Use the Right Tool for the Job
Using the correct tool for the job is the first step in safe hand tool use. Tools are designed for
specific needs. That’s why you’ll find screwdrivers with various lengths and tip styles and pliers with
different head shapes. Using any tool inappropriately is a step in the wrong direction. To avoid
personal injury and tool damage, select the proper tool to do the job well and safely.
Quality professional hand tools will last many years if they are taken care of and treated with respect.
Manufacturers design tools for specific applications. If you use your screwdriver as a chisel or a pry
bar, you can’t expect it to be in good shape when you actually need to drive a screw. Use tools only
for their intended purpose.
Use Insulated Tools When Needed
Many jobs require the use of insulated tools. Hand tools are often used in combination with lockout
tag systems to ensure that the circuits are not live. Most maintenance technicians claim they never
work a job “hot.” But, what happens when a computer is on the circuit and it can’t be shut down, or
when medical equipment is connected to the circuit? You never know when a situation will arise
where insulated tools are required. All professionals need to have some insulated tools in their
Insulated hand tools must be clearly marked with the official, international 1,000-volt rating symbol.
They also must meet IEC 60900 and ASTM F1505 standards. Every insulated tool is tested at
10,000 volts to receive a 1,000-volt rating. These tools are designed to reduce the chance of injury if
the tool should make contact with an energized source. Make note, tools with plastic-dipped or slip-
on plastic handles are not insulated. Those features are for comfort only. Likewise, wrapping a tool
with electric tape does not provide insulation.
Inspect insulated tools frequently. Watch for any wear or cracking of the insulation. Keep them
clean, dry, and free of surface contaminants, which can compromise their insulating properties. If
the dielectric insulation has been breached by cutting, wear, or a burn, the tool should be taken out
of service to ensure safety.
Follow General Safety and Maintenance Practices
Safe tool use contributes to a safer, more efficient work environment. Misusing tools is not only
dangerous, it shows a lack of understanding of tool safety and a lack of respect for those around
you. Also, if improper tool use causes an accident, downtime will impact the entire job.
Always wear approved eye protection when using hand tools. Metal will fly when it is cut. Safety
glasses protect your eyes and prevent serious injury. Other workers in the vicinity should wear eye
protection, as well.
Keep cutting tools sharp, lubricated, and in good repair. This applies to knives, bolt cutters, cable
cutters, many types of pliers, and all other cutting tools.
When cutting wire, bolts, and similar materials, cuts should be made at a 90-degree angle to the work
to avoid chipping the edges of the knives. Pliers should not be wiggled or rocked as you attempt to
cut material, as this puts tremendous side pressure on the cutting surfaces and can result in the
failure of the cutting knives.
Most accidents happen because one or more safe operating procedures were not followed. History
usually tells us what we did right or wrong and how that affected our job performance. The old
saying “Do it right the first time” applies to using hand tools safely. This includes staying up-to-date
on safety techniques and following safe practices in the work place. Professionals shouldn’t need
second chances, because professionals do the job right the first time.
Use Well-Designed, High-Quality Tools
Finally, investing in high-quality tools makes the professional’s job safer and easier.
If extra leverage is needed, use high-leverage pliers, which give more cutting and gripping
power than standard pliers. This helps, in particular, when making repetitive cuts or twisting
numerous wire pairs.
Knurled jaws provide sure-gripping action when pulling or twisting wires.
Some side-cutting and diagonal-cutting pliers are designed for heavy-duty cutting. When
cutting ACSR, screws, nails and hardened wire, only use pliers that are recommended for
Pliers with hot riveting at the joint ensure smooth movement across the full action range of
the pliers, which reduces handle wobble, resulting in a positive cut. The knives align perfectly
Induction hardening on the cutting knives adds to long life, so the pliers cut cleanly day after
Sharp cutting knives and tempered handles also contribute to cutting ease.
Some pliers are designed to perform special functions. For example, some high-leverage
pliers have features that allow crimping connectors and pulling fish tapes.
Tool handles with dual-molded material allow for a softer, more comfortable grip on the
outer surface and a harder, more durable grip on the inner surface and handle ends.
Well-designed tools often include a contoured thumb area for a firmer grip or color-coded
handles for easy tool identification.
Insulated tools reduce the chance of injury where the tool may make contact with an