Investing in Quality Hand Tools Can be a Life or Death Decision
Electrical accidents remain a major cause of injury and deaths at work; around 1,000 are reported to the HSE each year, and about 25 people die from their injuries.
Professional electricians will rely on hand tools like screw drivers, pliers, cable cutters, side cutters and wire strippers to carry out essential jobs, using them on a very regular basis. Being quite small in comparison to power tools like drills and hole saws, hand tools can be frequently misplaced; it’s common for them to be left under floorboards or accidentally dropped inside cavity walls. And, being relatively vulnerable, they can also be easily damaged through incorrect storage, poor maintenance or improper use — screwdrivers, for example, have been known to be used as make–shift chisels or to open tins of paint.
So, if tools are being lost or damaged on a frequent basis, electricians might be tempted to buy low–cost products, on the basis they’ll just need replacing in a couple of weeks’ time. However, this can put an electrician’s safety and even their life, at risk.
Electrical accidents remain a major cause of injury and deaths at work; around 1,000 are reported to the HSE each year, and about 25 people die from their injuries. By the very nature of their work, electricians are at increased risk — especially when working on or near live or exposed electrical parts, which is sometimes unavoidable.
For those that need reminding, an electric current passing through the body can cause muscular contractions, respiratory failure, fibrillation of the heart, cardiac arrest or injury from burns. Non–fatal shocks can cause severe or permanent injury, and can lead to serious falls if an electrician is working at height.
Tools have an important role to play in protecting professional electricians; quality products will be adequately insulated, enabling them to safely work on live applications. So, while it might be initially tempting to buy low–cost hand tools, this could quite literally end up being a matter of life or death.
When replacing hand tools, electrical installers might assume that products are all the same but some low–cost imports from overseas which might seem like the real thing, can be significantly different to their European counterparts.
European tool makers have introduced stringent testing standards, which guarantee their products are safe for use. Many low–cost manufacturers, especially those operating from the Far East, do not invest in the same testing resources. And without such rigorous procedures, there will be a lack of assurance and accountability — as well as significantly reduced quality and performance.
So, how can you be sure you’re buying a tool that will protect you? A good quality hand tool with maximum protection will be VDE certified. Since 1920, the VDE Testing and Certification Institute has been actively involved in ensuring the electrical safety of machines, components, appliances and tools. It is an independent institution, focused purely on consumer safety.
The VDE certification mark is respected across the world and only products that have been tested to the Institute’s strict criteria will have this mark, which has been an inseparable part of electrical protection since the first VDE electro–technical standard was passed in 1895.
Confirming that a hand tool complies with national and international safety standards for working in conjunction with electricity, using tools with the VDE mark significantly reduces the risk of electrocution from live parts as all certified products have been tested for electrical safety up to 1,000V AC and 1,500V DC.
The standards require manufacturers to carry out a visual check of every tool as well as a shock/resistance test under varied conditions. Insulating handles must be individually tested in a water bath charged to 10,000V to measure deflecting electricity and for disruptive discharge through the insulation, while manufacturers are also obliged to test for the adhesive power of the insulation, to ensure it does not come away from the conductive part of the tool. Fire and pressure checks are also compulsory.
But electrician’s should beware of tools offered as VDE on the basis of compliance to the international IEC 60090:2004 standard, as this does not carry the assurance of safety through independent product testing and production auditing.
Hand tools don’t have to be regarded as a ‘throw–away’ purchase, and, if an investment is made in quality products, looking after them will ensure they last a lifetime. It must be remembered that even high quality hand tools aren’t invincible. They must be carefully maintained, as even the slightest damage can compromise the insulation integrity and potentially expose the user to the risk of injury or death. Tools should only be used for the job they’re designed for, not for any other purpose, and they should always be stored in a tool box or bag. Extremes of temperature can make handles brittle and prone to faults, so overnight storage of the tool box must also be considered.
Buying high quality hand tools is an investment in your safety and your business, and a little extra money spent on VDE certified products can give you peace of mind, as well as a range of hand tools which, if looked after, will last a lifetime.Start of page