How to Become a Shotfirer (With Development Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you enjoy working outdoors and have strong analytical skills, you may make a good shotfirer. Becoming a shotfirer is a relatively simple process you can begin after leaving high school. After earning your qualifications, you may find a shotfirer job in the mining, construction or pyrotechnics industry. In this article, we explain the common steps for becoming a shotfirer and what a shotfirer is, list key shotfirer duties, note important skills for development and provide the average salary for shotfirer jobs.

What is a shotfirer?

A shotfirer is someone who prepares, positions and detonates explosives. Their explosive work may demolish structures such as buildings, dislodge rocks and soil or, if they detonate fireworks, entertain crowds. The duties of shotfirers vary depending on their industry.

How to become a shotfirer

Knowing how to become a shotfirer can prepare you for this exciting career. Here are the common steps that can help you become a shotfirer:

1. Complete at least year 10 of high school

Completing high school to Year 10 is the minimum qualification for a vocational certificate in mining. These qualifications are the educational prerequisite for most shotfirer licences and jobs. Some aspiring shotfirers choose to complete Year 12 to earn their secondary school certificate. This is optional, but may give you an advantage over other job candidates for some roles. You can study any high school subjects you like to qualify for a vocational certificate.

2. Study a vocational certificate in surface coal mining

The Certificate IV in Surface Coal Mining – Open Cut Examiner (RII40220) course teaches skills to help you work safely and efficiently in surface coal mines. These skills are transferrable to other shotfirer work environments. You can study for this qualification at a registered training organisation (RTO). The course includes 12 core subjects and two electives focused on equipment operation. Course completion typically takes between four months and two years, depending on the training provider.

Related: Vocational Training: Definition and Different Types

3. Get a National Police Certificate

A National Police Certificate is a background check that shows your criminal record. As shotfirers handle dangerous explosives, employers ask for this certificate to assess your character. This certificate is also a requirement for securing a shotfirer licence. You can apply for a National Police Certificate through your state or territory's service department, the Australia Post website or your nearest Australia Post outlet. Your certificate can help you secure a shotfirer job anywhere in the country.

4. Secure a shotfirer licence

A shotfirer licence shows you have the necessary training and knowledge to handle explosives. Licences typically let you buy, use, store and dispose of explosives. The right licence for you may depend on the industry you're entering. Clearances, permits and health and fitness checks may be requirements for securing and maintaining a licence. Here are some of the common requirements for shotfirers:

  • New South Wales: Security clearance for handling explosives and blasting explosives licence from Service NSW.

  • Australian Capital Territory: Authorisation of explosives and shotfirer licence from WorkSafe ACT.

  • Victoria: Blasting explosives licence from WorkSafe Victoria after gaining work experience (6 months for underground blasting, 12 months for open cut blasting).

  • Queensland: Security clearance for security-sensitive explosives and shotfirer licence from Business Queensland (shotfirers working on mine sites who meet requirements are exempt).

  • Tasmania: Shotfiring and security sensitive dangerous substances permits from WorkSafe Tasmania.

  • South Australia: Blasting licence (trainee until you receive workplace training) from SafeWork SA.

  • Northern Territory: Shotfirer licence from NT WorkSafe.

  • Western Australia: Western Australian dangerous goods security card or recognised security clearance and shotfirer licence from the Government of Western Australia Department of Mines, Industry and Safety.

Your licence typically authorises you for shotfirer duties in your state or territory. If you relocate or accept jobs across the border, you may apply to the relevant government body for recognition of your interstate licence. Note that in Western Australia, mutual recognition is automatic. Renew your licence as required to stay compliant with local laws.

5. Apply for shotfirer jobs

You may apply for shotfirer jobs with mining companies, demolition firms and events companies that use fireworks. Securing your first shotfirer job lets you gain practical experience performing shotfirer duties. You're likely to work with close supervision at first, then gain more independence and responsibility as you gain experience. Many shotfirers receive comprehensive on-the-job training when they start a new role.

