Electrical workers and other tradesmen must carry tools around the job site and have them readily accessible when needed.

Tool belts and toolboxes have been available for years, but until recently, there were few options or convenience features. Many simply dropped the tools for the day into a hard case or large bucket. Some put the bucket or box on a small wagon or dolly to create a mobile tool carrier.

That has changed in recent years. Today there is a wide selection of belts, pouches and bags that help workers organize their tools for greater efficiency.

“Experienced installers usually work themselves down to a few basic tools they will be using—punchdown tools, wire strippers, pliers and wireless phones—and carry them on a belt,” said Frank Bisbee, editor of electronic magazine Heard on the Street (www.wireville.com).

“Other tools,” Bisbee said, “go in a soft tool bag or pouch. Hard toolboxes aren’t seen as often these days as in the past. Power tools and batteries go in the pouch. With today’s battery technology, both batteries and the tools they run are smaller and lighter. Almost universal are clear plastic boxes with compartments to store connectors and other small components, keeping them sorted in the compartments and preventing damage. The cases go in the bag. About the only items in hard cases are expensive testers such as those for fiber jobs.”

Bisbee’s observations are confirmed by a look at professional tool-carrying products sold at Home Depot stores.

“Home Depot (www.homedepot.com) offers electricians and VDV installers a broad selection of products to carry and store [that are] designed to make their jobs easier,” said Todd Furneaux, Home Depot associate merchant for storage devices. “They include soft-sided, plastic and metal cases; pouches and belts in leather and synthetic materials; [and] portable tool chests for the job site with organizers and removable bins. In addition to electrical-specific items, we carry general-purpose items such as open totes, contractor bags and products with the latest technological innovations, which are suitable for any trade, including electricians.”

As with individual tools, ergonomics plays an increasingly important role in designs of tool-carrying products.

“Today’s toolboxes, belts and pouches are designed to better organize tools than they were five years ago,” Furneaux said. “We have introduced a number of new products in multitool kits, including tool carriers. They have ergonomic handles, making them easier to pick up and carry. Inside are options like tool walls. We carry the innovative, patented Husky bag with a tool wall made of 680-denier fabric that is heavy-duty, water-resistant and provides better tool organization and access. The Husky cantilever organizer with metal latches opens to access 27 multisized, removable bins.”

Many well-known tool-makers, such as Greenlee (www.greenlee.com), Ideal Industries (www.idealindustries.com), Klein Tools (www.kleintools.com) and Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp. (www.milwaukeetools.com), also offer tool bags, pouches and other tool carriers.

Klein Tools Product Manager Linda Rolfe said Klein manufactures a wide variety of toolboxes, belts, bags, totes, holders, pouches, aprons, carrying cases and portable cabinets.

“Our tool-storage products are designed specifically for electricians,” Rolfe said. “We conduct focus group research and obtain feedback from our customers to ensure we design tool-storage products that meet the needs and wants of users. Until a few years ago, bags had a single compartment with just a few pockets and were not very functional and could damage tools.

“Over the past five years, tool-holding products have focused more on organization and function. The types of electrician jobs vary and so does their need for different/specific tools. Many of Klein’s new bags hold a lot more tools. In terms of capacity, it is not uncommon for bags today to have 40, 60 or almost 80 pockets for optimum space utilization. Also new and innovative bag designs have bright-colored interiors to make finding the right tools easy and fast.”

Other features Rolfe cited are extra-large, durable zippers and larger pockets to accommodate the size of tools. Multitool kits are becoming more popular, she said, especially for the apprentice who is just getting started in the field.

“Pockets are the key to tool organization,” Rolfe said. “A lot of pockets on the inside and pockets on the outside. Pockets inside of pockets. A wide opening is also important for making access to these pockets and tools faster and easier.

ome pockets are even made to hold and protect specific tools, such as knives, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, etc. Pockets also protect the tools they hold. In addition, Klein has molded-bottom bags to keep tools from getting wet. Klein also has bags with molded feet to elevate the bag off the ground to protect it from the elements.”

Rolfe said, while product focus has been on function and organization, Klein recognizes the importance of ergonomics.

“Some tool bags have ergonomically designed handles,” she said. “Detachable padded shoulder straps provide better weight distribution. Adding wheels to bags allows bringing a wide variety of tools to the job while reducing concern about carrying weight of the bag.”

Greenlee recently launched a new line of canvas tool carriers that includes buckets, pouches, bolt bags and glove bags.

“All buckets are made with tough, impact-resistant molded top rings and bases to maintain their shape, securely hold tools and to stand up to real-world use,” said Martha Kness, vice president of marketing. “Top-grade canvas, reinforced wear points, heavy-duty nylon stitching and black nickel-plated hardware ensure durability in any kind of weather. Also, all of our hanging buckets include a load rating. Whether working in the field, up in a lift bucket or out of a truck, electrical workers can carry their gear with confidence that these products can do the job safely.”

Lockable storage boxes and cabinets mounted on casters or wheels provide a secure job-site place to store tools not in use. A variety of sizes and designs are available.

Home Depot’s Furneaux said the Ridgid 48-inch storage chest is extremely popular. The smaller Stanley 37-inch mobile job box has a 50-gallon capacity for large tools and accessories and a pull-out, covered tote tray with two compartments for smaller items. Heavy-duty metal latches with padlock eyes facilitate security.

Larger storage cabinets are portable but usually are positioned at a convenient location on the job site and not frequently moved. Many have access ports for extension cords to permit overnight battery charging while the cabinet is locked.

GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at up-front@cox.net.