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Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money?

Posted By: renosteinke

Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/17/11 02:21 PM

I was thinking about NFPA 70E- Electrical safety in the workplace.

WHat are the rules if you use ordinary tools? Suit up, glove up, until you verify it's dead.

If you use insulated tools? Suit up, glove up, until you verify it's dead.

So where's the advantage?
Posted By: Gregtaylor

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/18/11 01:01 AM

How about a situation where you're gloved and suited up, but still working a known live circuit? Such situations exist, despite our best efforts to avoid them.
Posted By: wa2ise

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/18/11 03:58 AM

Cuts the odds of your buying the farm if you make a dumb mistake. There was that guy at a nursing home who got killed when trying to remove a broken light bulb from a light fixture he thought was dead (the drawings said that all the lights in the room were off the same light switch, but it turned out the building wiring was modified to make that particular light stay on all the time, off an emergency lighting system, and the drawings not updated). Sure, he should have tested that specific fixture, but...
Posted By: Tesla

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/18/11 06:15 AM

I've had employees deliberately re-energize circuits that were off so as to stun or kill me. ( Drug addicts ! )

In that particular instance, I re-tested -- over and over -- so that when he made it live -- I was promptly aware.

My technique was such that his attempt failed.

I was unable to get him fired... Then.

Subsequently, I fired him. He just couldn't stop with the splif -- right in front of the GC.

So there is a reason for using insulated hand tools.

--------

And then there's the risk that some fool will energize a circuit that should stay dead.

Like the j-man who, having completed the install of an EM exit sign, felt it was up to him to energize the circuit. Two other crews were working on the same EM circuit hooking up other exit signs. ( At height!) Sparks flew. He was canned on the spot. General Foreman had told all lead men do NOT energize ANYTHING until authorized.

I'll admit I'm a tool fool. I have way too many. However, I've seen enough near-death accidents to push my luck.

Many times I'm in situations when I can't figure out how to turn off the power. Yeah, undocumented circuits are the bane of all mankind.

I particularly hate older disconnects -- the cheapos -- that are so cheezy that you've got no working room if it is energized. In such situations, I'm absolutely going to use insulated EVERYTHING.

Posted By: HotLine1

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/19/11 02:57 AM

Tesla:
Part of your commentary above sounds like a complete lack of LOTO. IF I had a clown energize something I was working on, get me once....there would never (underline) be a twice.

Posted By: Trumpy

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/20/11 03:20 AM

John,
Insulated tools are made for one reason only.
In that, they prevent short circuits from live parts to adjacent grounded parts, due to their covered parts only exposing the working parts of the tool.
They are advertised as secondary insulation at < 1000VAC
Primary insulation is gloves and outers.
They are merely part of the puzzle.

I mean, if you were silly enough to drop an un-insulated screwdriver or have it slip from say a bus-bar on to the back of a panel, you'd get all you deserve.

One other thing, I don't understand why you need to get all suited up when a set of simple cover up gear would minimise the risk.
All you need is safety glasses, gloves and outers in this situation.
Posted By: twh

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/20/11 04:40 PM

I did an install in a fuel facility where I had to install a bolt-in, molded case breaker in a 208 volt panel. The plant electrician helped me follow company policy.
- my voltmeter was tested
- power to the panel was locked out at the main switch for the building
- power to the building was locked at the main switch for the plant transformer. We took down the entire plant.
- I had to wear rated cover-alls, hot gloves and a shield
- A look-out man made sure I was okay and ran a flashlight.
- when the panel was open we tested for power, but I kept the gloves and shield in case it was re-energized while I was working. This is where the flashlight was needed because I couldn't see in the dark to test for power.
- an independent safety inspector monitored the operation and stopped me in the middle to discuss possible hazards (pinched fingers, etc).

Even then, I didn't have to use insulated tools.
Posted By: renosteinke

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/20/11 05:12 PM

Trumpy ... you managed to find the point I was leading folks to.

The 70E rules call for full arc-flash protection up to the point where you have veirfied that everything is dead. OK, I also think that's over-doing it on your 'usual' panel, but I didn't want to re-open THAT discussion.

Of course, once everything is proven dead, there's no need for gloves - or insulated tools.

Yet, if things are considered 'live,' the use of insulated tools makes no differenct to the mandated PPE.

