The drill press is one of the most fundamental power tools in a woodworking shop. Most people who buy a drill press know that it is a powerful tool for quickly making holes that are perfectly square.
Few people understand, however, that this powerful instrument can also be dangerous, and hundreds of drill press accidents happen every year on construction sites.
When using a drill press or any other power tool, it’s a good idea to start with the mindset that your safety comes first. This is always secondary to your efficiency.
As a result, before you begin, it is essential that you evaluate the hazards of the drill press and follow a few safety rules in order to avoid drill press accidents.
A few simple precautions can help avoid drill press accidents, such as:
- Do not remove the safety guards.
- Keep loose clothing and hair to a minimum.
- Wearing gloves is never a good idea.
- Lock the drill well
- Clamp the workpiece in place.
- Avoid Trip Hazards
- Put on your safety glasses.
- Illuminate the drill press well.
- Use the correct drill press speed
You have been warned: if you are going to spend a lot of time on a drill press, make sure you have the right precautions.
That means, in addition to wearing a good dust mask, you should protect yourself against possible drill press accidents.
In this article, I’ll go through the most prevalent and reported drill press accidents in the past, as well as how to assess the risks of a drill press in your workshop and how to avoid drill press accidents.
Be prepared and have a first aid kit in your shop!
Although it is good to avoid drill press accidents as much as possible, it is good to be prepared for any accidents. Make sure you have a first aid kit in your workshop. Discover how to put together a first aid kit in this article.
Most reported drill press injuries
According to a report by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, as many as 2,500 workers are injured each year as a result of working with a drill press.
In addition to the suffering, drill press accidents can also have financial consequences. The lost time caused by the injury can no longer be made up for, which means that planned projects will be postponed, and you may suffer a loss of income, even if you do woodworking as a hobby.
Drill press accidents can cause different types of injuries. According to all reported accidents, most injuries are: abrasions, cuts, sprains, amputations of fingers, and, in a few cases, death from severe injuries.
Research into the causes of drill press accidents
Every accident that happens on-site, where the injuries are registered, is entered into a large database. In this way, all the data on drill press accidents can be compared and possible solutions to a problem can be mapped out.
When looking at the most common injuries from drill press accidents recorded in the past, there are a few notable causes that keep coming back.
By naming them and keeping them in mind, you can use this information as a basis for devising safety precautions for working with a drill press in your own workshop.
Removed safety guards.
The first cause that kept coming back into the database was the removal of safety guards.
When purchasing a drill press, there is a protective cap around the drill chuck. This one is there for a reason. This protective cover must prevent the employee from being caught in the rotating drill chuck of a drill press and being pulled along. Rotating clothing is the most common cause of amputated fingers.
Poorly maintained drill press with one or more loose parts.
For example, loose parts or poorly maintained parts can suddenly come loose when pressure is applied to the workpiece. Sudden loosening could cause the part to fly, or you could lose balance and come into contact with the fast rotating chuck.
NEVER wear gloves when working with a drill press. When it is caught by the drill chuck, there is no time to remove your hand from the glove in time. This is a commonly reported problem that results in finger amputations and even death.
Analyzing the hazards of your drill press
To assess the risks associated with using a drill press, it is necessary to first have a general understanding of the drill press’s hazards. You might start thinking about possible drill press accidents by establishing a list of the drill press’s risky parts.
The drill chuck is the first part, and also the most dangerous. A strong electric motor drives a drill chuck that revolves at rates ranging from 250 to 3000 RPM. When you come into contact with it, it will not stop spinning as rapidly as it should. As a result, all drill presses nowadays come with a safety guard.
The belt drive is a second component that can be dangerous.
I’ll use a belt drive drill press as an example in this post because it’s the most common type accessible for DIY usage.
If you have a drill press with electronic speed control and no belt drive, such as the Bosch PBD40, you have the advantage of eliminating a danger element.
The belt will transport the motor’s speed to the pulley, which is attached to the drill chuck’s shaft. These pulleys, like the drill chuck, will revolve at high speeds, posing a significant risk.
To prevent drill press accidents with the belt, a housing will always enclose the belt drive. Make sure it’s shut all the time.
The extension cable is the last component that might be dangerous. Although it appears to be harmless, if it lies on the ground, you may trip over it while using the drill press.
Perhaps you have a type of drill press that carries some other dangers. So carefully examine your machine to determine the dangers as accurately as possible.
Analyzing the risks of operating a drill press
Now that you know what the problematic sections are, you can estimate the possible drill press accidents. I’ll go through the most essential ones here, but you should evaluate the risks involved with the drill press you use in your workshop.
Hair and/or loose clothing can become stuck in the rotating parts.
The drill press, according to our analysis, is made up of a spinning motor that turns the drill chuck through a belt and pulley system.
When operating a drill press while wearing loose clothing, gloves, or long hair that is not tied up in a ponytail, there is a considerable potential that it may become caught in the drill and spin with it.
The drill press will continue to operate because of the powerful motor, causing significant damage.
There is a considerable likelihood that chips will be thrown away while using a drill press.
Due to the tremendous speed at which these little or even bigger fragments fly away, they can cause wounds not only to the skin but also to the eyes.
Because these chips can be hot due to the friction between the drill and the workpiece, they can also cause burns in addition to making cuts.
This is a problem that many drill press operators confront on a daily basis.
When drilling with a drill press, the drill can grab and drag the material from the workpiece instead of cutting away material.
Even when you think you have complete control over the workpiece, this happens at the most inopportune moments.
