Safety Tips for Concrete Dowel Drilling

Safety Tips for Concrete Dowel Drilling
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Safety Tips for Concrete Dowel Drilling

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Concrete Dowel Drilling Tips for a Safer Site

Despite its formidable name, concrete dowel drilling is not an exceptionally dangerous or difficult task.

In one form or another, it has been done for over a century and a half; from the earliest steam-powered drills to the modern pneumatic drills. While working with a dowel drill may statistically be safer than say, working at heights, it is ultimately like any task on the construction site in that safety plays a part. Concrete dowel drilling does come with its own set of potential safety issues. However, as is often the case, a few applicable tips can lessen or eliminate those dangers and provide your employees with peace of mind.

Take note of the following 5 safety hazards associated with concrete dowel drilling and ensure minimal risk for your team.

#1: Dust in the Wind

The biggest concern with concrete dowel drilling is the amount of dust that is produced.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has identified crystalline silica found in concrete as a potential danger when workers are exposed for a lengthy time. In their report, they found that 50 micrograms per cubic meter of respirable crystalline silica, averaged up to 10 hours per day across a 40-hour work week, would be the recommended exposure limit to respirable dust.

Respirable dust refers to dust that is small enough to reach the deeper regions of the lungs.

As a result of their research, NIOSH came up with recommendations for reducing silica particulate from concrete dowel drilling. The primary suggestion was the usage of a local exhaust ventilation (LEV) system.

Using a hood system, flexible ducts, filters, and air movers, these systems collect the air around the drill bits and filter out silica particulates. Even without an LEV system in place, you can further reduce employee exposure to silica dust.

For instance, check wind direction and set up your site so that no employees are working downwind of the concrete dowel drill. If need be, consider wet control systems that use water to pull the silica particulates out of the air.

While not as effective as LEV systems, it's better than none-at-all. Monitor the exposure of individual workers to dust, and make sure to rotate them away from the site or equipment if they are inhaling dangerous amounts of dust.

#2: Proper Machine Maintenance

As with every pneumatic machine, the dangers of using compressed air are present.

Hoses must be inspected regularly for cracking and deterioration. These could cause low air pressure or worse, such as bursting during use, which creates hazards from flying materials. Monitoring air pressure during use is vital. If the pressure rises too high, it can damage the drill, voiding the warranty and leading to employee downtime.

At the end of the day, make sure any air in the system is bled out so there isn’t latent pressure built up when the drill isn’t in use.

#3: Don’t Get Caught in a Pinch

While dependant on the specific machine being used, there will be numerous points where hands or limbs can be caught, pinched – or worse, taken. The carriage assembly is the most common spot where fingers and hands can be pinched when working with a concrete dowel drill.

This can lead to bruises, cuts, broken bones and de-gloving. If your machine has a carriage lock, make sure it is set when moving to prevent the assembly from sliding.

#4: Moving with the Job

Drills need to be moved regularly. While some employees might feel like they can save time by hauling the drill, this approach could lead to injury.

If your employee is moving the drill only a short distance, make sure they know to use the designated handles. Failure to do so can lead to a strained back, muscle strain or joint problems. In some instances, it can lead to a dropped machine, which could damage the unit and potentially cause severe harm to the user. For long-distance moves on site, use a lift or Bobcat, with the drill properly secured.

#5: Having the Right Gear

It goes without saying that you need to dress properly for the worksite.

This applies to all areas of work, not just concrete dowel drilling. However, when working with heavy-duty drills, you need to step up your game.

As mentioned earlier, dust is a major issue. Even with a dust-suppression kit, operators and those working nearby should wear a face mask to avoid inhalation of small dust particles.

Safety glasses or goggles will keep dust and debris from a concrete dowel drill out of the eyes. Furthermore, hearing safety is an oft-ignored area, but with concrete dowel drilling, you’ll want to make sure that hearing protection is available and worn. However, noise isn’t the only threat to the ears when working with a concrete dowel drill. Ear protection will also prevent dust and particulates from entering the ear canals and causing infection or other damage.


Just like any other task on a construction site, concrete dowel drilling comes with its own unique safety hazards. The good news is almost all of them can be mitigated or eliminated through following the proper precautions. This is often the case with site safety. So, remain vigilant and do your due diligence so that everyone gets to go home safe.

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