Shipping and transporting explosives presents numerous hazards. Because of the high risk, these items require careful handling throughout the shipping process.

Entities that intend to transport fire extinguishers, escape slides and other airline safety equipment containing small explosive devices — such as fire extinguisher cartridges (squibs), initiators or detonators — into or within the United States must comply with all applicable U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations. Specifically, they must submit designated products to a DOT-sanctioned laboratory to obtain an explosive approval. The correct EX approval can really make the shipping, receiving and storing of small pyrotechnic devices easier.

What Is an EX Approval?

An explosive approval (EX Approval) is a classification document issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) Associate Administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety, a federal agency falling under the DOT’s purview. This entity is responsible for issuing and administering all Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).

An EX Approval classification document provides written consent to perform a pyrotechnics transportation function under the HMR. Its purpose is to ensure the safe transport of these items and assign the appropriate shipping name and hazard class.

The document also assigns an EX Number issued by the Associate Administrator or designated representative. Shippers must display the number on the product package or shipping paperwork.

Not all EX Approvals are the same. Having the correct EX approval makes it easier for customers to receive in and store a Cartridge with 1.4s shipping approval vs. 1.4c cartridge. It also helps with customs when the product is shipped internationally and the specific Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) exemptions.

How to Get an EX Approval

To obtain EX Approval, the shipper must fill out and submit an application for an EX Number. Shippers can complete the process online on a 24/7 basis or download the app and send it via postal mail, email or fax.

Completing the app requires supplying the following information:

  • Name of the item or its associated product number
  • Applicant’s name, address, telephone number, fax number, email address and job title
  • Manufacturer’s name, address, telephone number, fax number and email address
  • DOT class
  • U.S. Designated Agent and name, address, telephone number, fax and email address
  • Device category
  • Device description, including the effects it produces and proof of completion of a Thermal Stability Test
  • Applicant’s signature and the date

The application should also include a cover letter and a chemical composition sheet and diagram. The approval process takes approximately 120 days. Online applicants will receive notification of acceptance by email. All others will be informed via the method in which they submitted their application — postal mail, fax or email.

What Products/Devices Require EX Approval?

The following product classifications require explosive approval:

  • Devices that pose a mass hazard explosion, which is one that affects most of the load simultaneously
  • Items that present a less severe hazard but pose either a minor explosion or fire risk
  • Pyrotechnics that pose a minor explosion hazard where the blast does not breach the packaging and does not project large-size fragments

The Associate Administrator may classify and approve the items listed in the second and third categories above without examination and can offer them for transportation if they meet American Pyrotechnic Association (APA) requirements.

Contact AETC to Learn More About EX Approvals

AETC is your headquarters for top-quality fire extinguisher cartridges, detonators and initiators that meet the high EX Approval standards. You can use them in your defense, commercial or private airline equipment applications with complete confidence. Contact us for more information about the EX Approval process and our product lines today.