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Explosives Act, 1884

FIRST ANNUAL REPORTOF THE Chief Inspector of Explosives, India

Simla, the 21st April 1900.

In my capacity as Chief Inspector of Explosives, I have the honorto submit herewith a report of the work of my Department for the year ending 31stMarch 1900. As an introductory to the first Report, I think it will not be out of place to detail shortly the circumstances leading up to the establishment of the appointment of a Chief Inspector of Explosives with the Government of India.

Explosives in India did not attract much attention till after the introduction of nitro-compounds into the country, to one of which class, viz., blasting gelatine, the following explosions have been attributed, viz:-

  1. Explosion of two magazines at Adenin 1898.
  2. Explosion of two magazines at Nari Gorge and Kach on the Sind-Peshin Railway in 1888.
  3. Explosion of a magazine at Shelabagh on the Sind-Peshin Railway in 1890.
  4. Explosion of a magazine at AntopHill,Bombay in 1891.
  5. Explosion of a magazine at Syriam, Rangoon, in 1896.

A Committee in India drew up a report on the AntopHill Explosion, which was forwarded to the late Sir Vivian Majendie, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Explosives, for opinion, and I believe I am right in stating that his remarks concerning the necessity of inspection and testing of nitro-compounds decided the government of India to appoint in 1894 the Superintendents of the Gunpowder factories at Ishapur and Kirkee, in addition to their other duties, Chief Inspectors of Explosives under the Indian Explosives Act (IV of 1884) for the Lower Provinces of Bengal and Bombay, respectively, and the Assistant Superintendents of these Factories were at the same time made Inspectors of Explosives under them. Subsequently in 1896 the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of the Kirkee Factory were appointed respectively, Chief Inspector and Inspector of Explosives in Madras as well as in the Bombay Presidency. About the same time the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of the Ishapur Factory were ordered to carry out the same duties as regards Assam, and the Ordnance Officer at Rangoon was appointed Inspector of Explosives in RangoonTown and the Hanthawaddy District. As, however, these arrangements were not found entirely satisfactory, a Chief Inspector of Explosives with the Government of India was appointed and took up his duties on the 5th September 1898. The duties laid down for him were “to carry on the regular systematic examination of all the important magazines, to investigate and report on the causes of explosions and to give expert advice in all matters connected with the administration of the Explosives Act and Rules framed thereunder.”

It was settled at the same time that the Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents of the two Factories and the Ordnance Officer, Rangoon, should still continue in their appointments as advisers to their respective Local Governments in the matter of explosives, but that they should in addition cooperate with the Chief Inspector of Explosives with the Government of India, render him any assistance he might require, and should furnish him with copies of reports of all inspections may be them or their Assistants, and they were permitted to refer to him direct at any time with regard to any technical questions on which they might desire his opinion or advice.

In 1899, owing to the manufacture of black gunpowder practically ceasing in India, due to the introduction of cordite, it was decided to close the Kirkee Gunpowder Factory on the 1st April 1900. It was also ascertained that the Assistant Superintendent would, in all probability, be removed from Ishapure. These causes necessitated a complete alteration in the arrangements for carrying on the work of inspection of explosives, etc. Consequently the Government of India decided to appoint an Assistant to the Chief Inspector of Explosives with the Government of India and to put all the explosives work in the hands of these two officers, doing away with the Provincial Inspectors of Explosives.

Honorary Captain J.Bartlett of the Indian Ordnance Department was appointed Inspector of Explosives from 1st January 1900 and joined his appointment on the 3rd January,1900. His duties only consist of Inspection work, and he submits his reports on inspections to the Chief Inspector of Explosives direct, who takes necessary action on them. Captain Bartlett accompanied me on one of my tours to gain the necessary experience for carrying out his inspections during the year 1900-1901.

As regards general work, this Report treats of the proceedings of this Department from the date of its establishment on 5thSeptember 1898 till the 31st March 1900; but as regards inspection work, it only deals with the period from 1st April 1899 to 31st March 1900. The reason for this apparent discrepancy is due to the fact that I was appointed Chief Inspector of Explosives towards the end of the year, and in the cold weather, immediately succeeding my appointment, I carried out a short inspection tour, of which I gave a brief summary in my letter no. 51-C.I.E., dated 22nd April 1899, touching only on this tour and on several points to which I had been directed to give my attention while on tour, and to give my opinion afterwards on the same.

