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OSMRE Blaster Certification

OSMRE issues certificates for blasting on Federal surface coal mine permits.

The certification program includes experience, training, and examination components similar to many of the states. While a state program may focus on the specific blasting applications within its boundary, the OSMRE program requires diverse experience that covers all potential blasting applications and products across the nation.

Therefore, the Federal certificate is a good surface mining credential for blasters anywhere in the United States.

OSMRE Blaster Certificate Card

OSMRE Blaster Certificate Card

OSMRE, in partnership with the states, are responsible for certifying blaster competence based upon the right mix of experience, training and testing. An OSMRE blaster certificate authorizes the blaster to conduct blasting operations in any Federal Program State or on Indian lands under Federal jurisdiction. A blaster may seek certificates from other Regulatory Authorities (states) through reciprocal certification arrangements.

  • Highly-trained and skilled blasters are crucial to ensure safe, efficient and compliant blasts in coal mining operations.
  • Properly trained blasters can design and conduct blasts that use the best available technology, while meeting the regulatory performance standards of SMCRA.
  • Highly-competent and successful blasters also maintain a responsible relationship with surrounding residents, thereby reducing the number of complaints.

Apply for an OSMRE Blaster Certificate

To learn how to apply for an OSMRE Blaster Certificate, please review the application process outlined in OSMRE Form 74.

To learn how to apply for an OSMRE Blaster Certificate, please review the application process outlined in OSMRE Form 74.

This Application provides Blaster Certification for Federal Program States and on Indian lands under Federal jurisdiction. A fee must be submitted with the application as specified at 30 CFR 955.13. A check or money order must be made payable to “The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement”.

The applicant must document blasting related training and experience, and demonstrate a pattern of conduct consistent with the acceptance of responsibility for blasting operations. OSMRE will verify training and experience information in the application. The pattern of conduct criteria is met if the applicant has been deemed an Employee Possessor or Responsible Party by the Bureau Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

The applicant must be 21 years of age to become certified. Four types of certificates are available:

  • Issued – Applicant passes the OSMRE Blaster Certificate Examination for the first time, good for 3 years;
  • Renewal – 3 years after issuance, the blaster may renew the certificate for an additional 3 years;
  • Re-issued – 6 years after issuance, the blaster must retake the OSMRE Blaster Certificate Examination; and
  • Reciprocity - An OSMRE Certificate is granted to a blaster holding a valid blaster certificate from an acceptable state program.

The applicant for certification must have received on-the-job training, completed a training course, and obtained satisfactory evidence of having completed classroom training. The training should include diverse mix of blasting products, blast design, field experiences, blast monitoring and regulatory issues, some of these are listed below:

Potential On-the-Job Training Activities

  • Blast site management
  • Adverse affects control(seismology, acoustics, fumes)
  • Different explosives products
  • Blasting seismograph use
  • Different initiation systems
  • Calculations
  • Blast design
  • Flyrock control
  • Site preparation
  • Record keeping
  • Borehole loading
  • Regulations
  • Geology evaluation
  • Public Relations
  • Blast plan development
  • Software use
  • Blast area determinationImportance of spatial relations
  • Inventory tracking
  • Blast record completion
  • Blast hole drilling
  • Crew training
  • Recognizing unique conditions
  • Handle misfires
  • Explosives storage
  • Safety procedures
  • Explosive transportation
  • Pre-blast surveys

On-The-Job Training (experience)

Success of the applicant is strongly dependent on the level and quality of on-the-job training provided by another certified blaster, i.e. the mentor. Without this valuable guidance the applicant will not adequately learn the technical nuances and safety protocols of the trade. An apprentice that obtains a wide variety of experiences in many geologic conditions has the best chance of passing the examination.

Classroom Training and Duration

The blaster must have adequate classroom training along with the hands-on experience. Classroom training should cover the technical aspects of blasting operations and State and Federal laws governing the storage, transportation and use of explosives, including the topics specified in Table 2 below. In order to cover all the subjects listed in Table 2, sufficient time should be given to present the course material and to allow the students to have enough time to practice solving problems. Considering the wide range of topics to be covered, a minimum 32-hour classroom training session over the course of many weeks is recommended.

The OSMRE Blaster's Training Modules are available to help applicants prepare for formal training and testing. Training topics, examination subjects, and question distribution include:

  1. Explosives
    1. selection of type to be used
    2. determination of the properties which will produce desired results at an acceptable level of risk
    3. handling, transportation, and storage
  2. Blast Designs
    1. geologic and topographic considerations
    2. design of a blast hole, with critical dimensions
    3. pattern design, field layout, and timing of blast holes
    4. field applications
  3. Loading Blastholes, including priming and boostering
  4. Initiation systems and blasting machines
  5. Blasting Vibrations
    1. airblast and flyrock
    2. airblast and flyrock - monitoring techniques
    3. airblast and flyrock - methods to control adverse affects
  6. Secondary Blasting Applications
  7. Current Federal and State rules applicable to the use of explosives
  8. Blast records
  9. Schedules
  10. Preblasting surveys
    1. availability
    2. coverage
    3. use of in-blast design
  11. Blast-plan Requirements
  12. Certification and Training
  13. Signs, warning signals, and site control
  14. Unpredictable hazard including Lightening, Stray currents, Radio waves and Misfires

Available Classroom Training Classes

Training classes are available from explosive suppliers, universities, professional organizations, consultants and states. Blasting apprentices should select training that enhances their technical skills and provides the information necessary to pass the examination. The fundamental training programs are available with individual vendors, explosives manufacturers or blasting service providers.