Related: How to Apply For A Job in 6 Steps

Primary duties of shotfirers

Here are some common duties of shotfirers:

  • setting exclusion zones around blast areas to keep people, animals, vehicles and nearby structures safe.

  • checking blast site and explosives meet safety regulations

  • drilling boreholes for explosives and checking they're deep enough for required explosives

  • evaluating the quantity of explosives and movement required for blast

  • placing detonators and charges into holes

  • connecting wires, fuses and detonating cords to detonators and explosive cartridges to create blasting circuits

  • testing blasting circuits and repairing any faults before detonation

  • detonating explosives

  • inspecting blast sites after detonation to ensure all explosives have detonated and site is now safe

  • managing explosive stocks

Important skills for shotfirers

Shotfirers use technical skills to effectively and safely set up blast sites, detonate explosives and return the sites to safe functioning. Their soft skills help them work with others on projects. Developing the following skills may help you secure a shotfirer job and advance in your career:

Technical explosive and site knowledge

Shotfirers have a comprehensive understanding of explosives and common blast site conditions. Their knowledge helps them calculate the required number of explosives, depth of boreholes and preferred exclusion zone to achieve their goal. Understanding geological and blast design principles can also help them control the detonation to protect people and property.

Maths and science skills

Strong maths and science skills help shotfirers perform accurate explosion and site calculations. They use these skills with their explosive and site knowledge when calculating explosive quantities, borehole depths and the size of exclusion zones. Performing accurate calculations helps them work safely and efficiently while minimising disruption to the area around the blast site.

Analytical thinking

Strong analytical thinking skills help shotfirers assess blast sites and circuits and act appropriately. For example, if a site has a risk of flyrock, they may close walkways or roads to prevent injury to pedestrians. If a circuit fails during testing, shotfirers apply their analytical skills to assess the connections and determine the reason for its failure. They may find several potential solutions for issues and weigh up the pros and cons to find the best option.

Related: Definition and Examples of Analytical Skills

Manual dexterity

The most successful shotfirers have good manual dexterity, so they can work on explosives by hand and accurately use tools. They use their hands to manipulate wires and cords for blasting circuits. They can confidently use a variety of tools, including drills, bores, pliers and chisels to create boreholes and circuits.

Attention to detail

Good attention to detail helps shotfirers perform their duties safely. Good shotfirers understand the safety processes necessary in their role and execute each step every time. Their attention to detail helps them identify any flaws during circuit testing and people in the blast site or exclusion zone. They address potential hazards efficiently and only detonate explosives and approve sites post-explosion when it's safe.

Related: How to Improve Your Attention To Detail in 4 Steps

Verbal communication skills

Shotfirers rely on clear verbal communication to keep people and sites safe. They regularly discuss blast site specifications with the explosives supervisor to understand the requirements before explosions. If people are within the site blast area or exclusion zones, a shotfirer's clear instructions can help them move to safer locations.

Physical fitness

Being a shotfirer is very physical work, so the most successful shotfirers have good physical fitness. Shotfirers typically work outdoors in a range of weather conditions, including extreme heat. Their work regularly involves working in confined spaces. The best shotfirers can comfortably squat, crouch, bend and twist their bodies as required.

National average salary for shotfirers

The national average salary for a shotfirer in the mining industry is $119,398 per year. Typical base salaries range from $68,000 to $136,000 per year. Bonuses of between $1,000 and $21,000 can elevate a shotfirer in mining's annual earnings to between $66,000 and $141,000 per year. The national average salary for shotfirers in mining increases with experience, as follows:

  • entry-level (less than 1 year): $100,000 per year

  • early career (1-4 year): $116,000 per year

  • mid-career (5-9 years): $121,000 per year

  • late career (10-19 years): $126,000 per year

Shotfirers in other industries may earn different salaries. A shotfirer's location may also impact their yearly earnings. Different employers also set different rates of pay.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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