discussed the evolution of insulated tools.
“The primary change in insulated tools is that tools that were not
available as insulated in the past, now
are meeting the insulated tool requirements,” he said. “An example is our
pliers wrench, which is easily adjusted
for many size bolts and nuts and meets
“Basic hand tools need to be treated
with respect. Tools should not be thrown
in a toolbox or drawer. In addition, insulated tools must be protected from abuse
and extreme temperatures,” Shumate said.
Some tools can lose insulating properties from abuse and insulation nicks.
“Tools are tested before they leave
the factory to 10,000V, and if the insula-
tion stays unharmed, they will provide
protection for a long time if used prop-
erly,” Shumate said. “Insulated tools
need to be visually inspected before each
use for cracks or gouges in the insula-
tion. If any irregularity is found, the tool
should be destroyed.”
Jeffrey S. Russo, senior vice president
of Cementex Products, Burlington, N.J.,
said the insulation formula is unique
to every company. The exact process is
“Pliers, screwdrivers and nut drivers
lead the way in insulated tools used by
electricians,” Russo said. “They are the
basic and essential tools for almost any
Insulated tools are required on just
about every job site where electrical
workers will be modifying, maintaining
or overhauling switchgear, motor start-
ers or battery banks.
“Not all insulated tools are cre-
ated the same,” Russo said. “Insulated
tools need to fit into areas of electrical
cabinets, instrumentation and panels
to work safely. There is a growing use
of T-handles, ratchets, sockets and
wrenches to break free lugs, nuts and
bolts. These tools allow electrical work-
ers to really access work within the
known energized electrical components
and be sure that they are working with
tools designed with them in mind.
“T-handles are available in different lengths. Ratchets, torque wrenches,
and sockets come in different drive
sizes, lengths and functions. A ratchet
and sockets are used break free nuts and
bolts from terminal blocks or battery lugs.
Hex bit and hex nut sockets are used with
torque wrenches to tighten nuts or socket
cap bolts on batteries or panel boards to
the manufacturers torque specification.
“Wrench styles vary—there are fully
insulated and bare head adjustable, box,
open, ratcheting box, and new ratcheting
open end tools. These items play a vital
part in safe work practices,” Russo said.
Specialty tools have become hot items
of late, including magnetic retrieval tools,
flashlights and inspection mirrors. Compliance standards have made the use of
these tools common. All tools referenced
above must be 1,000V-rated, Russo said.
Cuts, nicks, cracks, punctures and
other abrasions can lead to a tool losing
the insulating value, Russo said.
“The principle of insulating tools
is fairly simple,” said Jae Lee, product
manager at Greenlee, Rockford, Ill. “The
purpose of the insulation it to ensure
there is no conductive path from the iso-
lated contact point ‘business end’ of tool
and the user. This can be accomplished
by making the entire tool out of non-
conductive material, such as ceramics,
reinforced plastics or other composites,
or, most commonly, by encapsulating
the entire tool with the exception of
the business end, with
rial such as PVC-type
or other materials.”
Lee said there have been no
major changes in the tool market, but
the injection-molding process—instead of
dipped or heat-shrink methods—allows
the use of a larger variety of materi-
als, including softer, more comfortable
handles and better ergonomic features.
It also enables the use of different color
For Greenlee, screwdrivers are the
No. 1 insulated tool, followed by side-cutting pliers. Other popular insulated
tools include wire cutters, long-nose pliers and nut-drivers, Lee said.
However, damage to the material,
such as cuts, nicks or scrapes, can create pathways for electricity, negating the
“Insulated tools should be used and
stored differently from conventional,
noninsulated tools,” Lee said. “When
not in use, they should be kept isolated
from other tools, including other insulated tools, to prevent them from getting
scraped or nicked. Insulated tools that
meet [ASTM International or International Electrotechnical Commission]
standards can withstand typical handling without diminishing the insulating
properties. However, care should be
taken to minimize unnecessary contact
or impact to the insulated portions. In
other words, don’t bang the tools, drop
them or use them in a way they were not
intended. And lastly, it’s good practice
to keep the insulated portions clean as
clean tools are far easier to inspect for
any potential damage.
“The insulated properties can be confirmed with a dielectric test. However,
this testing requires specialized equipment. The warranty or stated information
for any insulated tool should be read and
understood before use,” he said.
GRI F FI N, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at email@example.com.
Greenlee insulated tool kit