The Importance of Using Insulated Hand Tools
When it comes to electrical work, many people wonder whether using insulated hand tools is necessary. The truth is, insulated tools are not only highly recommended but in some cases, they are even required. It’s important to remember that simply having plastic handles on your screwdriver or pliers doesn’t guarantee protection against electric shocks.
According to the international standard NFPA 70E, insulated tools should be used when working with or near voltages above 50V. This article will discuss the rules that determine the need for insulated tools on the job site and why they differ from standard electric hand tools.
The Risk of Working with Regular Tools
While common pliers and screwdrivers may have plastic or nylon handles, they do not provide protection against high-voltage wires. This is because the high voltage can travel down the steel core of the tool and quickly jump to the user through the thin plastic handle.
The Difference Insulated Tools Make
Insulated tools offer true electrical isolation up to 1000V AC or 1500V DC when dealing with high voltages. Unlike regular hand tools, insulated tools provide electrical isolation at the handle, ensuring maximum safety for electricians.
It’s important to note that if you’re only working with low voltage wiring, insulated hand tools may not be necessary. However, if you’re a professional electrician, it’s highly recommended to have these tools in your arsenal. They provide an extra layer of protection, especially when working with wires that might get hot, even through no fault of your own.
Understand the Labels and Standards
Always read the labels on your tools. Insulated electric hand tools are clearly labeled to indicate the level of voltage they can protect against. These tools usually have two layers of insulation and meet the industry standard ASTM F1505. While they may cost more, the peace of mind and protection they provide are definitely worth the investment.
Proper Usage of Insulated Tools
It’s crucial to understand that using insulated tools on live circuits is a big no-no. The insulation on these tools extends all the way to the back end of the handle to prevent accidental exposure to high voltages.
Bear in mind that accidents can occur if proper precautions are not taken. It’s important to never work on live wires unless absolutely necessary. Even with insulated hand tools, if the insulation is scratched or compromised, it will no longer provide the intended protection.
Insulated Tools: A Layer of Safety
Insulated tools act as an additional layer of safety and protection, similar to seat belts, airbags, or ABS systems in a car. While we hope they never need to be used, they work together to keep you safe.
Before starting any electrical work, always check the current flow. It’s essential to verify that the circuit is closed before touching any potentially live wires. Following these precautions will significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
Compliance with Safety Standards
NFPA 70E not only provides information on the need for insulated hand tools but also helps electricians and businesses comply with safety standards such as OSHA 1910 Subpart S (Occupational Safety and Health Standards – Electrical) and OSHA 1926 Subpart K (Construction – Electrical Safety and Health Code). Adhering to these standards is key to avoiding electrical accidents, liability, and loss. The standard also includes safety-related best practices, special equipment (PPE), and maintenance requirements.
In 2021, NFPA 70E introduced some amendments to Section 110, incorporating general requirements for work programs, practices, and procedures related to electrical safety. The update also provides expanded definitions and recommendations for arc-resistant equipment and addresses electrical safety requirements when using high-voltage capacitors.
The Structural Differences
Insulated hand tools, such as pliers and knives, have thick insulation starting from the handle. The insulation is designed to protect your hands from high voltages in case you accidentally cut live wires. Additionally, these tools often have a thicker barrier at the top of the handle to prevent your hands from slipping or sliding over the insulation.
If you’re unsure about the rating of your tools, check the label. Pliers, screwdrivers, and crimpers are all clearly labeled for your convenience. Insulated hand tools typically feature two layers of insulation and meet ASTM F1505 standards.
While insulated hand tools may cost more, they provide necessary protection. Remember, accidents can happen, but by using gloves, insulated hand tools, and other safety measures, you can minimize risks and ensure your safety on the job.
Stay informed about the rules, standards, and codes related to electrical work. The more knowledge you possess as a professional, the better equipped you’ll be to avoid accidents and perform your work safely.