It appears that the only purpose of insulating tools is to prevent the tool from making a fault itself. The insulation is NOT a substitute for PPE.
Posted By: mikesh

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/20/11 11:28 PM

Originally Posted by Trumpy
John,
One other thing, I don't understand why you need to get all suited up when a set of simple cover up gear would minimise the risk.
All you need is safety glasses, gloves and outers in this situation.

Trumpy
Some arc flash hazards are rated so dangerous that even a bomb technicians blast suit won't ensure survivability.
While a 10 calorie cover up might keep you safe in some large percentage of installations, there are lots of services in our secondary network area that require category 4 protection to rack a breaker. We have about 1 square kilometer area in the downtown that has typical fault current of 100ka. These faults can require 40 cal suits which I know you don't want to wear very long without some built in cooling system. If I had to do some live checks close to the source of that system I would be using insulated tools in addition to the rest of the PPR.
Working in a single family dwelling with a 200 am 1 phase service I would put on safety glasses and ordinary leather gloves. No synthetic clothing so a pair of jeans and a denim shirt are probably enough. Tape up the shaft of the screw driver and bob is your uncle.
Posted By: KJay

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/23/11 05:57 AM

If youre working on a service, there is usually no way to just turn the power off. For single and multifamily units and even some small commercial, the poco usually just issues you a work order number and gives the OK to cut the Buddco tag, pull the meter, disconnect the drop and do what you need to, then put it all back together and have the AHJ call it in after inspection. They just send someone out to install a seal on the meter can.
This system has worked fine around here for many years, so now all of a sudden NFPA 70E declares it to be too dangerous to perform without a full PPE arc suit? P-L-E-A-S-E!
I have the necessary gear, shield, hot sticks, gloves and insulated tools, etc., and know how to use them, so will continue to do so when needed.
Maybe page one of NFPA 70E should start with: a licensed electrician that does not know how to safely work on energized equipment under 600V is not a qualified person.
Posted By: Tesla

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/23/11 06:25 AM

LOTO simply does not work during the manic construction of a food store. We're talking hundreds of circuits across many panels some place in the back of the store + panels elsewhere in the departments.

The procedure is to prohibit all but a short list of lead men and the general foreman the right to energize a circuit.

Posted By: renosteinke

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/23/11 07:27 PM

In the military they call it "mission creep." That's when a limited deployment, intended to protect an airfield, grows into a seven-year tropical expidition. Oops.

In our trade, we've been quite comfortable using simple, ordinary, dry leather gloves, simple tools, and cautious practices to make service connections. WHen inside a panel, a wrap of tape around a screwdriver was enough to keep us from letting the smoke out of components.

Various doctrines came about, mandating the use of safety glasses for every moment on site. Even hard hats became routine, more a fashion statement than anything else in most cases. When some cheap clothing was shown to make a minor event a major injury, we simply wanted to not wear such 'mother-in-law silk.'

But, hey, if 'some' s good, 'more' is better, right? Besides, WHO says your gear is appropriate? Everyone and his dog wanted a say ... we can't trust those ignorant trade types to make any decisions!

So we end up with NFPA70-E, which would have you wear a moon suit to change a light bulb. OK, maybe I exaggerate ... but the following statements are not exaggerations:

If there's the least POSSIBILITY of there being power present, you need to 'suit up' until you've PROVEN all power is locked out.

At a minimum level, that PPE includes a hard hat, safety glasses, face shield, fire resistant clothing, gloves and liners.

The "hard hat" needs to be an electrically rated one. Many places forbid the 'cowboy' style hats, even though they ARE rated. "Safety" is used to enforce an ignorant bias.

I'm not sure if an 'ordinary' face shield meets the minimum level, or if it needs to be one of the funky greenish 'arc flash rated' ones.

It's not enough that the clothing simply not be of the proven dangerous polyester type. No, they want it officially stamped as complying with some standard. The heavy welders' jackets -even leathers- lack the stamp, so are not recognized. This situation is improving as more stuff gets rated, but for now bureaucracy trumps common sense.

Ordinary gloves are out. Now not only need there be rubber liners, those liners need to be certified every six months by an independent testing place. It matters not that the gloves are brand new and set in the box for six months - where's the certifcate?

Notice that there's NO role in this for insulated tools. Whatever the tools are for, they're not insulated to protect you.

