In each work environment there are various guidelines to comply with to reduce the risk of accidents. Some of these measures focus on the requirements that must be included in the manual tools, so that they do not represent an accident risk for anyone operating an instrument.
One of the most common risks is friction ignition, in environments where combustible gases have been released into the air. In this environment, a steel tool could generate a spark that could cause an explosion.
Non-sparking tools are used in petrochemical factories, ammunition plants, power companies and storage places with fuel or flammable material. However, its use has become a safety measure taken by electricians who work in any environment where they need to use tools that improve safety in each of their tasks.
Non-sparking tools do generate a “cold spark” by friction, but their low heating value does not allow them to reach a sufficient ignition point to cause combustion.
Safety attributes of non-sparking tools
Non-sparking tools are made of different metal alloys. Being the bronze the most common option, but not the most appropriate. Copper, within modern techniques, is one of the main elements for its manufacture. Some tools include alloys such as beryllium, nickel and cobalt in smaller amounts in their compounds.
These types of tools include among their properties antimagnetic features, to expand their use in various spaces where machinery cannot operate near tools with electromagnetic sensitivity.
It is important to highlight that non-sparking tools, as they are not made of steel, can wear out more easily, but this will also depend on the work environment and tasks where it is used and the quality of the alloy. That is why it is recommended to consult the manufacturer’s hardness reference tables before choosing to purchase a non-sparking tool.
Some non-sparking tools include anti-corrosion properties, for harsher work environments where rust can easily affect tool life.
When to use a non-sparking tool?
Non-sparking tools must be used in all explosive atmospheres, where a spark from friction can cause an explosion, putting the lives of all present at risk.
This is why non-sparking tools have become useful instruments for working in potentially explosive environments.
The Atex Directive defines the type of equipment allowed in explosive atmospheres, classifying them into 5 zones, depending on the substances and quantities present in the environment.
The beryllium copper alloy tools they comply with the ATEX directive for use in zones 0, 1 and 2 (gas and steam), while their use is also allowed in zones 20, 21 and 22; where the explosive atmosphere It is generated through dust clouds.
Pliers, screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, tweezers, scissors, and even flashlights; they are the main instruments commonly used by professionals responsible for the safety of their environment.
Tools made of copper-beryllium alloy are the safest.
While non-sparking tools that include iron cannot be categorized as non-magnetic instruments, their low magnetism allows for use in low-risk conditions.
Other safety implements must accompany non-sparking tools during use, depending on the risks involved in each environment.
Protecting the eyes, face and hands are essential precautions when using non-sparking tools in environments with dangerous or highly corrosive vapors and liquids. Noxious gas detection instruments and monitoring of the explosive limit in air are other frequent measures to maintain safety while carrying out the work.
Despite the fact that certain studies classify beryllium as a carcinogenic element, only its inhalation of dust over a long period of time could affect our lungs. Therefore, it is ruled out that tools that include beryllium in their alloys become contaminating pieces when in contact with the skin.
Maintenance of non-sparking tools
As all its components are aimed at improving the safety of those who use them, non-sparking tools are made of a less resistant alloy than steel, but their maintenance and care will allow us to extend their useful life. For this, it is advisable to take the following considerations:
- Keep tools clean. Prevent corrosive elements from adhering to the surface, as well as any other liquid or residue that could wear down or affect the properties of the piece.
- Do not use it in environments with acetylene. Acetylene in humid or high temperature environments can produce negatively charged anions on contact with tools, producing a highly explosive environment.
- Non-sparking instruments such as hammers, pliers and chisels take high-impact blows, making part of their structure more vulnerable to wear. Under these circumstances tools need to be checked and repaired, to maintain its strength, hardness or rotation capacity.
In the work environment there are many tasks that involve danger when in contact with explosive gases, electrical contacts and environments with unsafe materials, which endanger our lives if we do not responsibly carry out all the necessary precautions to prevent an accident.
Although the non-sparking tools fail to achieve the wear tolerance offered by steel instruments, these tools are already an essential part of the safety elements that electricians and other professionals have added to their daily use.
Gas plants, petrochemical factories, pharmaceutical industries, as well as airports, warehouses, ships and companies of all kinds; They have understood very well the importance of improving safety to avoid accidents that pose a risk to both human life and the operations and performance of each company.