[First and foremost, this article is dedicated to the memory of Dotty Drewes]
In the December 2012 edition of the ATF Explosives Industry Newsletter, the ATF released a list of the six most frequently-cited violations during the 5-year period of 2006-2011. These six violations represent, in the aggregate, over fifty percent (50%) of the total violations cited, all of which are readily avoidable with proper planning and simple management techniques. In descending order from most to least cited violation, the six are
Failing to maintain accurate explosive magazine inventory records.
This is a matter of simple recordkeeping, and disciplined and inflexible recordkeeping standards can avoid occurrences of this violation. For a relatively modest investment, reliance upon today’s computer technology should significantly reduce mistakes and substantially improve both accuracy and ease of recordkeeping.
Failing to maintain accurate explosive acquisition records.
Similar to item 1 above, product acquisition is the first event in the chain of storage-related events where recordkeeping is expected by ATF. Again, the recommended solution is disciplined and inflexible recordkeeping standards, preferably computerized recordkeeping.
Failing to meet housekeeping requirements that ensure that explosive magazines are kept dry, clean and free of volatile materials within 50 feet.
Once you have cleared the 50-foot perimeter surrounding the magazine(s) of flammable materials, it is relatively easy to keep the area clean and clear thereafter (for nominal time and expense). Regarding the interior of the magazine, it would not have been approved as an explosives storage magazine unless and until it satisfied construction requirements and was free and clear of volatile materials. Therefore, maintain the magazine as it was on the day of the inspection (boxes properly stacked and spaced, and also oriented for easy reading) and no violations should accrue. This is your government talking: Cleanliness counts.
Failing to report changes to responsible person (RP) or employee possessors (EP).
For obvious reasons, the government wants to track who has an ability to possess explosives. Similarly, as a business owner you should track the same information, if only for purposes of assessing your exposure to liability claims arising from the misconduct of your RPs and EPs. You do not want persons designated as a RP when they no longer employed as a RP by your business, no more than you want to provide explosives to a person unqualified for EP status. Staying on top of this information is easy but critical and, therefore, it would be prudent to review and revise your business records on a monthly basis, if not at the time of the event itself.
Failing to ensure sufficient distance between explosives storage magazines and inhabited buildings, public highways, passenger railways and other magazines.
Areas once believed to be too remote and beyond the scope of development are no longer immune from developers continued encroachment upon magazines that, in turn, imperils the distances between these two objects. ATF should be more sensitive to the concerns and interests of the magazine owners who, undisputedly, are first in time and, arguably, should enjoy the privileges that accompany that status. As a separate matter, a magazine owner may possess a legal claim as against any party that renders a magazine non-compliant and inoperable.
Unlawful storage of explosives.
Separate and apart from violations relating to magazine construction and location, unlawful storage (in the context of ATF’s list) seemingly implies either (1) storage exceeding established levels, or (2) storage of non-compliant products. Each of the perils is avoidable through accurate acquisition recordkeeping.