Portable power drills are one of our most useful tools and, with care, they can be among the safest. But electric drills can be dangerous if not handled carefully. They can cause injuries in many ways—from being struck by flying drilling material, if chips of the materials being drilled are flung into the operator’s eyes or if the bit punctures or bores into flesh (usually a leg), and from electric shock.
When drills are treated roughly, dropped, or hit against things, or if they get wet, their insulation can weaken. Without proper insulation you may have a “live” drill in your hand. Then, if you stand in a wet place, sit on a steel beam or floor plate or if you’re very sweaty, the drill can give you a shock which could be fatal.
Before starting a drilling job, look the drill over carefully. Locate any hazards and decide on a safe plan of action. Here are some points to check:
- The Drill. Is it clean? If it’s dirty or rusty, tag it and return it to supply for maintenance. Make sure the drill speed is proper for the job. Pull the trigger to be sure it doesn’t work too easily or too hard and that power cuts off when the trigger is released.
- The Drill Bit. Be sure it’s set straight in the jaws. Hold up the drill and turn it on for a moment. The bit should run perfectly true without any wobble. If it wobbles, either the bit isn’t straight or it’s in the jaws crooked. A sharp bit will take hold without much pressure.
- The Cord. Look for breaks, exposed wires, and looseness at the plug or housing connections. Unless the drill is double insulated, be sure there is a ground wire and the third prong has not been cut off. Use only grounding extension cords placed so they won’t cause tripping hazards. You don’t want to have an electric drill jerked out of your hands and if someone else trips on your cord, both of you could be injured.
- Tripping Hazards. Check the floor for loose or fixed objects. When you’re concentrating on a drilling job, it’s easy to trip over something unexpected.
- The Job. Starting the drill hole at just the right angle and keeping it straight, takes steadiness and care. If a drill isn’t held just right, the bit may bend or break, sending metal flying. Use a pointed metal punch to start your drill right.
- The Material. When drilling into metal, much depends on the material’s hardness. Very soft metals like copper or aluminum will cut with little pressure. Hard steel needs a different bit. More pressure must be applied, but care is necessary because too much will make the drill overheat and bind.
When you finish drilling, find a safe place for the drill. Install a hanger so the drill can be hooked up out of the way but still within easy reach. Never leave your power drill plugged in while not in active use. When returning the drill to the tool room or carrying it to a jobsite, take out the bit. This eliminates the chance of your stabbing yourself or a coworker. Even a dull bit can dig into flesh quickly.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.