Here's to Portable Power Drill Safety - Drilly Drilly!

Worker using power drill

The electric drill was first patented in 1889 by two Australian inventors. A portable drill equipped with a trigger switch and pistol grip was later patented by Black & Decker in 1917. This design set the stage for the drill’s versatile use with a variety of different types manufactured for a wide array of applications.

Today, the portable power drill’s widespread use also carries with it the risk of electric shock, puncture wounds, cuts, contusions from spinning/moving parts, strains from torque power, hair and clothing entanglement, contaminant inhalation, burns from hot drill bits, and eye injuries. Because of the associated hazards, OSHA regulates the use of hand-held power drills in their Hand and Power Tools set of standards.

As with any hand tool or piece of equipment, reading the operator’s instruction manual and inspecting the power drill for damage are extremely important along with conducting a risk assessment before starting the specific work activity. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:

  • Wear eye protection (safety glasses or goggles)
  • Tuck in loose clothing, tie back long hair, and remove dangling jewelry
  • Make sure the drill bit is seated correctly in the chuck jaws when tightening and remove the chuck key before using the drill
  • Clamp down small work pieces to prevent movement and keep fingers away from the rotating drill bit
  • Don’t use a power drill near open flammable liquid containers
  • Avoid using an electric drill in wet conditions and ensure proper grounding
  • Keep your finger off the trigger switch when carrying the drill
  • Let the drill do the work; don’t force the drill bit with excessive pressure (particularly with small diameter bits) and replace a dull bit with the drill off (unplugged) after a cool down period
  • Grip the drill firmly with both hands if there’s an auxiliary handle and avoid drilling above shoulder height
  • Don’t handle/carry a drill by its power cord
  • For cordless power drills, follow recharging instructions with the recommended charger and correct replacement battery
  • Avoid clutter and maintain proper housekeeping

So raise your safety glasses (and put them on) for safety sake and follow these tips the next time the job requires the use of this versatile hand-held power tool to “drilly drilly.” For more information, check out OSHA’s Hand and Power Tools publication. You may also like our other posts on power tool safety for nail guns and hand held circular saws.