Drill Press Safety | Hasmate health and safety
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Drill Press Safety

Drill Press Safety

Recently, two incidents have occurred that emphasise the importance of drill press safety.

The first was the entanglement of a glove (that an apprentice was wearing) on a drill bit. The employee was very lucky, as an emergency cutout button had been installed on the left-hand side of the drill press. The employee received a sprained wrist and minor injuries to his right hand. This was a notifiable incident to WorkSafe NZ.

Following a call from the business owner, I investigated the event, and the following points were identified:

  • The drill press had been installed when the owner brought the business 20 years earlier;
  • No hazard register, risk assessment, or control plan had been developed;
  • No safe operating procedures had been developed for the use of the equipment;
  • No chuck guard had been fitted;
  • The employee stated that he was only doing a one minute job, and was wearing the gloves from the job he had been doing;
  • He had never been formally trained to use the drill press, and had never been told that he could not wear the leather gloves and why he couldn’t.
  • No signage had been displayed regarding the use of PPE for the drill or other workshop machinery;
  • There were no records to show that there had been any safety checks on the efficiency of the emergency stop buttons; and
  • No induction or training records were available.

Not only was the employee very lucky, but so was the business owner. This incident could have been a lot worse with a badly injured employee, as well as a bad financial outcome.

The second event was when I visited a local high school and was told that they had been issued with several improvement notices by WorkSafe NZ. Two of these notices had been for the use of drill presses in their workshop, and that no chuck safety guards had been fitted.

What can be done to ensure drill press safety?

How can we minimise the risk with drill presses?

  1. Ensure that a chuck guard has been fitted. These are available for purchase (google local suppliers) and can be retrofitted to your drill press. These are also available as an automatic lock system for when the shield is opened to change the drill bit, and to help prevent ejections from accidentally leaving chuck keys in.
  2. Install an emergency stop/lockout device, if one is not already fitted.  Make sure that this is tested regularly.
  3. Develop a safe operating procedure (SOP) for use of the drill press (including PPE required).
  4. Undertake a risk assessment of the equipment, and develop a control plan for the use of the equipment.
  5. Undertake regular checks on the equipment to make sure all safety features are working.
  6. Add signage to remind employees about PPE requirements.
  7. Ensure all employees understand the PPE requirements when using the drill press, even for a short job.
  8. Train all employees using the SOP, and document the training.  Review the training regularly.  Include this training as part of all new employees’ inductions.
  9. Make sure the drill press is well maintained.

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