Insulated Tools For Security Technicians: Investment or Rip-Off?
Insulated tools for security techs can cost considerably more.
Is there any value for a young tech in buying expensive 1000V insulated screwdrivers and other insulated tools? Or is it ok to use uninsulated equipment if working on low voltage or unenergized circuits?
A: It’s worth pointing out that there’s a lot of hoo-haa around insulated tools from manufacturers but what we are talking about are tools with specially designed insulating covers and sheaths that expose the user to a minimum of metal that might potentially become a live conductor. Just using insulated tools doesn’t eliminate risk entirely – only common sense and careful safety procedures can do that.
From the point of view of design, insulated tools will deliver protection from electric shock with 2 layers of poly – a bonded base coating and a flame resistant outer layer. Not every insulated tool will have 2 layers – the better ones will have. Depending on country of manufacture, insulated tools are made by attaching injection moulded handles or by dipping metal handles into molten insulation material.
The process of getting insulation right by dipping can be time consuming – tools may need to be dipped multiple times to attain the right insulation thickness and will then require trimming. If you’re looking for a performance standard, the one to watch out for is ASTM F1505, which covers adhesion, dielectric properties, flammability, and durability. The best tools will have a lifetime warranty and the toolmaker’s willingness to support that warranty will be readily established in technical forums.
All other things being equal, I think the question here should be is it best for a young tech to buy insulated tools or uninsulated – we’d recommend insulated. And when it comes to cost, if you’re dedicating your life to installing electronic security solutions and you think you might wind up on the hot side of 240V AC (after the proper training), then high quality insulated tools are a worthwhile investment.
Does a young tech need $2000 worth of Knipex, Wiha or Klein, or could they can get away with using low cost insulated screwdrivers from Britool or Witte, along with a compact insulated shifter and various cutters, testers, hooks and probes for those times they decide there may be an issue? There’s a case for both options. Something to take into account is that good tools will last a lifetime, while cheap tools that aren’t cared for will rust or fall to pieces rapidly, especially if you park your van near the beach.
Should you go for insulated gear for reasons of protection, be sure to cover off some of the quirky things you might find yourself needing if you spend time fiddling around in tight spaces – things like tweezers, hooks and little clamps can get used way more often than you’d expect when you’re reaching into tight spaces and trying to keep wires out of the way.
If you go for insulated, be sure to buy strippers, pliers and cutters with pronounced guards to protect against fingers slipping forward onto metal jaws and try the tools to make sure your choice fits your hand. If you’re going to spend serious money on serious tools, never carry an unsheathed knife or cutting implement in your tool box or tool bag that may nick the insulation.