Many business operations rely on a variety of tools to conduct daily operations. Some use heavy duty mechanical tools or manufacturing equipment. Others rely on various tools for the purposes of keeping a facility clean.
Not all tools come in non-sparking options, but if your business deals with inherent fire hazards due to flammable, combustible, or explosive materials on-site, you may be interested in the possibility of sparkless tools that will reduce risks and increase operational safety. In fact, you might be required by law to use non-sparking tools whenever possible.
Naturally, you want to ensure the safest possible work environment for employees and in some cases the public. This is both a legal and an ethical concern for business owners that deal with hazardous substances.
The question is: how do you know when you should utilize sparkless tools? Here are a few instances in which non-sparking tools are advisable.
When to use Sparkless Tools
Sparkless tools guard against both fire and explosion in environments that may contain flammable liquids, vapours, dust or residues. If you are working in confined spaces where flammable gases or dust are present, using a non-sparking tool is the best practice.
According to OHSA "Iron or steel hand tools may produce sparks that can be an ignition source around flammable substances. Where this hazard exists, spark-resistant tools made of non-ferrous materials should be used where flammable gases, highly volatile liquids, and other explosive substances are stored or used."
Non-sparking tools could include products as diverse as wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers, just for example, as well as items like shovels and brooms. Any tool that contains metal components could potentially produce sparks, but those made of non-ferrous metals are more likely to produce "cold sparks", if any, which have a heat level so low that they are unlikely to ignite even substances like carbon disulfide that have extremely low ignition points.
If you're unsure whether or not you need sparkless tools in your workplace, it's best to speak with an OSHA representative to determine your responsibilities. Failure to comply with OSHA regulations could result in fines or other consequences, so it's best to go straight to the source.
When Working with Flammable Substances
Any time you're working with flammable or combustible materials you need to do all you can to avoid sparks that could contribute to fire hazards. Even if you follow all applicable rules and regulations regarding safe storage of hazardous chemicals or other flammable substances, there's always a danger of fire.
In such instances it is best to use sparkless tools as an extra precaution, whether you are required to do so by OSHA or not. The safety of workers and the security of your facility are of the utmost importance, and non-sparking tools can help to decrease the risk of fire.
When Working with Explosive Substances
Although there are marked differences between flammable and explosive substances, sparks can be dangerous around both types of materials. Just as you want to avoid potential fire hazards, you'd probably rather not deal with explosions in the workplace. Sparkless tools are therefore a necessity for businesses that store and handle explosive materials.
When Working in Confined Spaces
You might not see why there's any difference in safety standards between open or confined spaces, but a confined space could be more hazardous, especially should a fire break out. This is partly because fire may spread more quickly in confined spaces, especially those that are cluttered.
If you happen to store hazardous or flammable materials in a confined space for safety and security purposes, a fire could be disastrous, even if the space is well-ventilated and has additional safety features like fire sprinklers. In addition, confined spaces can be difficult to maneuver, potentially increasing the risk of workers becoming trapped in emergency situations and creating difficulties for emergency responders attempting rescue.
In other words, you need to exercise extreme caution when it comes to confined work spaces, especially if flammable, combustible, or explosive materials are present. Sparkless tools will help to ensure the safety of workers and your facility.