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Get a grip on the benefits of better tools

When we received the results of a Bahco survey of electricians, we were interested to read that 50% said the main criteria for purchasing new tools was ease of use and brand awareness, and 70% of all surveyed also stated that they would be willing to pay more for an ergonomically designed tool. The benefits from comfort of handling and working efficiency are obviously important when specifying new equipment. Suzanne Gill delves deeper

Commenting on the results of the survey, Kevin Parkes, customer care centre manager at Bahco, said: "These results illustrate that good quality tools ensure high quality of work. Each time an electrician grips a tool he is working 42 muscles. By subjecting himself to the strain this causes, when used on a regular basis, he risks over-exertion, pain or numbness in his hands. That is why ergonomically designed tools are an essential part of any electrician's toolkit."
The cost of quality

Pat Delaney of CIMCO UK offered a good explanation of why quality costs more. He said: “The cost of a quality product comes from the fact that more care has gone into the selection and treatment of the materials used to make the tool. Secondly, the design has been well thought out, ensuring the ergonomics, or the fit in the hand, is as comfortable as possible. Finally, all of the individual pieces have been thoroughly tested.

“In the case of pliers, side cutters, etc, they should be insulated to 1000 Volts and should fulfill the requirements of IEC900, DIN EN 60900 and VDE 0682/part 201. Quality manufacturers will carry out individual tests in a water bath, and subject them to 10,000 Volts ensuring that the smallest pinprick in the insulation will be detected. Careful choice of materials and design allows minimum force to be employed to use the tool. Not only is it important to have the correct strength and hardness in the steel that makes up the body, but also that the cutting edges should have received special treatment to ensure longevity, to avoid needing to be replaced every 6 months. And, the insulation should be made of a material that is non-slip and impervious to sweat, salt water, oil and many commonly encountered chemicals.”

Finding out what you really need
Stanley gains insight into what end users want through its design ‘Discovery Team’ who spend a lot of time out on site to get under the skin of how tools are being used in real-life environments.
Stanley prides itself on the ergonomic design of its tools, as senior industrial designer, Vincent Cook, explains: “Our tools are used day-in, day-out, for long periods of time, so an absence of ergonomics in a tool could lead to various health complications in the end-user - everything from hand callouses, to carpal tunnel or joint damage. A properly designed grip will make use of several key ergonomic elements to help reduce long-term health issues attributable to tool use.”
A good example of hand tool ergonomic design is the company’s Anti-Vibe line of hammers. In collaboration with the University of Connecticut medical school and its ergonomics lab the company combined design, choice of material, internal features and shape to develop a handle that is designed to dampen vibration during impact, relieving the stress to users hands, wrists and elbows.

Testing for safety and quality
Paul Morrow of Klauke was keen to point out to us that the Klauke brand is synonymous with high end tough tools designed for use by professionals.  Its latest range of hand tools is no different - comprising VDE pliers, side cutters, cable cutters, screwdrivers, bit sets and various tool kits.
Each tool is rigorously tested to EN/IEC 60900 (VDE 0682 Part 201) which ensures that it has been manufactured to a high standard both in terms of mechanical durability and electrical insulation protection. All VDE tools are tested for safe use at 1500 Volt DC and 1000 Volts AC - the stringent procedure over-testing each tool up to 10,000 Volts.

In addition, the mechanical adhesive power of the insulation is tested by a cold impact test, where a force of 500N is applied at -25degrees C and +70 degrees C.

An open flame test is the final requirement, and only if all requirements are passed fully can the VDE stamp be applied to the tools – a quality indicator for all electricians to look out for.
Key innovations with the Klauke range are the inclusion of an integrated ring spanner on all pliers that can be used for M8-M10 nuts. This is a feature that can get you out of trouble when you don’t have a spanner. The inside of the handle grips also feature a blank window where you can write your name to help identify it as yours.  Printed handles on screwdrivers also helps to quickly identify the correct blade.

The new ergonomically-shaped and high volumetric handles on Klauke tools have been awarded an IF Product design Award in Germany. The high force transfer can be easily and comfortably applied, thanks to the hard-soft contrasts, with anti-slip zones at the end of the handles and on the over-reach protection making the tool safer to use.

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