Safe earth drilling starts before the machine’s point ever pierces the surface. Operators encounter many potential hazards on a jobsite, but a little preparation goes a long way toward safe productivity.
Your pre-operation checklist
Before starting the drill, give it a quick inspection. If it’s an unfamiliar model, use the operator’s manual for guidance. Start by checking that the kill-switches function and wires aren’t damaged. To ensure the throttle works properly, start the engine and let it run for a few seconds before releasing the throttle; it should then return to idle.
If the engine has a torque tube, a safety feature that protects the operator by absorbing dangerous kickbacks, connect it. The procedure might vary slightly from one model to another, so follow the steps outlined in the manual.
Check the machine’s fluids and change or refill if necessary. Because adding fluids to a hot machine could cause injuries from accidentally touching the hot engine or hydraulic power deck, do this when the machine’s cool.
Verify that points and blades are secured tightly to the auger to avoid excessive vibrations. Reduce auger flighting wear and damage by turning reversible blades or replacing worn or damaged points and blades. Always select the correct point or blade for soil conditions.
With the pre-operation checklist addressed, safe drilling is now in the operator’s hands.
Ready, aim…fire slowly
Start the job by positioning the auger perpendicular to the ground for maximum control. Adjust downward pressure in response to soil conditions, easing up if the soil is soft. If the ground is harder, apply a little more pressure, but not so much that rotation slows or stops.
Newer operators should take a slow-and-steady approach to digging. Running an earth drill at a slightly slower speed than typical helps newer users gain comfort and control and, as a result, reduce the likelihood of injuries.
When the operator reaches the desired hole depth, wait until the auger stops spinning before removing it to avoid losing control of the machine.
If the auger hits a tree root or gets lodged in hard soil, turn off the machine and disconnect the handle. Turn the auger counterclockwise to free the unit. In tough soils, it might be necessary to use a pipe wrench to turn it.
If neither method works, it’s time to dig out the auger.
How low can you go?
Certain applications call for a greater depth than the auger can reach on its own, so many manufacturers offer extensions.
Once the lead auger reaches its maximum depth, stop the power unit. Disconnect the drive adaptor from the auger and connect the extension to it as specified in the owner’s manual. It may be necessary to use an auger fork to keep the auger from falling into the hole while you connect the extension. Once you reach your desired depth, stop the auger and disconnect the drive adaptor from the extension. Then remove the extensions and auger from the hole.
Modern earth augers take the guesswork out of safe operation and make it simple for even first-time users. But safety doesn’t begin or end with the machine; the responsibility lies with the owner and operator. Get the best results by making pre-drilling checks and safe operation a habit.