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Blaster

Blasters break up rock and demolish structures by placing and detonating explosives.

Also Known As:Construction Blaster, Surface Mine Blaster, Underground Mine Blaster
NOC Number(s):7372.2
Minimum Education:Education/training requirements vary
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:O I D

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Duties vary depending on the industry in which blasters are employed. For information about blasting-related operations in the oil and gas industry and related services, see the Seismic Workers and Wireline Operator occupational profiles.

In general, blasters employed in the oil and gas, mining, quarrying or construction industries:

  • consult with geologists, observe rock characteristics and jointing (strength and faulting in rock) to determine Rock Quality Index (RQI)
  • study requirements, plan drill patterns, determine the depth and diameter of blast holes and conduct field tests, if required, to determine the type explosive and quantity to use
  • use detonating cord, delays, shock tubes and detonators to create blasting circuits 
  • prepare detonators, fuses, detonating cords, primers, explosive charges and other materials, or supervise the placement of explosive charges
  • load explosives into blast holes by hand or by using mechanical delivery systems on bulk explosives trucks
  • check series of electrical wires with blasting galvanometers or blasting multimeters to ensure complete circuits
  • place blast control mats and control blast sites to ensure safety regulations are met
  • conduct safety check and fire charges
  • deal with misfires or missed holes
  • check blast sites for hazards such as overhanging rock, harmful fumes and scale underground loose hanging rock with scaling bar
  • maintain blast equipment and ensure that safety procedures for handling, storing and moving explosives are followed
  • keep records of explosives inventories, blast patterns, design, tie-in, times, weather and other relevant information.

Blasters may direct drilling activities or operate air-track, rotary, down hole or other drilling machines to drill blast holes.

In the construction industry, blasters break up rock and soil, dislodge tree stumps and demolish structures such as buildings or bridges. To avoid damaging surrounding terrain or structures via ground vibration or flying debris, blasters often use a series of small, precise, timed detonations instead of one large explosion.

In the mining industry, blasters prepare and blast large quantities of rock to improve mine equipment efficiency. Some mining blasts break up hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rock in one blast. Such blasts often involve the preparation and use of thousands of kilograms of pre-packaged or bulk explosives.


Working Conditions

Blasters primarily work outdoors in all types of weather conditions, sometimes in remote or hazardous locations. Working conditions often are noisy and dirty. Occupational risks include explosions, flying particles, falling objects, noise and hazardous chemicals.

Lifting up to 20 kilograms is required.


Personal Characteristics

Blasters need the following characteristics:

  • a safety-conscious attitude
  • strength and physical fitness
  • good hearing, eyesight and colour vision
  • good hand-eye co-ordination and manual dexterity
  • an interest in math and science
  • the ability to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings
  • good communication skills, including writing skills required for accurate record keeping
  • an interest in working outdoors (sometimes in isolated locations) and use various forms of wilderness transportation.

Those employed in underground mines also must be able to work in confined spaces.

All blasters should enjoy operating machinery and performing tasks that require precision, conducting tests and analyzing information, and directing the work of others.


Educational Requirements

Blasters start in entry level positions and advance to more responsible positions as they gain experience. For example, they may start as labourers or heavy equipment operators (for more information, see the Construction Craft Labourer,  Heavy Equipment Operator and Underground Miner occupational profiles). Employers may prefer to hire applicants who have a high school diploma or related experience.

In the oil and gas industry blasters require:

  • six month experience on a line crew
  • a valid Blaster Permit
  • a valid driver's licence
  • training operating all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles.

Blasters may be trained on the job as blaster helpers or take related courses before moving into blasting positions. In Alberta, approved blaster safety training courses are offered by companies listed on Alberta Human Services  Occupational Health and Safety website.

Due to the size and quantity of explosives used and the number of people potentially exposed to blasting hazards, detailed knowledge of safe work practices and related explosive manufacturers' specifications is essential for blasters in the mining industry. 


Related Legislation

In non-mining industries in Alberta, any worker who handles, prepares or fires an explosive must hold a valid permit issued by Alberta Human Services or a valid inter-provincial permit acceptable to AHS. Blaster permits are issued for a specific blasting operation. To qualify for a blaster's permit, you must have completed an approved course, or have six months of experience under the supervision of a blaster and a recommendation from your employer.

In the mining sector, any worker who handles, prepares or fires an explosive must hold a valid surface mine blaster's or underground mine blaster's certificate issued by the Director of Mines (AHS). To qualify as a surface mine blaster or an underground mine blaster, you must:

  • have at least three years of experience in a related surface or underground mining environment
  • submit written evidence that you have received adequate instruction and training under the direction of a certified mine blaster
  • pass a written examination administered by the Board of Examiners - Mining
  • submit a letter of recommendation from your employer.

Blasters must adhere to the federal Explosives Act that outlines the proper procedure for storage, possession, transportation, sale and destruction of explosive materials. Regular site inspections scrutinize record keeping and storage procedures to ensure standard procedures are followed.


Employment and Advancement

Blasters in the oil and gas, construction, mining and quarrying industries are employed by:

  • seismic companies
  • oil well perforation companies
  • surface mining companies (for example, oil sands companies)
  • underground mining companies (for example, hard rock or coal)
  • rock quarries
  • construction companies
  • drilling and blasting contractors.

Employment in the non-mining sector often is seasonal. Employment in the mining sector usually is full time, year-round.

Blaster is not an entry level position. Experienced blasters may advance to supervisory positions but, without additional education or training, further advancement is limited.

Blasters are part of the Drillers and Blasters - Surface Mining, Quarrying and Construction occupational group. In Alberta, 82 per cent of people employed in this group work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

The Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada employment demand forecast indicates that over 30 per cent of the workforce in the oil and gas industry is expected to retire in the next few years. The number of people presently retiring already exceeds the number of new workers joining the industry today.


Salary

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Drillers and Blasters - Surface Mining, Quarrying and Construction group earned on average from $23.68 to $29.15 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $26.65 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Alberta Human Services website: www.employment.alberta.ca

Natural Resources Canada, Explosives Regulatory Division website: www.nrcan.gc.ca/minerals-metals/explosives/3948


Related Occupational Profiles
Seismic Line Cutter
Seismic Worker
Surface Mining Equipment Operator
Underground Miner
Water Well Driller
Well Service Equipment Operator

Related High School Subjects
Science; and Trades, Manufacturing and Transportation (Fabrication)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Trades, Industrial and Related Training

Produced September 2011
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services