Insulated tools are hand tools used by electricians to help protect them from, and reduce electrical related incidents such as: electrocution, arc flash, and arc blasts. The use and application of insulated tools and appropriate PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) by electricians is required by OSHA. Insulated tools are rated at 1000 volts but subjected to 10,000 volts before distribution (mandated by the ASTM F1505 standard). Insulated tools comply with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 60900 standard and The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E standard.
How can I tell if my hand tools are insulated?
If you don’t know whether your tools are insulated or not then chances are they are NOT. The first thing you want to look for on the tool is the international 1,000 volt symbol. All approved insulated tools are identified by this symbol.
Most hand tools manufactured today come equipped with a rubber coating over the handle (or handles). However, this does not mean that they are insulated tools and therefore, are not necessarily suitable for electrical related work. The rubber coating on common hand tools is there for comfort and grip. It is not there to provide any protection from electricity. This can be very misleading to the novice user.
Common knowledge tells us that rubber is not a conductor of electricity. Therefore, thinking the rubber handle (or handles) will offer protection. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The rubber coating on these tools is not thick enough and is not made with the adequate dielectric properties to offer adequate protection.
Insulated hand tools are very thick and have multiple layers of both plastic and rubber. The base layer is usually made of plastic and is often a brighter color then the outer rubber layer. The plastic offers wear and tear protection. The slightest pin hole or cut in the outer rubber layer can expose the hand and fingers to the bare metal creating contact with electricity. The hard plastic layer prevents this from happening. When the brighter color of the plastic layer is visible (usually yellow) the use of the tool has been exhausted. The tool must be disposed of and replaced immediately.
The rubber layer (made of dielectric properties from various plastics) is the outer layer that offers most of the protection from the electricity as well as comfort and grip. The rubber is also oil and chemical resistant reducing the chances of electricity using moisture as a conductor. The handles are also equipped with enlarged finger guards at the top of the handle. These finger guards are to prevent your index finger from slipping off the rubber towards the top of the tool and on to the exposed bare metal.
So, before working on anything electrical related or when you’re looking to purchase an insulated tool always look for the international 1000 volt symbol, look at the handle and make sure it is very thick brightly colored (orange or yellow), and make sure it has very large finger guards at the top of the handles.
Where can I purchase insulated tools?
A full range of insulated tools are available. Pliers, side cutters, screw drivers, nut drivers, sockets, wrenches, cable cutters, and hacksaws. It is important that these tools are kept in a solid case separate from your everyday use tools:
• This reduces the chance of accidently grabbing and using non insulated tools when working around electricity.
• Insulated tools are more vulnerable to wear and tear then common tools therefore, being toted around loosely with other tools can damage the insulated rubber handles.
Call ITU today (phone# 866-851-9993) to find out how you can get these insulated tools at a great low price. ITU can also help you determine what level of PPE you need for your facility as well as provide you with helpful information on how to go about getting your facility in compliance with OSHA and NFPA 70E.
Insulated Tool Safety Checklist
Insulated tools are designed to reduce (will not completely eliminate) the chance of injury should your tool come in contact with an energized source. To avoid injury always turn off or de-energize lines and equipment before use. Apply your lockout-Tagout procedure. Only skilled & qualified electricians may work on live installations and then only in conformance with the relevant industrial safety standards.
Failure to observe the safety cautions in this checklist may result in injury or even death.
- Only use insulated tools that are marked with the official international 1000 volt rating symbol.
- Inspect your tools for wear and tear before each use.
- Keep your insulated tools clean and dry at all times.
- Store insulated tools separately from other tools in order to avoid confusion.
- If the orange outer rubber layer is damaged in any way, or if the yellow inner layer is visible, DO NOT USE! Properly dispose of the tool and replace it.
- Never touch an uninsulated part of the tool or any other conductive surface that may make contact with an energized source.
- Have a qualified person inspect your insulated tools regularly for safe use.
- Only use tools for their designed purpose and always follow locally relevant industrial safety standards such as OSHA 1910.333(c)(2), NFPA-70E, 2004 ed. and CSA Z462.
- Always use the appropriate PPE when working around live circuits. Required by OSHA and NFPA. Insulated tools alone are not enough protection.
- Have an arc flash analysis performed on your facility to determine the proper category or level of PPE to use in conjunction with your insulated tools.