Everything You Need to Know About Insulated Tools
- Gray Tools Official Blog
- 11 Jan, 2016
Tool safety is paramount when it comes to professionals who use them to make a living. Choosing the right tool is not just a matter of performance, but also the protection it provides the user.
Selecting between two tools that might look and perform identical, but provide different levels of protection depending on the application, can mean the difference between life and death.
Why Insulated Tools?
How Insulated Tools Are Made
The most common methods used to manufacture insulated tools are dipping and injection moulding. Since the end benefit is the same (user protection against electrical shock), choosing one design over the other comes down to personal preference and habit.
The dipping process is used primarily by North American manufacturers; including Gray Tools. This multi-step process ensures each insulated tool meets ASTM F1505 standards for adhesion, dielectric properties, flammability, and durability.
The final process in the dipped manufacturing method requires that each tool is trimmed, cleaned, polished and laser engraved. Most of the steps in this insulating process require a precise and often lengthy amount of curing time to achieve optimum results.
Insulated tools manufactured using the dipping process feature two layers of insulation in contrasting colours (red and yellow, or orange and yellow). Besides its insulation properties, the inner layer also acts as a safety indicator. When this layer becomes visible through the outer layer the tool is no longer safe to use and has to be replaced.
European and Asian insulated tool manufacturers favor the injection moulding process. Unlike the North American method where the tool is dipped in insulated material these tools feature handles moulded from insulation material.
The “dipped” versus “injection moulding” comparison has no obvious winner. Similar to "chrome versus matte" tool finish or "chrome versus comfort" handle, in the end it is a matter of personal preference. Regardless of the insulation process, both tool lines guarantee user protection up to 1000V and come with a lifetime warranty.
Choosing an Insulated Tool: Things to Consider
- Choose a reputable tool manufacturer. The overall quality of an insulated tool cannot be judged solely on the insulation method. The quality and performance of the base tool is fundamental. Brands that specialize solely in insulated tools source their non-insulated product from various sources, which are not disclosed. Established tool manufacturers, such as Gray Tools, use the tools from within their portfolio. These tools have been field-tested by people who do extraordinary work for more than 100 years.
- Check the grip. Choose an insulated tool that provides a secure grip of the tool. This reduces the possibility of tool drop or slippage, thus reducing the risk of personal injury.
- Compare the warranties. All things being equal, a tools warranty (and how warranty is handled) can make the difference between efficiency and time lost with warranty claims. A reputable brand will guarantee its insulated tools for life.
VDE versus ASTM F1505 Certification Standards - What is the Difference?
Popular in North America, ASTM F1505 certifies each tool that goes through the insulation process. An ASTM F1505-certified tool has the “1000V” and double triangle symbol engraved, as well as the year the tool was insulated.
VDE (Verband der Elektrotechnik - Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies) is a private compliance organization that will come into an organization and certify that the proper procedures are being followed in terms of testing.
Based in Frankfurt, Germany, VDE certification is mainly used by European and Asian manufactures. Once the insulation process is VDE certified, each tool that is manufactured using the process is automatically engraved with the VDE symbol.
Similar to the “dipped” versus “injection moulding” comparison the certification authority has no clear winner. Both ASTM & VDE require comprehensive testing before any tool can be marked as insulated. The key is to choose a tool that bears a symbol clearly indicating it is certified and tested to provide the level of protection expected.
How to Ensure Insulated Tools Are Safe to Use
- Perform a visual inspection of the insulated tool each time you plan to use it. If any cracks, nicks, cuts or other damage to the outer orange layer is visible, don’t use that tool and bring it to the attention of your supervisor.
- Use insulated tools only in areas whose ambient temperatures are compatible with the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Do not touch any un-insulated part of the tool that might come into contact with an energized source.
- Keep insulated tools away from sharp objects such as utility knives, to avoid damage to the insulated material.
- Keep insulated tools away from heat sources.
- Clean and maintain your insulated tools regularly to ensure many years of reliable service.