Nor is it enought to wrap the tools in tape. Our friends at Klein actually had the gall to sell 'high dielectric insulated' tools and at the same time insist that the insulation had NO voltage rating. When we finally accepted the German standard, we got the current version of 'insulated' tools ... but using those expensive tools does not lessen the required PPE one bit.
Posted By: KJay

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/25/11 01:33 AM

Let me just say, I hear you and I understand. Im not for taking obscene unnecessary risk and obviously it depends on the particular situation, but there has, and always will be a time when the proper equipment and knowhow are needed to safely perform what can otherwise be an inherently dangerous job. Specifically in the case of dealing with energized equipment 600V or less, since these are the most common voltages most of us deal with on a daily basis.
Equipment designed, intended and proven acceptable for the purpose already exists for this very reason, so why not promote the reality of learning how to use it properly in these situations, instead of being told to turn and run. To me, this is what the term professional means and is all about.
Posted By: homer

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/25/11 08:02 AM

Well, it is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt and then the first call the family of the deceased or badly injured makes is to an attorney. Several years ago my company along with the property owner ( a large computer company) settled for $1 million for an electrician's death. Soon after that, the safety rules became much more onerous.

But I do agree with you guys about electrical work being inherently dangerous. It is important to work with property owners to determine a safe method, since they are going to be most vulnerable to a large settlement or suit. We have a form that the property owner has to sign which acknowledges that they accept responsibility. Usually after reading the lawyer speak, they indicate a willingness to find a time to turn off power.

We are also required to fill out hot work permit forms and work up a detailed plan which must be approved by the safety guy. Accurate one-line drawings are an electricians best friend!
Posted By: renosteinke

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 01/25/11 02:51 PM

Homer ... you've got me curious. Could you post the thing you have the customer sign?

(If you're worried about confidentiality, send it to me as a PM, and I will use my software to edit out any identifying specifics before posting)
Posted By: Trumpy

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 02/03/11 04:10 AM

Originally Posted by mikesh
Tape up the shaft of the screw driver and bob is your uncle.

Mike,
I really hope that that comment was made in jest or sarcasm.
Posted By: njelectricmaster

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 02/05/11 08:18 PM

Check out the carhart "FR" clothing line. I have been using it for a couple of years and i am very happy with It. Using cat 2 shirts and jeans with a cat 4 coat and balaclava. I also use elvex face shield w/hardhat. very comfortable.

I know that it seems daunting all the regulations in the 70e, but comming home alive is always a good thing. Remember that the standards are there because of past stupidity.

Most of the time the clothing I mentioned will cover the letter of the code, and moon suit not always needed.
Posted By: Alan Belson

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 02/28/11 11:20 PM

And meanwhile, despite all the well-meaning regulation designed to mitigate injury and prevent accidents, we still have the amateur Joe Muggins playing with death.
F'rinstance, this Herbert!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmXMpTsMJj4&feature=related

Look closely. 10 bottles of vodka[?] on the bench, a roll of kitchen paper cunningly placed to invite ignition and all in an area full of wood and other inflammable junk. Notice too the bare hand, the state-of-the-art wooden 'insulated' pole made from an old chair-leg and the hi-tec string holding the [green!] wire to the 6" nail electrode. eek
Posted By: twh

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 02/28/11 11:58 PM

Someone filmed me using a welder?
Posted By: Vlado

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 03/01/11 01:24 PM

Originally Posted by Alan Belson
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmXMpTsMJj4&feature=related

Look closely. 10 bottles of vodka[?] on the bench, a roll of kitchen paper cunningly placed to invite ignition and all in an area full of wood and other inflammable junk. Notice too the bare hand, the state-of-the-art wooden 'insulated' pole made from an old chair-leg and the hi-tec string holding the [green!] wire to the 6" nail electrode. eek


Looks like the power supply of the ignited arc in the clip is only couple of kVA.That fact was most important factor for preventing arc flash burns.From ignorant fool the only worse thing is a drunk ignorant fool.
He should see how ignited arc from MVA power supply at same voltage level looks like and what it is capable of. grin
Posted By: sparky

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 03/01/11 01:54 PM


Posted By: sparky

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 03/01/11 10:50 PM

Originally Posted by Tesla
I've had employees deliberately re-energize circuits that were off so as to stun or kill me. ( Drug addicts ! )



wtf Tesla?

dunno where you've been working, but that's just downright wrong

to put it in local jargon, some quality time behind the woodshed would be in order

~S~
Posted By: mikethebull

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 03/11/12 07:00 AM

I have been working on live circuits mostly tying in live from the pole. Now OSHA wants us to use safety equipment. THe only time I have been in danger is due to an apprentice. Whom @ the time wasn't awhere of 70E (if it even existed) Electrical Safety is all in the knowledge.
Posted By: mikesh

