On any job, using the correct safety practices and procedures is not just a good idea, it is the only way to reduce the risk of injuries. Too often safety practices begin to slip if management, supervisors and employees are not all trained and educated on the dangers of the use of drilling equipment as well as the proper precautionary safety practices.
With rock drilling equipment there are several important steps to take to ensure safe operation. As this is always a more difficult drilling procedure than drilling into soil with rocks, safety needs to be a priority in all aspects of the operation. Too much stress on the drill or bit can result in a break that can be dangerous and even flying rock chips can be a source of serious injury a distance from where the equipment is in operation.
With either manual or rig mounted rock drilling equipment, it is necessary to provide the correct training for operators. This is particularly important for drilling into solid rock where setting the clearance between the drill rod and the sides of the hole will be important.
Too small of a gap will prevent debris from flushing out correctly, which will add stress on the rod and the bit, potentially resulting in damage the risk of injury to anyone standing nearby. Additionally, using the right type of flushing medium, including air, water or mud, will be a critical choice based on the type of rock and the drilling requirements.
Training also includes understanding how to maintain the equipment using the approved safety methods. Making contact with running drills trying to do some type of maintenance or cleaning is still one of the leading causes of serious injury and it is something that is completely preventable.
There are several important safety factors to consider with the use of any type of rock drill. A very major concern is eye safety as debris, rock chips and soil can and will come out of the hole at high velocity both with the drilling as well as during the flushing. Everyone around the drilling area should be wearing protective eyewear and hard hats at a very minimum. Loose clothing or long hair should not be permitted for drill operators or those working close to the drill as this increases the risk of some type of entanglement with the clothing or hair and the drill.
Finally, operators should know the emergency stop mechanisms on the drill as well as understand that any type of safety features on the drill should never be turned off or bypassed as this creates unsafe working conditions.