During the year 1899, 103 licenses were granted in India under Rule 17 of the Rules to regulate the manufacture, possession and sale of explosives. Owing to the fact that in some cases a number of license-holders store their explosives in the same magazine the number of the magazines is considerably less than the number of licenses issued, and amounts to 77 as compared with 73 in 1898. In addition there are 9 large firework godowns. These godowns are all in Bombay Town, and according to rule should be magazines. The Bombay Government have given the owners of these godowns a year to provide themselves with magazines in a more suitable locality. In addition to the licenses mentioned above, there is one granted under Rule 12 for a Roburite Factory at Karachi, but the building of this factory has not been completed yet. A statement showing the location of magazines and also the number of licenses granted in each Presidency or Province is given in Appendices A and B.

During the year 6 magazines were inspected 3 times, 23 twice and 43 once. From the above it will be seen that altogether 107 inspections were made and 72 out of the 77 magazines visited. Of the 5 not visited, 3 were abandoned during the year, and the other 2 were small magazines in very out of the way places, and I was unable to get them inspected last year, but I have issued orders for their inspection early this year. Of those inspections, I carried out 52 myself, which included all the more important magazine in the country, and I also visited some of the firework godowns. My Assistant the Inspection of Explosives, made 7 inspections and the remaining 48 inspections were carried out by the Provincial Inspectors of Explosives. Owing to the absence of Assistant Superintendents from the Gunpowder Factories for a considerable part of the year, less inspection was carried out by the Provincial Inspectors than would otherwise have been done, as they could not leave their respective factories for any length of time.

After each inspection a report on the same was sent to the District Magistrate concerned, pointing out all irregularities that required to be corrected and making any necessary suggestions.

In June 1899 the Government of India gave orders that stipendiary Magistrates or Police Officers not below the rank of Inspectors were to carry out certain periodical inspections of minor magazines, that is, of magazines containing less than 4,000 lbs, gunpowder or the equivalent, estimating 1 lb, of nitro-compounds as equal to 2 lbs. Gunpowder - vide Home Department letters Nos. 1353-55 (Public), dated 26th June 1899, and prescribed a special form of Inspection Report, which will be found in Appendix C. Up till the 31st March I received reports of 17 of these non-expert inspections of ;which 14 were carried out by the Sub-Divisional Officer, Raneeganj, one by the Sub-Divisional Officer, Govbindpur,one by the Deputy Magistrate, Ranchi, and one by the Assistant Magistrate of Vizianagram.

I am glad to be able to state that, since the system of inspections has been started, the magazines have improved very considerably, and a large number of them are now in very good order. Magazine holders have generally shown themselves very willing to accept and carry out recommendations, which in many cases, have entailed a good deal of expense, and I have found my work made much pleasanter in consequence.

The physical condition of all the explosives in ;magazines, during the past year was found to be good, and none of the samples taken at inspections ;have failed to pass the necessary tests ;which are carried out by the Chemical Examiners to the Governments of Madras, Bengal, and Burma, the Chemical Analyser to theGovernment of Bombay and the Testing Officer at Karachi. The stock is; now all of comparatively recent date. The only old stock of blasting gelatine, about 10 years old and about 1,000 lbs. in quantity was destroyed by me in February 1899, as I considered it to be in a dangerous condition; this was referred to in my letter No. 51-C.I.E., dated 22nd April 1899.

No accidents have been reported to me, but I have heard unofficially of accidents occurring in the handling of dynamite and fireworks. I should be glad if reports of all accidents in India in the storage, handling and transport of explosives and inflammable oils or substances, with full details as regards loss of life and cause of accident, etc., could be furnished to me for compilation in my Annual Report, as is done in the Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Explosives, England

No prosecutions under the Explosives Act have been reported to me. It would be as well that any that occur should be compiled in my Annual Report for information and I would therefore ask that I may be always informed of any prosecutions and their results.