Scholastic training opportunities include:

Blaster Experience

The applicant must demonstrate that the appropriate level of experience was obtained within the 3 years prior to certificate application. OSMRE will accept as equivalent all experience gained in activities (see Table 1 above) which reasonably approximate the environment, procedures, blast size, and hazards of surface coal mining. This experience must be obtained by working with explosives or within activities associated with explosives use either inside or outside the coal industry. The necessary amount of experience depends on the type of certificate application.

  • Issuance - worked for 2 years in any capacities as listed above
  • Reissuance or renewal - worked for 1 year in any capacities as listed above

Once the applicant has met the training and experience requirements, a written examination is scheduled. A minimum passing score of 80% is necessary to demonstrate competency and receive an OSMRE blaster certificate. The examination will test the applicant’s knowledge, abilities and critical thinking skills on a wide range of blasting topics.

The examination consists of:

  • Instructions and Handouts;
  • 80 to 90 multiple choice questions;
  • 100 points;
  • Single to five point questions; and
  • A blast log completion problem

The test consists of 90 questions and is weighted with 70% Technical and 30% Regulatory questions. The last 10 questions will be blast design and record keeping problems.

A critical part of the examination is to evaluate the applicant’s critical thinking skills and ability to perform blasting calculations in blast design and vibration control.

The correct answers to all blast design related questions will be obtained by using the Rules-of-Thumb. This handout will be provided as part of the testing package.

Successful completion of the examination will require the use of a calculator to perform all blasting calculations. Any explosive storage, transportation and safety questions will be in reference to the Institute of Makers of Explosives guidelines.

The regulatory questions will be related to the Federal regulations on blasting. Most of the questions will focus on the OSMRE rules that are meant to prevent injury to persons and damage to public and private property. At least one question from the regulations of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) will be on the examination. This ensures broad regulatory coverage in the training programs.

The technical part of the examination assumes that the blaster has control over all blast design items except:

  • Geology;
  • Depth to grade or mineral; and
  • Distance to nearest structure

A reciprocity certificate may be issued to anyone with a certificate from a state with an OSMRE approved regulatory program. Reciprocity applicants will complete the necessary items in the OSMRE-74 application.

An applicant from a state adjacent to a Federal program area that simply needs a certificate for temporary blasting work may apply for reciprocity. Others may not want to take the more rigorous examination that covers national blasting applications and prefer to test on only local conditions. In either event, the knowledge, experience, training and testing requirements are deemed satisfied by virtue of having a state issued certificate.

A reciprocal OSMRE certificate is contingent upon successful maintenance of the state certificate. If the state certificate expires, is suspended or is revoked, OSMRE must take commensurate action on the OSMRE certificate.

Applicants do not need to meet the age, experience, knowledge, competence, training or examination requirements as required to receive an issued certificate. These requirements are satisfied once the application is deemed complete and certification in an OSMRE approved state regulatory program is verified. The applicant must then obtain a photograph at the nearest OSMRE office and present two forms of identification.

As reciprocity certifications increase, so too does the need for reliable, up-to-date information on the status of a blaster’s certificate. Currently, if an application is received for reciprocity, OSMRE must contact the state to verify certification. Then the state must manually search the certification files for the current status of blasters. OSMRE is currently developing a tracking system to facilitate certificate reviews and performance history queries. Furthermore, a blaster certificate tracking system will help identify irresponsible blasters from repeating poor performance in the OSMRE Regions and states.

OSMRE certificates issued through reciprocity require continued certification (i.e., renewed, in good standing, etc.) in the original issuing jurisdiction. If the original issuing jurisdiction suspends or revokes a certificate, OSMRE must suspend the reciprocal certificate until the original certificate is reinstated. When OSMRE revokes or suspends a reciprocal certificate, the state with original certificate will be notified about the action of any necessary action. Both OSMRE and the states depend upon the assistance of each other to carry out this part of their program and to ensure that blasters with poor performance histories are either retrained or restrained from blasting at coal mines.

For both issued and reissued certificates, the blaster must take and pass the OSMRE examination. Effectively the blaster must retest every 6 years. Renewal is granted at the midterm of the six year testing interval. By retesting every 6 years the applicant must stay abreast of changes in blasting products, blast design procedures, monitoring tools, regulatory requirements and other changes in the blasting industry through continuing education venues or on-the-job training.

Questions? For More Information

Contact Toby Grzejka, OSMRE Mining/Explosives Manager, via or by phone (724) 312-9170.