30th March, 2022
Angle grinders are a type of abrasive wheel. They are a handheld power tool often found on construction sites, used for cutting, grinding and polishing. Angle grinder safety is important. Using the wrong wheel for the task or not using the tool correctly can cause serious accidents.
Angle grinders offer a fast and effective way to cut and smooth a variety of surfaces and materials. But they can also be dangerous.
Angle grinders are a type of abrasive wheel. They are powerful, sharp, and can cut through hard materials with ease.
Accident statistics indicate that nearly half of all accidents involving abrasive wheels are due to an unsafe system of work or operator error.
When you use an angle grinder, you need to use it correctly to avoid injury. Angle grinder safety isn't just about changing wheels but also selecting the right attachments, correctly using the tool, and putting the necessary controls in place.
Using the wrong wheel for the task, or using the tool in the wrong way, can harm you in a variety of ways, including:
Many of these injuries can be caused by flying abrasive and metallic particles, ejected materials, and contact with the tool itself. There are several types of accidents caused by angle grinders:
Angle grinders can cut through stone, concrete, metal and other hard materials, so they have no trouble cutting through human flesh and bones.
Contact with the wheel while in operation can have serious consequences, with deep cuts and even amputations.
This type of injury is more likely to happen with inadequate guarding, so check the safety guard is in place before use. Wear suitable gloves to keep a good grip, and always remain alert and keep concentration during the use of the angle grinder.
The risk of breakage is inherent in every abrasive wheel. This risk must be kept low by checking discs, correctly mounting, and safely using angle grinders.
You can stop or reduce the risk of a burst disc by knowing the limitations of the disc you are using. Only use a disc that's in good condition, within its expiry date, and within its speed limitations. The maximum speed and expiry date get marked on each wheel, never exceed these values.
Many accidents happen because wheels are mounted in unsuitable or improvised ways or on tools not designed for that type of disc. Only mount abrasive wheels on a compatible angle grinder for the wheel, and only if you have the training and capabilities to do so.
Projectiles are flying particles and materials. They can happen if the wheel bursts (covered in point 2 above), but also by the material being cut or ground.
It's not always possible to prevent projectiles, but you can minimise the risk by using the right tool, wheel and settings for the material.
Because the risk of projectiles can only be minimised and not eliminated, as an angle grinder safety measure to stop injury, you must wear PPE to protect you from the risk of projectiles, especially eye and head protection.
Kickback can cause severe and even fatal accidents. Kickback happens when the angle grinder grabs or jams on the material when cutting. Kickback can cause the user to lose control of the tool, and it can hit the worker or get dropped, causing foot and leg injuries.
Kickback is more likely if you are using the wrong wheel or running at the wrong speed.
You can reduce the risk of kickback by making sure you are using the right wheel for the material and have your tool at the right speed.
Dull and badly set wheels also increase the risk of accidents from kickback. Make sure you get trained in mounting wheels so that you can change your wheels when they become worn.
As a safety measure when using angle grinders, always wear PPE, including eye, head, foot and hand protection, and suitable clothing.
Wearing the right clothes and protective equipment helps to protect you. But wearing the wrong clothing can also cause an angle grinder accident. As with any rotating disc, there is a risk of entanglement.
Loose clothing such as ties or baggy, long sleeves can get drawn between the wheel and the workpiece. Long hair can also get tangled in the rotating parts of the tool and pull your head towards the blade.
Do not wear loose clothing or jewellery, and tie back long hair. Rags and waste should also be removed from the work area, away from the wheel, as they may also become entangled.
When using an angle grinder, you are likely to produce a large number of sparks. You might not be able to stop this, so you should make sure you are in a safe environment to use an angle grinder.
For example, if you use an angle grinder near a refuelling station or close to the storage or use of flammable or explosive substances, you are creating a risk of fire and explosion.
If there are flammable materials in the work area, they may catch fire from the flying sparks.
Always check the work area before using an angle grinder, and remove or protect any combustible or flammable materials.
Many angle grinders are electric, so you should consider accidents caused by portable electrical equipment too. Visually check the tool before use, have periodic portable appliance testing, and route cables away from the wheel to avoid contact.
In this post, we focused on angle grinder safety issues and different types of angle grinder accidents. But it is also worth bearing in mind that there are a few other risks to control. These risks might not cause accidents, but with long-term use, they can damage your health.
Angle grinders expose users to vibration. Over time this exposure can create health problems like hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
You should also be aware of dust exposure, especially from silica, wood and other harmful dust. Damp down at the source, and wear a dust mask to protect your lungs.
And protect your hearing. Angle grinders can be noisy tools, so check noise exposure for those using the equipment and others nearby.
Need a risk assessment? Cover the hazards and control the risks with the angle grinder risk assessment template, ready to use and easy to edit.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
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