space Flight Center Explosives Safety Officer (ESO) Gordon Marsh taught the updated course, “Basics Explosive Safety Training,” at Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) on Feb. 11-12.

The updated two-day training includes instructor-led presentations, hands-on practice and testing, with a focus on NASA-STD-8719.12, Safety Standard for Explosives, Propellants, and Pyrotechnics, including the processes for storing, processing and transporting explosives. The class will continually evolve to account for changing technologies and policies, like the upcoming revision to the standard.

Several center ESOs led the course development: Michael Hallock, WSTF; Steve Spandorf, AFRC; Keith Van Tassel, JSC; and Marsh. Robert Gargiulo, Stennis Space Center, also contributed.

The team identified ten learning objectives for the course:

  1. To familiarize each individual with the hazards and risks involved with explosives handling, storage, transportation and processing.
  2. To iterate the precautions involved with explosives handling, storage, transportation and processing.
  3. To provide an overview of the basic principles of Explosives Safety.
  4. To provide an overview of the fundamental requirements governing explosives.
  5. To review basic safety principles with emphasis on practical applications and adherence to NASA-STD 8719.12, NASA Standard for Explosives, Propellants, and Pyrotechnics.
  6. To describe the characteristics, effects and hazards of explosives, explosive devices and components.
  7. To understand various federal hazard classification systems for explosive and flammable materials.
  8. To understand the explosives hazard classification markings and fire symbols used in the explosives industry.
  9. To identify explosives compatibility groups including storage principles.
  10. To understand the nature of extraneous electrical energy and be able to apply protective measures.

The Center-Specific Component

Although consistent training throughout the agency is important, employees working with or near explosives also need to be familiar with the policies and procedures for handling explosives at their particular center.  

“Each center is developing its own module that tells you about the explosives that center deals with and the special rules that may be different from other centers,” explained Marsh.

Previously, every center was responsible for its own training, and some didn’t have any. Only Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC), Johnson Space Center (JSC), White Sands Test Facility (WSTF) and WFF had their own training — the rest had to make do by leveraging the four centers’ programs or contracting outside classes. However, because each center’s training was specific to its operations, it often lacked the policies and procedures participants needed for conducting work at their own centers.

The center-specific modules will address this issue. Each center will simply tack its module onto the basics training to provide the rules for handling explosives at that particular location.

The benefit is simple: ESOs will know their own center’s procedures and also be able to learn those of another center quickly and easily should a program or project at another location need assistance. Additionally, everyone has had the same basic training, so there are no concerns about a transferring employee’s knowledge base.

“The ability to work cross-center and help is the big advantage [of the new training],” said Marsh. “If someone transfers, [he’s] had the same basic training and just needs to understand how the new center does it. It doesn’t matter what center you’re at, we’re all getting the same basic explosives training.”

Who Should Take the Course

Marsh recommends the classroom portion of the training for anyone who wants to gain an awareness of explosives and personnel who work near them, not just explosives (ordnance) handlers. For example, truck drivers who deliver explosives, ground operations personnel, project managers and project personnel.

“No one is turned away,” said Marsh.

The hands-on portion of the training and the testing is more applicable to ESOs and explosives handlers; in fact, it’s required for explosives handlers. Successful completion of the course, hands-on training and test is the first step in certification at most centers, a requirement for handling or working with explosives.

“[The course] gives them [attendees] the foundation to be ordnance handlers and understand explosives,” explained Marsh. “It’s going to benefit our ESOs and we’re using it as an introduction [to explosives] for ordnance handlers.”

Currently, Marsh is incorporating feedback from February’s training and continuing to modify the course. The next training opportunity will be at the Explosives Safety Working Group meeting this fall.