Overhead Ratchet Drill

An overhead ratchet drill allows the upper arms to be held below the shoulder for a more comfortable posture during overhead drilling.


An overhead ratchet drill in an engineering control that can reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from overhead work and stressful hand and wrist activities. Similar to an overhead drill press, a drill is mounted on a saddle and a telescoping vertical column positions the drill for overhead drilling. The extension and retraction of the vertical column can be manually powered by a handwheel or by hydraulic power. In contrast to an overhead drill press, it is designed for more portable and versatile drilling tasks. In some instances, a dust suppression system can be added to capture dust during drilling operations.

An overhead ratchet drill generally includes these features:

  • Drill saddle – supports and secures the drill, and is located at the top of the drill press,
  • Adjustable column – allows the drill to be raised and lowered to the desired height
  • Trigger switch – activates the drill from ground level
  • Base – supports the drill on the ground
  • Power source – supplies power to the drill
  • Wheels – provides mobility

They are compatible for set-up and use in scissor lifts to increase the reach for high overhead drilling projects. A proprietary dust suppression system for the tool has also been engineered to help capture dust during drilling operations.  To obtain more information on equipment specifications, please visit the manufacturers' websites under 'Availability.'



Hand Crank Overhead Drill (Photo courtesy of Paragon Pro Manufacturing Solutions)

Risks Addressed:

Overhead work can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as shoulder muscle strains; tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendons; or rotator cuff tears, which is a rupture of a shoulder tendon.  The overhead drill press can help reduce overhead work by allowing the upper arms to be held below the shoulder and closer to the waist. 


How Risks are Reduced:

An overhead ratchet drill reduces a worker’s chance of developing muscle and joint injuries. Workers benefit from not having to hold a heavy tool above their shoulders for long periods of time. The need for ladders is decreased or eliminated.

Independent studies have shown that working overhead increases the incidence of injury to the shoulder, arms, neck, and back. Reducing the vertical and/or horizontal distance that the tool is away from the body lessens the stress on worker’s shoulders and arms.  An inverted drill press allows the operator to keep the arms near the body and the hands near waist level. Using an overhead ratchet drill also eliminates the need for ladders and step stools. Most drilling tasks can be accomplished while standing on the ground. Due to the development of the column-leveling feature it is not necessary to climb a ladder to mark the drill holes. The risk of falling is decreased or eliminated with the use of an overhead ratchet drill.

Additional Considerations:

Inhaling silica dust may cause silicosis or lung scarring with prolonged exposure.  Exposure to silica also causes lung cancer and other lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and tuberculosis, and has been linked to renal disease and rheumatoid arthritis.  Capturing dust containing silica before it becomes air-borne reduces the risk to workers and by-standers. The overhead drill press may reduce exposure to silica. 

A drill bit extension does not prevent the neck from being bent back while drilling overhead. Workers shoulder be instructed to change stressful neck positions frequently. Alternately, job rotation has been used at many worksites to minimize exposure to excessive backward bending of the neck. 
Workers should always wear safety goggles when using an extended drill bit due to falling debris from the drill hole.
Other solutions exist for minimizing the harmful effects of overhead drilling. These include the extended drill bit and worker rotation, among others.


Dan Anton, PT, PhD, ATC and Cassie Malecha, DPT – Eastern Washington University

Hazards Addressed:


Accelerated Fastenings LLC.
To obtain information, visit Ratchet Drill Mini-me and Ratchet Drill or contact 1-414-881-6630 info@acceleratedfastening.com

Paragon Pro Manufacturing Solutions
To obtain information, visit Hydraulic-Powered Overhead Drill or contact 1-701-775-0551 sales@paragonpromfg.com

Return on Investment

To find out the potential return on investment (ROI) for this solution, please visit our Return on Investment Calculator.

 “Click to Begin", then “Load an Example” and select "Overhead Drill Press & Dust Control".