The Scoop on Insulated Tools in the Restricted Approach Boundary

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The Scoop on Insulated Tools in the Restricted Approach Boundary

Insulated tools provide an added layer of protection for electrical workers who find themselves working within the restricted boundary mentioned in NFPA 70E (130.4(D)).

As many electrical personnel are aware of, an electrician who is working in compliance with NFPA 70E cannot be inside of the restricted approach boundary unless all conductive material like jewelry, watches, cell phone, etc. are removed, and then before crossing the restricted boundary, must don voltage-rated gloves with leather protectors. Any tools brought in to this area must be insulated to the voltage level that the worker finds herself or himself exposed to. This is where ASTM F1505 comes in to play. ASTM F1505 is the “Standard Specification for Insulated and Insulating Hand Tools,” with the most recent version being F-1505-10, published in 2015.

Compliance with ASTM F1505

First, let’s get a little insight into the testing to become compliant with ASTM F1505. The tests include a dielectric strength test, which assesses the tool up to 10,000 volts, although the tools get a rating of 1000 volts use-voltage. This provides a wide margin of safety for the user.

Some manufacturers opt to produce insulated tools in two layers, and subsequently are required by the standard to do so in varying colors to identify these layers.

For those working in cold environments, normal insulated tools are rated to -20C but are available to a temperature as low as -40C. Tools rated at this lower temperature are required to have a Category C rating.

Markings on ASTM F1505-compliant tools must include these things.

  • The name of the manufacturer (trademark is allowed)
  • The type of the tool
  • The double-triangle symbol
  • 1000V symbol, indicating the maximum AC voltage of the tool’s rating
  • The year the tool was manufactured
  • The standard reference, including the year of the publication. If the tool does not allow the full reference and year, it must at a minimum appear on the packaging
  • If the tool has interchangeable parts from various manufacturers, an additional symbol must be included on the tool
  • If rated for -40C, this information must be on the label

In addition to the above requirements, insulated tools must go through a series of performance tests to achieve a compliant rating. These tests include a visual test, a dimensional test, and an impact test, to name a few. Once all requirements have been met, the tool is stamped appropriate to its ASTM F1505 compliance.

Check Your Tools Before Using

When purchasing insulated tools, be sure to look for all appropriate listings to ensure a quality tool. A recent example of incomplete or incorrect labeling is included here:

screwdriver handle

The rubber coating on the handle states “Warning: Not Insulated. Will Not Protect Against Electrical Shock”. However, the shank of the screwdriver says, “1000V 30057-2013 ASTM F1505-07   Warning: Destroy Tool if the Layer is Cut, Cracked, Punctured, Distorted, or Damaged in Any Way”.

screwdriver shank

In this example, the user should obviously question whether or not the tool is in fact compliant with ASTM F-1505. Most likely, the manufacturer used the same rubber sleeve as used in other tools to save cost, but this creates confusion to the electrical worker and casts doubts on the tool’s safety in electrically-energized environments.

Once a properly-rated tool is obtained, a pre-use inspection should be performed, looking for any damage to the tool. The tool should also be cleaned as needed prior to use. Be sure to follow any manufacturer procedures to ensure that the tool is used within its ratings.

Some Closing Thoughts: Gloves or No Gloves?

NFPA 70E is clear on using voltage-rated gloves when inside the restricted boundary; thus, when using insulated tools inside this boundary, the use of gloves is required if your company is enforcing NFPA 70E. The question often arises, “Do I have to wear voltage-rated gloves when using insulated tools according to OSHA electrical standards?” The answer is found in an OSHA Interpretation letter addressing this very issue.

The short answer per OSHA is…not necessarily. No such rule requires insulated gloves while using insulated tools. However, many insulated tool manufacturers include in their usage instructions that these tools are “Secondary Protection Only.” The intent of this instruction is to require the end-user to wear voltage-rated gloves (primary protection) while using 1000V-rated insulated tools.

At e-Hazard, recommendations in our training are always clear: any time the qualified electrical worker is within the restricted boundary, he or she should don voltage-rated gloves with leather protectors and bring nothing else inside the restricted approach boundary that is conductive, including, but not limited to, cell phones, radios, metal-framed safety glasses, ink pens, and keys (in pocket or on the belt loop). These are items that are often overlooked when preparing to enter an electrical work area for troubleshooting or adjusting. In our Low Voltage, High Voltage, and 1910.269 classes, we cover these specific details and more to ensure all electrical workers who attend our courses are aware of the electrical best-practices that meet or exceed the regulatory or industry standards.


Ken Sellars

Ken Sellars is an instructor of electrical safety, NEC, Grounding/Bonding and Arc Flash Safety courses nationwide. Read more about Ken.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Becky Martin

    What do you recommend, voltage-rated gloves or insulated tools or both, for 120 V AC voltage testing? The restricted approach boundary given in Table 130.4(D)(a) is “avoid contact.”

    1. Hugh Hoagland

      NFPA 70E requires both because basically “testing is touching”. OSHA has interpretations that insinuate that Insulated tools could be adequate. The real question is not what the tool or test probe is touching with 120V. The incidents we have seen have been small shock on 120V or 42V move unprotected hand and hit a 480V terminal block. NOW you have a real problem. Companies have to build processes that work to protect from shock. OSHA is a minimum, NFPA 70E is a consensus standard that works but other options can work too and be legal. Good thing to point out Becky. Companies have to plan, execute, review, and revise (the electrical safety cycle) in order to make their Electrical Safety Program world class.

  2. jim finch

    are single layer insulated tools required to have a yearly electrical performance test? This would in addition to a daily inspection by the user as outlined above.

    1. Ken Sellars

      ASTM F1505 does not require any annual testing of insulated tools. The only requirement is the pre-use inspection. The user must read and follow all manufacturer instructions, including proper storage and cleaning, but no after-purchase testing of any type is required.

  3. Radu NEAMTU

    ASTM F1505 require to pass the test in third party laboratory (example: UL, VDE etc) or the manufacturer tests could be be acceptable? thanks

    1. Ken Sellars

      Several companies choose to get their tools tested by organizations like VDE in Germany, however the ASTM F1505 includes the test methods that must be performed to be compliant with the standard, and this standard does not require third party certification. Having the third party certification, however, certainly can be valuable for promoting one company’s product over another. For example, Klein Tools are carry the VDE-GS symbol as they have been tested to the rigorous test methods to ensure compliance with ASTM F1505, as well as IEC 60900. With this type of testing, the user can be assured that the voltage-rated insulated tool will withstand the electrical and physical environment and be another layer of electrical safety in a company’s overall approach.

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