Power drills have become an essential tool for many DIY and professional applications. They are handheld electric tools that generate high speed and torque to drill holes into different surfaces such as wood, metal, and plastic. These tools bring convenience, speed, and mobility to DIY and professional projects. However, as the name indicates, power drills are indeed powerful. What makes them dangerous is the sharp and pointy drill bit that spins at high speed.
As a result, serious risks are involved if you don’t take standard safety measures. Lack of such measures can lead to puncture wounds, electric shock, fire damage, and bone fractures, to name a few. Therefore, to ensure a safe working experience, we have compiled a comprehensive list of top safety precautions when using power drills. In this article, we will discuss everything from the drill bit safety measures to the PPE you need to have.
Pre-Use Safety Checks
Before you start operating the power drill, there are some standard safety precautions you need to undertake. Start by choosing the right power drill, checking the tool thoroughly, and testing its intended function. Tools go through wear and tear, so it is important to do a routine inspection every time you are about to begin a project. This can include checking your power drill for cracks, breakage, exposed wires, damaged plugs, proper trigger function, and battery operation.
Next up, install the appropriate drill bit for the job at hand and make sure it is snugly tightened in the chuck. Also, ensure that the drill bit is sharp and in good working condition. Remove the chuck key before turning on the power drill.
Wearing a proper dress that will not interfere while you’re working is also essential. Wear short-sleeved and well-fitting clothing, remove your jewelry, and tie your loose hair back to prevent them from getting tangled in the spinning action of a drill. You should also wear high-quality PPE(Personal Protective Equipment), which we’ll discuss later on.
Handling the Drill
Power tools are made to deliver more power than manual tools. Therefore, properly gripping them before working is vital. Power drills should always be under your control. If it is your first time using a power drill, learn the proper action or work with someone who knows how to use it.
Keep a firm grip at all times, hold the drill like a gun, and place your finger on the trigger only when you intend to start it. Let the drill do the work, and do not apply unnecessary pressure to force the drill to make a hole. If you apply too much force, you risk slipping the drill and hurting yourself. Do not drill at tilted or awkward angles, and make sure that the drill bit is always in a straight line to the point where you’re drilling a hole.
Learn the appropriate speed settings from the instruction manual before using a power drill. Most power drills have multiple speed settings, which also help you control the torque. Start your drill at a low setting and gradually increase it if the job demands it.
You can also use a center punch to mark the place where you intend to drill the hole. This is quite useful on slippery surfaces like metal or knotted wood. It will help you drill straight and reduce the chance of slipping.
Always carry the power drill by the grip and never by the chuck or the wire. Keep the wire safe from heat sources and sharp edges. Never leave the drill plugged in, even when taking a break for a few minutes. Doing so will protect people who don’t know the tool is plugged in or children who don’t understand the risks if they come across it. When you’re done, always store the drill safely and away from children’s reach.
Some other key things to keep in mind while handling the drill include:
- Do not move under the area or spot being drilled.
- Do not overextend yourself to reach a place you wish to drill.
- Do not drill single-handedly while holding the drilling surface with the other hand.
- Do not bend or arch your body at awkward angles, especially if working at a height.
Drill Bit Safety
Different types of drill bits are made for different surfaces. Ensure that the drill bit you choose matches the material you’re drilling. Here’s some information on drill bit types:
Hole Diameter: 4mm-16mm
Masonry bits are intended for drilling holes in concrete, bricks, or stone. They are usually made from tungsten carbide.
Hole Diameter: 0.8mm-12mm
Twist bits are intended for drilling holes in plastic, metal, or timber. They are usually made from high-speed steel(HSS).
Flat Wood Bits
Hole Diameter: 6mm-38mm
Flat wood bits are intended for large-scale timber projects. They are made from hardened steel.
Hole Diameter: up to 18mm.
A hole saw is a special-purpose drill bit used to make fixed-diameter holes in plastic or timber. It is cylindrical and usually made of steel.
Once you have decided which bit to use, tighten it properly in the chuck. Never use a dull drill bit, as it may project more debris towards you instead of making a clean hole. If your drill gets jammed inside the material you are drilling, unplug the drill and remove the drill bit instead of starting and stopping the drill. Use an auxiliary handle attachment if you plan to work for a long time or need additional stability.
Bonus Tip: To drill holes at a specific depth, you can mark the drill bit with a piece of electric tape. Once the tape reaches the hole, you’ll know you have drilled as deeply as needed.
Making sure that the environment you’re working in is as safe as your tools is equally important. Start by cleaning your workspace of any clutter or stuff that might make it difficult to move freely. For example, if you are working with a corded power drill, make sure that the cord is out of the way.
Secondly, your workspace should be free from children and pets. It is also important to have a properly lit workspace. Invest in extra lights if you are working in a dimly lit area.
If you are working at a height, make sure that the stool you’re using is properly balanced and can support your weight. Also, inspect your environment and the material you’re about to drill for any knots or moveable parts that could hinder the drilling process. If drilling on an unstable or movable surface, clamp it down and secure it before drilling.
Lastly, it is paramount you don’t work in a space that is wet or has flammable chemicals/liquids lying around to reduce the risks of electrical shock or fire hazard.
Ensure electrical safety by buying a high-quality tool with a grounding plug. Plug it in a three-pronged electrical outlet that is also grounded. Never work in a damp/wet location, and keep your hands and feet dry. Reduce the risk of electric shocks by creating space between yourself and the ground. You can do that by standing or sitting on a stool with a rubber mat underneath, or by wearing dielectric insulating boots.
Ensure that the socket you’re plugging into has circuit breakers or fast-response GFCI connected to the circuit. In the event of a short circuit or a ground fault, these devices will protect you and your power tools by instantly cutting off the electric supply.
In the worst-case scenario, if water somehow spills on your drill, unplug it instantly and dry it with a heat gun (on low) or using a standard hair dryer. If the water spills on your cordless drill, take out the battery and let the tool dry naturally.
Personal Protective Equipment
Apart from the things you shouldn’t wear, there are some things you should wear when operating power tools. Personal Protective Equipment(PPE) is often a requirement in industries, but investing in it for home and DIY projects is also a good idea. Some of the things you should have include:
Safety goggles are essential for power drill DIY projects. They protect your eyes from dust and debris, so that you can have a comfortable and safe working experience.
Wearing dust masks can ensure clean breathing and protect your lungs when drilling surfaces that create dust, such as concrete.
High-quality safety gloves protect your hands from any accidental slips. Moreover, these gloves will help you minimize the high-torque vibrations coming from a power drill.
Safety shoes are useful, and they can protect your feet from accidentally falling objects. Safety shoes will also protect you from puncture injuries if the drill slips out of your hand. Lastly, safety shoes will provide stability on uneven surfaces and even reduce the chances of electric shock.
Some of the most common injuries that occur from the unsafe use of power tools include:
- Puncture wounds
- Eye injuries
- Electric shock
- Crushing injuries
You must always have a first-aid kit available at all times to promptly handle such accidents. If there is bleeding, stop it as quickly as possible with the help of a first-aid kit and call for professional help. In case of an electric shock, burn injury, excessive swelling, excruciating pain, dizziness, or unconsciousness, seek immediate medical attention.
From home fencing projects to large scale mechanical assignments, power drills have versatile applications. People prefer them for convenience, but they can quickly become inconvenient and costly without proper safety measures. Following safety precautions is not just about wearing safety goggles and calling it a day. It is a comprehensive set of steps you need to take to ensure that you, your loved ones, and your tools are out of harm’s way.