Power tools can do some fantastic things for projects of all types but understanding how to use a drill safely is the only way to ensure that they work to their full potential. As helpful as these tools are, they can also be extremely dangerous if you don’t handle them with care.
The following guide provides a list of safety tips for power tools – specifically, power drills – so that you can get the finished product you want without sacrificing your safety or the safety of those around you.
1. Keep Yourself Safe
The first step in learning how to use power tools safely is to know how to protect yourself from these tools. Even the most skilled power tool operators can make a mistake that causes injury, so protecting your eyes, hands, and ears is a crucial step to take.
When operating any type of power tool, you should never wear loose clothing. Baggy clothing can become a hazard when it overhangs your workspace because your drill can catch it as it operates, pulling your clothing in with it.
You should also avoid wearing any hanging jewelry, like a necklace, bracelet, or loose watch, that might get caught in the drill during operation. Any clothing or accessories on your body should fit snugly against your skin.
In most situations, the following safety gear should be your go-to items for handling a power drill:
Safety glasses or goggles should be worn at all times while you’re operating your power drill, no matter what material you’re working with.
As you drill, it’s possible for pieces of wood or metal shrapnel to fly away from the surface. If one grazes or enters your eye, you could get an eye infection, ulcer, or other complications, and any foreign body in the eye could potentially cause blindness.
It’s best practice to put your safety goggles on before you turn on your drill and leave them on until after you’ve finished cleaning your work area.
Safety gloves can protect your hands, wrists, and fingers from accidental slipping while your drill operates. It’s not uncommon for drill bits to wander from wood, plastic, metal, and other materials, and gloves reduce the risk of injury if the drill bit happens to wander to your hands.
Look for snug-fitting gloves that allow you to move your hands freely yet are thick and durable enough to keep your hands protected from your drill and bit.
Power drills can be incredibly noisy, primarily if you’re working with them in a tight, closed-off space for long periods of time. For consistent power drill usage, you should consider purchasing noise-reducing headphones to keep your ears protected from the sound.
When you work with materials like concrete or brick, wearing a mask is vital to protecting your lungs.
Silicosis is a respiratory disease that happens when someone is exposed to high amounts of crystalline silica dust, which forms when drilling into these materials. A dust mask covers your mouth and nose to prevent most of this dust from entering your lungs.
Drilling into metal with metal drill bits can cause an extreme amount of friction, which can lead to sparking and even fire, especially if you have other objects too close to your drill as it operates.
Keep a fire extinguisher within your arm’s reach on your workspace to have handy just in case of a fire. Be sure you review how to use it before you start drilling. Most fire extinguishers have both picture and worded instructions on the bottle for easy reference.
2. Know Your Drill
Knowing how your drill operates is the key to understanding how to use power tools safely. Here’s what you need to do to ensure that you have a functioning drill that’s safe for operation.
Do Your Research
If you don’t yet have a drill for your project, then the best thing you can do for your safety is comprehensive research on the best power drills for your specific needs. Your research should include things like:
- Whether the drill is corded or cordless
- How long the battery stays charged and how long it needs to charge
- How easy or difficult the drill is to operate
- The weight of the drill
- What materials the drill works best with
- Verified reviews from trusted retailer sites (The Home Depot, Lowe’s, or the manufacturer’s website, for example)
You might also consider watching instructional videos of the drill in operation on YouTube to get a better idea of how it handles and how safe it is.
Read the Manual
Once you found your perfect drill, you should spend time reading the owner’s manual thoroughly. This instructional booklet will tell you about the different parts of your drill, how to change bits, how to change settings, and how to operate it safely to reduce the risk of injury to yourself.
If you’re unclear about any information in the manual, you can contact the manufacturer with information provided in the manual or by finding a contact number on the company’s website.
Corded and Cordless Drill Safety Checks
Make time for corded and cordless drill safety checks before every use of your drill. If you do them regularly, you’ll only need to spend a couple of minutes checking everything over to ensure its safety.
Look at signs of a frayed cord on corded drills, leaking battery packs on cordless drills, and any signs of unsafe wear and tear on the chuck, trigger, handle, and casing.
If you suspect that anything looks unsafe, you should contact the manufacturer for further instructions.
3. Choose the Right Bit for the Job
Another critical step in learning how to use a drill safely is understanding what bits you need to use for your project:
- Check the bit size. Your drill’s manual should tell you what size bits to use. Using a bit with a base that’s too small for your drill won’t allow the jaws to hold the bit properly, which could cause the bit to fall out when you operate the drill.
- Use the right type of bit. Some bits are explicitly made for wood, while others are specifically for metal and harder materials. The packaging should tell you what materials the bits will work best with.
- Check the wear of the bit. Bits can wear after consistent use over time. If you notice that a bit has excessive wear and tear, it’s a good idea to replace it before trying to use it again.
4. Insert the Bit Correctly
Your owner’s manual should detail how to insert the drill bit into your drill. Some drills have keyed chucks that require a tool to open and tighten the jaws, while others have no key and allow you to turn the chuck with your hand.
Keep the power to your drill off when you insert a new bit and always check to make sure that the jaws captured the bit completely by giving the drill bit a tug after insertion. If it’s loose, remove it and try to insert it again until it’s snug in the chuck.
5. Keep the Cord Out of the Way
Corded drills, although typically more powerful and reliable than cordless drills present a serious safety hazard with their cords. It’s easy to become tangled up in, or trip over, a power cord that’s stretched across the floor near where you’re working.
When using your drill, try to work as closely to the power outlet as possible to reduce the distance the cord needs to travel. Always pay attention to where the cable is and use zip ties to keep the length you don’t need out of your way.
6. Drill a Pilot Hole
Drilling a pilot hole before your regular hole is a good habit when working with just about any material because it gives your drill bit a hole to drill into to reduce slipping.
Use a small bit to drill your pilot hole. You can continue making the hole larger by gradually increasing the size of the bits you use.
7. Use Safe Drilling Techniques
While drilling, be sure never to add too much pressure to your drill. You should only apply a steady, light pressure to allow the drill to glide through on its own.
Don’t force bits through the material either. If you find that your drill bit is getting stuck in the material, turn off the drill, remove the bit, and use manual tools to remove the bit from the surface.
Conclusion: How to Use a Drill Safely
From wearing the right clothing to keep you safe to understanding how to operate your drill correctly, you now know the tricks of the trade for preventing injuries to yourself from drill usage.
We hope this guide about how to use a drill safely gave you the tools you’ll need to handle this powerful piece of equipment in a way that lets it perform its best while also keeping you safe.