Explosives technologists develop, document, manufacture, examine, store, transport, inspect and test explosives, both for commercial and military purposes. In the manufacturing industry, they are responsible for the planning of production plants, processes and analytical methods for the manufacture of explosives for the mining and engineering industries, as well as their evaluation and application. They prepare scale models of the envisaged plant, plan down to the finest details and specify the processes to be followed.
In the laboratory, routine analytical processes and development take place. Raw materials are first analysed, then technologists ensure production goes according to plan and that final products measure up to expectations. Research is carried out to develop new techniques, processes and products. If these are accepted, specifications are drawn up for their implementation.
The nature of the work depends on the employer. If it concerns the South African Defence Force or the South African Ammunition Corporation, then explosives technologists are responsible for the care and proper handling of highly dangerous explosive and ammunition.
Inspectors of occupational safety, working for the Department of Labour, inspect various organisations that store explosives to ensure the safety of people working there. In the South African Police Force, explosives experts have to destroy explosives that have been abandoned.
At the Department of Mineral and Energy Affairs, explosives experts are not only involved in blasting, but also in the inspection of health and safety regulations at mines. For example, blasting is only done at specific times, to ensure that workers are not exposed to harmful fumes.
In the public sector, explosives technologists or demolition experts are responsible for the planning and execution of blasting operations in the mining and engineering industries. This involves blasting operations for making excavations, ditches and swimming pools, and for the demolition of buildings and for special effects. They can also be employed in channels where gravel and granite are mined.
Explosives technologists often work in teams with scientists, technicians and tradesmen. In this process they are sometimes involved in research and development and responsible for the management of very sophisticated processes and systems. The explosives industry is, in contrast to what is sometimes believed, one of the safest occupations in the country. However, working with explosives is still extremely dangerous and explosives technologists are always provided with safety equipment and the relevant training.
Management skills, computer literacy, a healthy work ethic and entrepreneurship, are actively promoted during training.
Schooling & School Subjects
Degree: A BTech in Explosives Management is offered at UNISA
Diploma: A N.Dip in Explosives Management is also offered at UNISA. Training in Explosives Technology is provided at the Centre for Explosives Technology at the TUT.
Post-graduate studies: a diploma can be followed by a fourth year of study to obtain a degree, BTech An MTech and a DTech can follow a BTech. consisting of applied research at an advanced level and is normally focused on specific problems of the company where the explosives expert is employed.
Those with a 3-year qualification, other than the N.Dip, can also apply for a BTech: Explosives Technology degree, but they must complete special modules in Explosives Technology. Management skills, computer literacy, healthy work ethics and entrepreneurship are actively promoted during training.
A Certificate in Surface Blasting Technology is also an option. This course enables the student to obtain an official blasting licence in order to conduct blasting operations in the civil industry.
The National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA)
P O Box 11698
Block A, Ground Floor
Centurion Office Building
Tel: (012) 683-0200 Fax: (012) 683-0229
The Chief Inspector of Explosives
South African Police Service
Private Bag X624