The pulled workpiece can cause significant damage due to the force with which it is pulled away and the rotations that follow at the same rate.
Because of the high-speed friction between the drill and the workpiece, the workpieces can get extremely hot, not only when they are made of metal, but even when they are made of wood.
As a result, if you hold the workpiece right after drilling, you face a risk of scorching your skin.
This, however, is not the only threat.
Because of the friction, the wood you’re drilling into may feign. It has the potential to spontaneously ignite without the user’s knowledge. On top of that, a woodworking shop is also full of shavings and fine woods, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what the eventual result will be.
Not only does the fast-rotating drill bit have sharp edges, but the workpiece you just drilled can also have a sharp edge, especially when drilling metal.
How to avoid drill press accidents
Now that you know what the risky aspects of your drill press are and what hazards they might pose, you should consider what precautions you can take to avoid drill press accidents.
I’ll tell you about some fundamental safety precautions you can take.
Here too, after an analysis of the drill press in your workshop, you will be able to determine which precautions are best adapted to your drill press and your workshop to avoid drill press accidents.
Do not remove safety guards
These Drill Press Guards are installed by the manufacturers for a good reason, so never remove them! Even though they hinder the speed at which you can work, they will prevent you from being hit by flying debris or the moving parts from grabbing your clothes or hair.
Keep loose clothing and hair to a minimum.
Clothing that is too loose or hair that is too long might become trapped in the revolving pieces. Wearing form-fitting clothes or putting long hair in a ponytail might help you avoid this.
To avoid being caught, you can consider rolling up your sleeves or wearing a short-sleeved shirt. This, however, is not always a good alternative. Exposed skin can be burned or injured by flying components. Therefore, it is recommended to wear long-sleeved shirts with sleeves that are tight against your arm.
Wearing gloves is never a good idea.
You might think, a workpiece may get hot and sharp edges might emerge, so I will wear gloves to protect myself.
It’s possible that this is a horrible idea rather than a good one.
A glove, like loose clothes, can be caught by the drill chuck’s quick rotation. When this happens, you won’t be able to get your hands out of the glove in time.
Drill press accidents frequently result in amputated fingers due to the use of gloves. As a result, never wear gloves.
Instead, allow a hot or sharp workpiece to cool before handling it, or hold it far enough away from the drill hole to avoid burns or cuts.
Lock the drill well
This is a typical mistake that can result in significant damage to both you and the workpiece. If the drill is not correctly fastened, it might become loose and fly around at high speeds.
Make this a routine check and make sure the drill is tight before starting the drill press.
Clamp the workpiece in place.
A spinning workpiece can produce a variety of accidents, including cuts or broken fingers, due to the high speeds. The possibility of the rotating workpiece grabbing anything else will also rise.
Always keep a strong grip on your workpiece. To help you with that, you can use a drill press vise.
I constructed a drill press vise for my drill press, which is simple to make. Above that, the drill press may be tilted at any angle up to 45 degrees.
You can learn how to make this drill press vise step by step in my post, — How to make a tilting drill press vise —, and there are also free plans available to assist you in building this vise. Take a peek when you’ve finished reading this article.
Avoid Trip Hazards
The extension cord, as I said before in this article, is a potential hazard while utilizing a drill press. This extension cord has the potential to trip you up and catch you in the rotating chuck or hurt you if you fall.
Always make sure that the extension cable is correctly placed. When it needs to be placed on the floor, place it along the sides of your workstation or in the corner of the wall and the floor, rather than transverse across your workshop.
Put on your safety glasses.
By wearing safety glasses, you can prevent loose chips from getting into your eyes and causing damage.
One of the most frequently reported drill press accidents is injuries to the eyes from flying chips.
Safety glasses are one of the PPEs you should wear in a woodworking workshop. In my blog post, Woodworking Safety – What PPE Do You Need For Woodworking?, you can discover all the must-have PPE to secure your safety. It is highly recommended to read this interesting article because your safety should prioritize above all other stuff going on in your workshop.
Illuminate the drill press well.
Place the drill press in a well-lit area or provide additional lighting for the drill press.
If you have a good view of it, you’ll be able to prevent the workpiece or your fingers from accidentally coming into contact with the revolving chuck.
In addition to avoiding drill press accidents, it will also benefit the quality of the drill hole because you can always see clearly what you are doing.
Use the correct drill press speed
If you want to avoid drill press accidents, adapt the drill press’s speed to the material you’re drilling in and the type of drill you’re using.
By considering the correct speed, your drill will perform better and will lower the risk of the drill gripping into the workpiece, which will result in lowering the risk of drill press accidents.
Not only will drilling at the proper speed be safer, but it will also produce better results and save wear on the drill press and drill bits.
Setting the proper speed is difficult to describe in a few words. That’s why I wrote the article, – What drill press speed should I use? (+Drill Press Speed Chart) -, earlier.
Don’t miss this article because the right speed can have a big impact on quality and safety.
In short, the drill press is a very useful machine for woodworking, however, it can be dangerous.
Before you get started with the drill press, you must take precautions to prevent drill press accidents.
By analyzing the dangerous parts, the possible dangers of these parts, and the risks that these dangers can entail, you can create a personalized list of precautions that you can take adapted to your drill press and workplace.
I hope this article can be of great help and guidance to avoid drill press accidents in the future.
Want to know more about how to use a drill press to get the most out of it, then you should check out this article: What is a drill press used for? (7 steps to better results)
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