An explosives worker is a highly trained professional who works with volatile substances such as industrial chemicals, weapons and explosive demolition materials. As the name implies, these individuals deal frequently with very dangerous substances and must have exceptional powers of concentration to keep themselves and those around them safe. The mining industry employs explosives workers to set dynamite charges and expose new mineral veins; law enforcement and military applications for an explosives worker may include defusing bombs and rigging land mines. Other explosives workers work in construction and demolition, where they must choose which explosives to use, and where to place them, so that a condemned building collapses safely and quickly.
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There are many types of explosives worker; the specific tasks required for each position depend heavily on the academic and practical training that a specific worker has completed. For example, some explosives workers are truck drivers who specialize in transporting these dangerous materials; these drivers must have a special driver's license that allows them to drive with volatile cargo. Other explosives workers deal more directly with dangerous materials; they may assemble and package professional-quality fireworks or pyrotechnic devices for the film industry, or prepare dynamite charges for the mining industry. Another type of explosives worker is responsible for actually placing the explosives where they need to go without damaging them or causing them to explode prematurely. Explosives professionals are also often tasked with keeping other nearby workers safe from blasting accidents and chemical spills, and should know how to arrange their explosives so that they accomplish their purpose without harming other workers or civilians in the area.
The qualifications required for a career as an explosives worker depend largely on the specific type of work involved. All explosives workers must have a thorough understanding of the explosives with which they're working, and must know how to handle, assemble and/or transport those substances without causing harm to themselves or others. Due to the dangerous nature of this type of work, explosives workers must be able to concentrate in stressful, dangerous and potentially frightening situations, even when they are mentally and physically exhausted. They must have an excellent memory for details and be able to remember the properties and handling procedures for different explosive components.
In many cases, explosives workers must also have significant experience in chemistry and engineering. Demolitions work is the most obvious example of this; an explosives professional who plans and executes structural collapses must thoroughly understand the materials that need to be demolished, the structural forces at play and the proper composition and placement of the explosive charges used to accomplish this. In many cases, these explosives workers will have a college degree in engineering or chemistry, and a graduate or doctoral degree in either engineering or materials science. Explosives workers must be able to synthesize data from a variety of sources and make executive decisions based on that information; they must be able to do this quickly and effectively to keep themselves and everyone else as safe as possible at all times. Explosives professionals must also be able to examine data and determine, quickly and accurately, if a job site conforms to current safety standards and regulations.
Explosives workers may find themselves working in a variety of settings. Those who work in explosives transport will do most of their work from the cab of a truck; they may also need to unload their vehicle, or provide direction to others who will do so. In most areas, working in explosives transport requires a standard driver's license, plus a trucking license and a special certification for transporting extremely dangerous cargo. These positions are very attractive for individuals who enjoy being outside and don't want to spend hours every day working in the same office. Other explosives professionals, such as seismograph shooters and oil well shooters, also spend many working hours outside and may be required to travel extensively for work. Seismograph shooters must often travel far into the wilderness to install underground sensors that will help detect earthquakes; oil well shooters should be comfortable working in water and living on a remote oil rig for weeks or months at a time. Other explosives workers spend most of their working hours in a laboratory environment. This is particularly true of those who are developing new weapons and explosives for construction, demolition and mining operations.
Many explosives experts are civilians, but others are highly ranked members of the military; in either case, explosives workers who are in any way involved with the military often need special security clearance to do their jobs. This entails a series of extensive background checks and interviews; obtaining the proper clearance can take months; once an explosives worker has such clearance, it sticks with them even if they change jobs.
Explosives professionals who work in transportation are typically paid by the mile or the hour, just like other transport workers. Because of their dangerous cargo, however, those who transport explosives usually command a higher hourly or per-mile rate, or a bonus tacked on to their weekly pay. The most qualified and experienced explosives transport professionals may command upwards of $23 per hour. Individuals who work as blasters, demolition workers or military ordnance handlers may earn anywhere from $25,000 to $110,000 in US dollars.