Knife safety: an electrician's guide

Adco Industries Australia

By Gabriela Damaceno*
Monday, 28 October, 2019

Knife safety: an electrician's guide

With the right tools, an electrician has everything they need to perform high-quality services safely and efficiently. In the last few years, as basic tools have improved and new specialised equipment has developed, the list of tool choices for electricians has grown. Of all the options available, an electrician’s knife is one of the more versatile and makes for a useful addition to an electrician’s tool belt.

An electrician’s knife serves a range of functions, including: cutting and stripping cables, cutting electrical tape and insulation, and slicing and opening equipment boxes and packages. However, like any tool, it is important that electricians understand what it is designed for and how to correctly use it to avoid accidents. Below, you can find all the things that an electrician needs to know about choosing a knife and using it safely.

Features of electricians’ knives

Electricians’ knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with different capabilities. They range from simple box cutters to multi-tools that include special fittings for stripping wires of different diameters. The hawk-bill blade shape is great for pullback cutting and works well when extra force is needed to slice through thicker and more durable cables. Many electricians’ knives feature specially hardened blades that stay sharp for longer when cutting through metal cable filaments. When a wire stripping tool is not available, many electricians’ knives are capable of removing wire and cable insulation, as long as care is taken not to damage the conductor inside.

Ease of use

Choosing the right electrician’s knife that is designed to be handled easily in a work environment makes doing difficult jobs much easier. A knife should have a belt clip to enable it to be quickly clipped onto and removed from a tool belt so that it is never left lying around, which can pose a safety hazard. A non-slip rubberised handle helps prevent the knife from slipping out of sweaty hands, and it should be comfortable to hold and use, preferably with a thumb-rest for extra downward pressure. When cutting through hard materials, a quick blade change button helps speed up an electrician’s workflow if blades become blunted or broken.

Improper use

Improper use of tools for electrical installation and maintenance work, in addition to not providing the expected results, endangers the life of the worker. Power should always be disconnected when working with electrical cables, but it is essential to have multiple levels of protection in case of a mistake. Therefore, it is essential that both the company and the employee are aware of the need for good quality insulated hand tools. A good electrician’s knife will be fitted with a handle that is designed to prevent the worker’s hand from slipping forward onto the blade when it is being used, and ideally, the blade will be made from a non-conducting ceramic material that protects against electrical shock. Thick protective gloves should be worn when using knives, and care must be taken to handle the knife properly to prevent a slipped blade from slicing or stabbing any part of the body.

Care and recommendations

Although the advantages of using a utility knife are many, it is not recommended to use any kind of knife as the wrong choice increases the likelihood of an accident. Many box cutter knives have thin diagonal lines in the blade, which enables the user to break off portions of the blade when they become dull and blunt. While this is useful in many applications, it is not recommended for electricians, especially when cutting through thick, heavy-duty materials, because the blade can snap and injure the hand or other parts of the body.

Some basic recommendations that most electricians will already know, but are worth repeating, include: wear industry-standard glasses, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) according to the task to be performed; make sure knives are stored in a clean, dry place well away from the work area; visually inspect a knife before each use; and do not use knives with broken, worn or rusted blades as they are at an increased risk of breaking. By ensuring that a tool is always up to the job, electricians can work faster and more comfortably without compromising safety.

*Gabriela Damaceno is Head of Online Content at Media Shark, representing Adco Industries Australia.

Image credit: ©

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