I should be glad also if it could be arranged for me to obtain particulars of all imports of each kind of explosives into this country as these statistics certainly should be given in my Report, as is done in England. The following figures of the import of dynamite and all other explosives (excluding gunpowder) were obtained from the Director General of Statistics.:-

1894-95 365 tons

1895-96 321tons

1896-97 361tons

1897-98 578tons

1898-99 572tons

To give some idea of the work with which this Department has been concerned, some of the more important items are given below:

  1. A large number of the rules both for the manufacture, possession and sale of explosives and also for the transport and importation of explosives have been amended, and several fresh rules introduced. Additions and amendments have also been made to a number of the rules to regulate the transport and importation of explosives at the important ports in India. Further amendments to these latter rules are still under consideration.
  2. Special powers as regards search, seizure and destruction of explosives have been obtained for Inspectors of Explosives - vide Government of India, Home Department, Notification Nos. 660 and 888 (Public), dated 23rd March 1899 and 27th March 1900, Appendices D and E.
  3. The question of raising the heat test for dynamite and the time test for blasting gelatine has been under consideration, and finally settled in the negative.
  4. The introduction of a table of distances to be kept clear round explosives magazines in India has been under discussion, and is about to be introduced. This table is given in Appendix F.
  5. Specific rules for the packing of detonators have been issued - vide Government of India, Home Department, Notification no. 2399(Public), dated 18th October 1899, Appendix G.
  6. A special rule has been introduced under which blasting gelatine and its kindred gelatinous nitro-compounds cannot be kept in any magazine in British. India after the expiry of 3 years from the date of its importation, unless specially sanctioned by an Inspector of Explosives for further periods of 8 months. This rule decided the question which had been discussed previously as to whether blasting gelatine should be allowed in the country at all. Another idea also of under-water storage of this explosive was dismissed as impracticable.
  7. The question as to the prohibition ;of certain ingredients in fireworks has been taken up, and is still under the consideration of the Government of India, as also are the general rules as regards fire works.
  8. The dangerous proximity of some brick kilns to two large dynamite magazines of Messrs. Gillanders, Arbuthnot and Co. at Bally, near Calcutta, was brought to notice. Messrs. Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co. have consequentlybeen informed by the Bengal Government that they must remove their stock of dynamite elsewhere; but, in order to give them time to provide other magazines, they have been granted a continuing license for one year for a very much reduced quantity of dynamite, to be stored under special precautions.

Acetylene gas was declared by the Government of India to be an explosive under certain conditions, and in that state its manufacture, possession and sale, transport or importation is forbidden - vide Government of India, Home Department, Notification No.1670(Public), dated 9th August 1898, Appendix H.

Subsequently at this Department’s recommendation a further notification was issued, declaring that acetylene gas in admixture with oil gas under certain conditions shall not be deemed to be an explosive under the Explosives Act, vide Government of India, Home Department, Notification No.1747(Public), dated 11th August 1899, Appendix I.

The Petroleum Act (VIII of 1899) received the assent of the Governor General in Council on the 17th February 1899, and this Department was frequently consulted with regard to it.

Carbide of calcium was brought under the Petroleum Act (VIII of 1899), and general rules issued regarding it - vide Government of India, Home Department, Notification No.1118(Public), dated 11th August 1899, Appendix J. Local Governments are now drawing up suitable local restrictive rules, which will in course of time pass through this Department for opinion.

The question of raising the flash test of kerosene was referred to this Department before the matter was settled in England, and it was recommended that no rise should be made.

This Department was also consulted about the question of the carriage of kerosene by native passenger vessels. This matter is still under consideration.

Rules were drawn up for the installation of a liquid fuel depot at Aden. Alterations have been introduced with regard to the packing of concentrated mineral acids for purposes of transit by railway.

Requests have been received asking for relaxation in the packing of chlorate of potash, but could not be recommended by this Department.

Rules to be observed in private magazines have been drawn up by this Department - vide Appendix K, and have been issued to each magazine-holder.

Plans of magazine have been supplied to firms or individuals requiring them, and a standard plan is under preparation by this Department so that all future magazines will be of one pattern.

Arrangements have been made by which all licenses, before being granted will pass through this Department for examination.

This Department has been consulted frequently, demy-officially, by Government Departments and officials, and also by firms and private individuals, about explosives, inflammable oils and substances, and chemicals.

In conclusion, I gladly take this opportunity of placing on record my indebtedness to the Provincial Chief Inspectors and Inspectors of Explosives for the able and willing assistance they have been given me during their association with me in the explosive work. In this connection I would especially mention the name of Captain D.M.Bahington, B.A., late Chief Inspector of Explosives, Bombay and Madras Presidencies.

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