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 07/19/12 11:46 PM

Trumpy
I think I must have been asleep when I wrote that. I think my point was more related to the lower energy levels than good advice. A single layer of tap is good for about 300 volts but tape has little or no mechanical strength against tearing or compressing to failure so no tape is not adequate.
A real use of insulated tools would be when performing live testing and troubleshooting which are about the only place for live work. Unless the power is life support i think most places can turn the power off.
So the need for insulated tools is less than in the past but until the power is proven off I think another level of safety is a good thing.
Posted By: Trumpy

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 11/17/20 07:56 AM

Sorry to bring this thread up again, it is quite old,
I was reminded of this thread yesterday, by a conversation (no, argument) I had with an "Electrician" who was originally from Michigan in the US and he had been here in New Zealand for a year, or so.

He was re-training to pass our trade exams and getting some work experience as well and him and his Tradesman were at the local electrical supply house, when he started having an argument with his Tradesman about buying some new screwdrivers.

The tradie told him, the company H&S policy is that you must have insulated screwdrivers and the guy didn't like this,
the tradie was summarily told that them types of tools are for "alternate lifestyle men". rolleyes
"We didn't ever use them in the States!, why do I need them here?, all of my screwdrivers are Kliens, nothing wrong with them, yes they are bare, I can cover them with thick walled heat-shrink."

The tradie and I got talking and I said to the guy "you need to get with the plan, covering things in heatshrink is not a proper way of doing things, for the cost of a decent set of common screwdrivers at trade rates, you'd spend the same amount of money and time putting the heatshrink on them".

That's when things went south, the guy launched into a tirade at me and the tradie, "So you want me to buy these stupid (expletive) plastic screwdrivers!!??, I wish I'd never moved to this (expletive)(expletive) country you're all a pack
of (expletive)(expletive).
The tradie told him to calm down and he did when I said that the best set for him had 9 screwdrivers, all the common sizes, for NZ$ 77, which is like US$35, they'll last you a lifetime.

Everyone walked away happy,
Apart from me, I forgot the 2 contactors and 3 light fittings I had on back-order that had arrived, I did get some nice ceiling fans though. grin
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 11/17/20 07:01 PM

Trumpy:

FWIW, when I had my business, we all had the proper insulated tools and they were used when necessary.

Also, in the tools were the torque wrenches and screwdrivers!!

Never had any one accuse me or my men of being 'alternate lifestyle' people!!
Posted By: gfretwell

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 11/17/20 09:48 PM

IBM gave is an insulated Excelite in our initial tool kit but within months the insulation fell off the shaft. We called them the "red handle" screwdriver because the only trace was the red stain on the handle where the top of the dipped part was.
Posted By: Trumpy

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 11/19/20 08:15 AM

John,
You raise an interesting thing......
Torquing screws.
I usually use Wiha screwdrivers (and this is in no way an endorsement), I note however that they have bought out a line of Insulated screwdrivers that have an in-built torque function.
However, I'm not sure about the US, but I would struggle to find any torque stipulations for common connectors.
Some equipment like controllers, state this in the manual, but if you get stuff off the shelf that is reasonably common
with no paperwork at all, how tight are you meant to tighten the screws up?
Obviously you tighten them enough, before they strip or shear off. grin
If that connector (or such) then fails because you have over-stressed the screw or the other part of the connection and causes a fire or loss of power to a building, I'm picking that you don't really have a leg to stand on, insurance liability-wise?
Posted By: sabrown

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 11/25/20 06:52 PM

May I apologize for us Amercians for the persons lack of being able to express themselves using proper words and assuming anyones lifestyle choices.

Shane
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 11/26/20 05:28 PM

Trumpy

The torque screwdrivers were for primarily for circuit breaker terminations, and control panels..not devices.

Specs are on the labels of most panels (resi & light comm) and mfg info for larger panels and breakers.
Posted By: Trumpy

Re: Insulated Tools: A Waste of Money? - 11/30/20 07:32 AM

Originally Posted by sabrown
May I apologize for us Amercians for the persons lack of being able to express themselves using proper words and assuming anyones lifestyle choices.

No need for an apology at all Shane, this particular guy just ramped up quite suddenly, this would be quite odd in your part of the world as well, I would imagine. cool
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