power tool

The Drill Sergeant: 8 Simple Steps to Power Tool Safety

There are over 124,000 power tool injuries each year. Keep yourself safe with our common-sense guide.

1. Review Your Clothing

Forget dress to impress! Put on some comfortable gear and lose the loose jewellery.

You’ll need some protective clothing. Safety goggles are essential and ear defenders are a good idea when drilling for any length of time.

If you are using a Hammer Drill then gloves will absorb some vibration and if there is dust flying around wear a mask.

If you are doing a lot of floor work kneeling pads are a good idea.

If you are on a construction site you might be required to wear a hard hat.

2. Inspect Your Drill

You’ve heard of choosing the right tool for the right job? Well ignore this advice at your peril!

If you don’t do this there’s a good chance you could mess things up – the job you’re working on, the tool you’re using, or worse still yourself!

Check over the drill before you use it. Make sure it’s not been damaged since the last time you used it. There should be nothing loose, cracked or come away. Hopefully if you’ve kept your drill in a toolbox that shouldn’t happen, unless someone else has used it meantime.

If it’s a corded tool double check the power cord for fraying and ensure it is securely attached to the tool and the plug. Also check the socket. For cordless drills check the battery looks OK.

3. Check Out Your Work Area

Next check out your main work area. Indoors or outdoors, make sure you have room to move. Clean up any dust and dirt, clear away clutter and make it obvious to anyone nearby not to come too close.

Lay down some dust sheets to protect any furniture. If you are drilling into walls or floors use a detector to ensure there are no hidden cables or pipes.

4. Secure Your Job

We’re getting close! If the work surface is not already secure fasten it down by clamping it to another fixed surface.

It’s often a good idea to include some backing board, which makes a neater finish to the exit hole.

If you’re drilling into any vertical surface, e.g masonry, where dust is extracted, open an envelope and tape it’s back to the wall below the hole to collect the dust. Mark the holes you are intending to drill. For larger holes you will want to drill pilot holes first.

For the hardest materials you may need to set up a water supply to act as a lubricant and coolant (for more details on this refer to the article on drill bits).

5. Prepare To Drill

If the tool is corded check the power lead is free and unencumbered. Pick up the drill and secure the bit. Make sure it is not blunt! Try and get the base of the bit as far down inside the chuck as possible.

Then hold the drill up, squeeze the trigger and watch the bit rotate. It should be parallel and central to the drill itself. If it is not either the bit has not been centred correctly in the chuck or the bit itself is out of true and should be discarded and replaced.

Get comfortable with the trigger sensitivity on the drill. It’s always a good idea to sink a couple of test holes into some similar scrap material first. This is the time to experiment with and adjust your torque setting if you have one.

If you’re drilling a blind hole (i.e. you’re not drilling right through the material) use a depth gauge so you don’t end up drilling too deep.

If you misplace or break the depth gauge you can always use the tried and tested masking tape method! Calculate the depth of hole you want to drill, measure that same distance up the bit from its tip, then wrap a piece of masking tape around the bit at that point. As soon as your bit hits the edge of the masking tape you’re done.

Consider your drilling position. If you are not comfortable when you start drilling and begin hurting halfway through you could lose concentration, and the drill could slip and cause an accident.

So balance your weight evenly and use both hands to support and control the drill.

6. Monitor Your Progress

Most of the time whilst drilling or driving you only need to apply a small amount of pressure to the drill and this can be achieved by gently leaning forward on it.

For harder materials you should ‘pump’ the drill, i.e. alternately apply periods of greater and lesser pressure. The periods of lesser pressure will stop the bit and motor getting too warm, although these days motors and batteries are built to cut power if heat thresholds are breached.

But it is the drill bits that get hot the quickest so be aware of that. Just don’t go fast – try and ‘let the drill drill’.

If for some reason you don’t control the pressure or drill speed appropriately or withdraw the drill occasionally when you are drilling/ driving into more resistant material, the drill bit could actually get stuck.  This will cause the drill itself to start spinning or ‘kicking back’ in your hand! If this potentially dangerous situation happens release the trigger immediately. You may need to switch to reverse gear to extract the bit from the hole. (Kickback is very rare with an Impact Driver because it is designed to automatically adjust its power to combat increased levels of resistance).

If you find the drill is still struggling (the motor and bit will be hot and smoke may be coming out) withdraw the bit slowly whilst keeping the trigger depressed. Once clear of the hole release the trigger. Maybe it is debris in the hole and/or around the bit that needs flushing. Again be very careful if the bit is clogged because it will most likely be very hot (and likely discoloured).

Maybe despite your preliminary checks you discover that the bit is either not the correct type for the material being drilled or it is just not up to the task in which case you’ll need to replace it.

7. Ease Off Gently

As you approach the end of the job ease off the trigger, decrease the pressure and withdraw the drill whilst it is still running, release the trigger completely and inspect your handiwork.

Hopefully you’ve achieved a nice neat finish!

8. Tidy Up

When you finish up clean your work surfaces and dispose of waste product. Unplug any corded tools, tidy any cables and return all tools (powered or otherwise) and accessories to their toolboxes, work belts or natural homes.

Maintaining a clean organised workshop makes everything so much easier for finding things when you’re ready to start your next job!

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