Using an insulated tool may not seem necessary, especially on a quick job. After all, if you’re careful, no need for the extra tools and cost involved. Right? Unfortunately this sort of corner cutting is not only potentially dangerous, but it’s also an OSHA violation and may be against the law. OSHA outlines that any job greater than 50V requires the use of insulated tools, because after someone gets electrocuted, that’s the wrong time to start being safe working with electricity. Your standard plastic and rubber grips on most tools aren’t going to cut it either, you need something that’s certified for use up to 1000V AC or 1500V DC and made from proper materials. Not only that, they must conform to numerous safety standards. Klein outlines some of the standards here. Whatever brand you buy, make sure it’s a good one because if you grab a cheap one from Harbor Freight or some other low end brand, you may end up with something that will cost you your life. Brands such as Felo, Wera, Wiha, Gedore, Klein and Ideal are all trustworthy brands and their tools undergo rigorous testing and are made with the utmost care.
Insulated tools have been around long enough that it’s hard to say who exactly invented them, but what is known is that insulated tools are lifesaving tools that are held to rigorous standards and must be certified by the ASTM F1505 and/or VDE and must bear the proper stamps of approval. Brands like Wiha, Wera and Klein follow these standards and test their tools up to 10,000 volts in a water bath, though they are certified only for 1000V. These tools are pretty much guaranteed to protect you should you need to work on a live wire or accidentally contact one while working with someone else. They not only protect from shock, but also from sparks and arcing. You can see German Tool Reviews informally testing a number of insulated tools, you might be surprised by which tool handled the best. Don’t try it at home!
The process of making insulated tools is without question more time consuming and expensive and there are a couple ways to do it. Many American companies, like Klein, use the dipping process wherein the tool is dipped in the insulation coating and cured. After this, the tool undergoes rigorous testing and finishing processes. Dipped insulated tools tend to have an inner layer underneath the surface which not only adds an extra layer of protection, but it also shows if the surface insulation has been compromised. If this inner layer can be seen, it’s time to stop using the tool.
Injection molding is typically done by European and Asian based companies. With this process the tool is placed into a mold and the insulated material is injected into the mold and encases the tool in a protective insulated coating. This process doesn’t tend to have an inner protective layer, however, injection molded insulated tools can be a bit more durable than their dipped counterparts. Therefore, the inner layer isn’t really as necessary. Each type of tool has its plusses and minuses and it really boils down to a preference or what strength fits the job at hand better.
Insulated tools are a wonderful, lifesaving technology and they not only perform tough jobs with impeccable safety, they also look really cool. Here at Haus of Tools we carry many high quality brands that are known for making insulated tools. Make sure to get your hands on some if you’re doing electrical work!