Why Are Non-sparking Tools Called Safety Tools?

August 16, 2022

According to Directive 1999/92/EC, steel tools are considered to be a source of ignition and are therefore unsafe for use in the presence of explosive atmospheres. In such environments, non-sparking tools must be used.


However, based on our experience in the industry worldwide, there are still many procurements, maintenance, and even safety professionals who are not fully familiar with what non-sparking tools are and what the key criteria are for use when procuring or using such tools.


The most common non-sparking alloys are aluminum - bronze (Al-Bron) and copper - beryllium (Cu-Be), but what criteria should be followed when choosing one of these options?

T Type Wrench

 T Type Wrench


What non-sparking alloys exist?

The most common alloys are beryllium copper (also known as beryllium copper or Cu-Be) and aluminum bronze (also known as Al-Bron).


Although Cu-Be alloy is 20% - 40% more expensive to purchase than Al-Bron, it has two important benefits.


It produces less spark energy than Al-Bron tools and therefore Cu-Be is considered safer as they can be used in the presence of all gas groups, including the IIC group.

Cu-Be tools have excellent mechanical properties and therefore have a longer service life. If used frequently, Cu-Be can result in significant cost savings by reducing tool change times.

In addition, Cu-Be non-sparking tools are non-magnetic, which is an important benefit if work is carried out in the presence of a magnetic field.


Non-Sparking Tool

Non-Sparking Tool    &nb

Type of gas in the environment

Despite its name, non-sparking tools do produce sparks (all metals produce sparks when they rub against each other). The difference between non-sparking safety tools and normal steel tools is the energy of the sparks they generate.


Their key objective in avoiding explosions is therefore to keep the energy of the sparks below the ignition point of the gas in the atmosphere.


To ensure that the correct non-sparking tool is used, the first step is to know which gases will be present in the atmosphere.

If you use non-sparking tools regularly, Al-Bron tools may actually be a more expensive option given the replacement costs over time.

Explosion-proof Durable Hand Tools Aluminum Bronze Edging Spade

Explosion-proof Durable Hand Tools Aluminum Bronze Edging Spade



As with all safety-critical products, trust is key. If the spark energy generated by a non-sparking tool is dependent on the material composition of the tool, then any change in the material composition will have a direct impact on the energy level of the sparks generated.


In order to be 100% confident that the tools purchased and used will not generate sparks up to gas ignition temperatures, it is recommended that purchasing managers require third-party certification of the tool material properties from the manufacturer as required by Directive 1999/92/EC.


Such certificates are not related to the company's management system (e.g. ISO 9001 or ISO 18000) or the mechanical properties of the tool (e.g. according to DIN standards). Certification of material properties focuses on the material composition of the tool to ensure that the energy level of the sparks generated is that which is considered safe for use in the presence of different gas groups.


As with any certification, it is recommended that such tests are carried out by an independent third party (to avoid any conflict of interest). The German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) is one of the most reputable laboratories approved by the EU for certification under Directive 1999/92/EC.

Non sparking Pipe Wrench

 Nonsparking Pipe Wrench


Alloy markings on each tool

Al-Bron and Cu-Be tools have similar colors and are therefore difficult to distinguish from each other. Considering that the selection of the correct alloy is a key step in ensuring safety, those purchasing and using the product must be 100% sure that they have selected the correct alloy.


The only way to achieve this is to mark each non-sparking tool with a permitted laser. This is the only way to ensure that the manufacturer delivers the correct alloy and that the team on site is using the correct tool at the start of the shift.