Work Box Cutter Drill Attachment with Vacuum Dust Control

A work box cutter is a drill attachment that cuts square or rectangular openings in drywall for the installation of outlets, light switches, and low voltage mud rings.


A work box cutter with vacuum dust control, such as the QUADSAW®, is an engineering control that can help reduce dust exposure as well as the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Powered by a connected drill, there are a few blade kit options that produces standard size openings of single and double gang sockets for old work plastic, metal switch boxes, or low voltage rings. There is also a dust extraction elbox connector accessory (sold separately) that connects with dust extractors.

The QUADSAW® drill attachment will require a drill or drill driver with no load RPM of 1750-2600 and a universal ½-inch chuck (figure 1). It should not be used with an impact driver or a drill in hammer (percussion) mode. The operator marks a centre-point on the wall, positions the QUADSAW centre drill at the desired location for added stability and cuts the desired box keeping it level using a built-in spirit level.

Figure 1.  The QUADSAW®  attached to an applicable drill driver ​(Photo courtesy of QUADSAW)
A vacuum dust control (or local exhaust ventilation) for the QUADSAW® should consists of a vacuum with a disposable filter (a high efficiency particulate air –HEPA–filter is recommended when practical) and a hose connecting to the dust extraction connector handle adapter compatible with a 1.25-inch hose opening (figure 2). The vacuum draws air and dust through the adapter's orifice underneath the attachment, near the point of dust generation, where it is transported through the hose into the vacuum's bag or reservoir.

Figure 2. The QUADSAW®  dust extraction connector handle ​(Photo courtesy of QUADSAW)

QUADSAW® comes with a choice of blade kits (figure 3), that match specific electric boxes dimensions - old-work, new-work, low-voltage, metal caddy clip and switch box, as well as self-contained devices. In each kit, the operator can set up the tool system to cut the desired single or double gang boxes into different types of drywall (including fire, sound & cement-board, Habito and others) up to 1” deep. Future blade kits are being developed for deeper cuts.

Figure 3. QUADSAW® 2020 Blade Kit Specifications 2020. ​(Photo courtesy of QUADSAW)

Risks Addressed:

Prolonged exposure to hand-arm vibration from using oscillating power tools can cause musculoskeletal disorders such as muscle strains; tendonitis, which is inflammation of elbow and wrist tendons; or carpal tunnel syndrome, which is compression of a wrist nerve, resulting in finger numbness and loss of hand strength. Using the QUADSAW® as an alternative to an oscillating power tool (multi-tool) when making drywall cuts can help lower the time exposure to hand-arm vibration.

Cutting drywall is a high dust activity that in the absence of controls would place workers at risk of chronic throat and airway irritation, coughing, phlegm production, and breathing difficulties. The ACGIH recommends that airborne concentrations of insoluble or poorly soluble Particles Not Otherwise Specified (PNOS) be kept below 3 mg/m3 for respirable particles (less than 10 micrometer diameter) and 10 mg/m3 for inhalable particles (less than 100 micrometer diameter). The OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for Particles Not Otherwise Regulated (PNOR) is 5 mg/m3 for the respirable fraction and 15 mg/m3 for total dust.

In addition, silica can be present in cement boards and prolonged exposure may lead to lung disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung scarring and silicosis. Silicosis is an incurable, sometimes fatal disease. The NIOSH-recommended exposure limit (REL) for silica is 0.05 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average concentration for up to a 10-hour workday during a 40-hour workweek. This is one-half of the OSHA standard when the dust is pure silica, but still twice the ACGIH-recommended threshold limit value (TLV) of 0.025 mg/m3.

Another less understood, but emerging hazard is engineered nanomaterials. Incredibly small particles are being added to a broad range of construction products to improve performance, but animal toxicity tests indicate a need for closer scrutiny. There is no evidence yet that engineered nanomaterials have caused harm in exposed workers. However, it is most important that exposures be limited and that precautionary approaches be used to reduce exposure and protect construction workers from the potential hazards of engineered nanomaterials. Nano-size ultrafine titanium dioxide, which can be present in nano-enabled masonry, coating, and paint products, has been found to cause inflammation of the lungs and lung cancer in lab animals. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has determined that ultrafine titanium dioxide should be considered a potential occupational carcinogen (West, 2016).

How Risks are Reduced:

Fast and accurate cutting with the QUADSAW® ensures low trigger time and reduces overall vibration impact on the operator when making work box openings.

Per the manufacturer's claim, while comparative tools have connectors to dust collection, the cutting action pushes the dust away from the tool which creates a plume of dust rendering inefficient dust collection. The QUADSAW® helps reduce dust clouds as it is stationary in position to the well when cutting. Further, the optional dust extraction connector handle can be connected with a vacuum hose to a dust extractor, which further reduces dust when cutting. Here is a video of the tool with an attached dust extractor in operation:

Additional Considerations:

  • Please wear safety glasses during operation of any construction tool or equipment.
  • As is the case with any construction tool and equipment, users should follow manufacturer safety recommendations and comply with any applicable local, state or federal regulations.
  • While the manufacturer has considered developing an all enclosed dust collector, for praticality reasons per user feedback, the elbox connector design was developed to not obscure the view of where the cut is made.
  • Substituting jab saws (to perform manual cutting) with the QUADSAW® can also help eliminate stressful hand and wrist activities.
  • OSHA has no specific regulation or Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for any engineered nanomaterial. However, NIOSH has a recommended exposure limit (REL) for ultrafine titanium dioxide of 0.3 mg/m3 as a time-weighted average (TWA) concentration for up to 10 hours/day during a 40-hour week. The intent of the REL is to lower the risk to workers of the potential for developing lung cancer.


Jean Christophe Le, MPH - CPWR The Center for Construction Research and Training
Bill Kojola - CPWR The Center for Construction Research and Training
Thomas Kavicky (retired) - Safety Director Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters