The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has recently issued a clarification of the prevailing fireworks policy regarding approvals or certifications for specialty devices. [Docket No. PHMSA-2013-0206; Notice No. 13-15; dated October 2, 2013]. Interestingly, this Agency may have deliberately elected to issue a clarification to bypass seeking public comment; PHMSA routinely seeks public comment to help define, as well as refine, industry regulation.

The expressed purpose of the clarification is to describe the requirements for approval or certification applications for specialty fireworks devices—a defined term—to be relied upon by manufacturers and their U.S. designated agents when applying for PHMSA approval of fireworks certification agency (FCA) certification. Although no explanation for the distinction, if any, is offered, it does appear that PHMSA has authority to issue approvals while FCAs may issue certifications.

This clarification observes that the fireworks device must conform to the prevailing guidelines established in APA Standard 87-1. To summarize, this clarification is meant to offer applicants additional guidance to, presumably, expedite, the process of approval or certification.

As a defined term, specialty fireworks are 1.4g consumer fireworks that are manufactured in unorthodox shapes, such as animals or small vehicles, such as cars and boats; in all respects, these devices are classified as UN0336, consumer fireworks and subject to 49 CFR 173.56(b), 173.64 or 173.65, in addition to APA Standard 87-1. Since this policy applies to UN0336 fireworks, novelty fireworks are not subject to this clarification.

In addition to the prevailing interpretations, PHMSA is issuing the following clarifications regarding specialty fireworks that, presumably, are effective immediately:

  • All devices must be ground-based, with or without movement;

  • All devices must be designed and function to provide for non-sequential firing; i.e. no chain-fusing;

  • Each device may not contain more than 10 fiberboard or plastic tubes;

  • The maximum amount of pyrotechnic composition is 20 grams per finished device, provided no tube contains more than 2 grams of pyrotechnic composition;

  • The maximum amount of explosive composition for any report is expressly limited to 50 mg;

  • No device can contain aerial components and tubes with internal shells; and

  • No device can be combined with another fireworks device; the specialty device must be a stand-alone product.

With these prescriptions in mind, a proper example of a specialty fireworks device is a fire truck with 10 tubes, each containing 2 grams of pyrotechnic composition, for a total pyrotechnic weight of 20 grams.

In conclusion, PHMSA is fine-tuning the standards to be applied to specialty fireworks and, in the process, it curiously circumvented public comment regarding the matter.


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