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 grinders offer a fast and effective way to cut and smooth a variety of surfaces and materials. But they can also be dangerous.
Accident statistics indicate that nearly half of all accidents involving abrasive wheels are due to an unsafe system of work or operator error.
When using angle grinders, it's important to use them correctly. 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 from 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 strong materials, so they have no trouble cutting through human flesh and bones. Contact with the wheel while in operation can, therefore, have serious consequences.
This is more likely to happen with inadequate guarding. Make sure the safety guard is in place, and wear suitable gloves to keep a good grip during use. Always remain alert and keep concentration during 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. You should only use a disc in good condition, within its expiry date, and within its speed limitations. The maximum speed and expiry date will be marked on the wheel, never exceed these.
Only mount abrasive wheels correctly, and on the tool that they are intended for. Many accidents occur because wheels are mounted in unsuitable or improvised ways, or on tools not designed for that type of disc.
Projectiles can be caused by the wheel bursting (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. To stop injury, it's vital you wear the correct PPE to protect from the risk of projectiles, especially eye and head protection.
Kickback can cause serious and even fatal accidents. This happens when the angle grinder grabs of jams on the material when cutting, and is more likely to happen if you are using the wrong wheel, or cutting at the wrong speed.
You can stop this happening by making sure you are using the right wheel for the material, and have set the right speed. Dull and badly set wheels also increase the risk of accidents from kickback. Make sure you are trained in mounting wheels and change your wheels when they become worn.
Kickbacks can cause the user to lose control of the tool, and it can hit the worker or be dropped causing foot and leg injuries. Always wear PPE including eye, head, foot and hand protection, and suitable clothing.
Wearing the right clothing is important 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 are easily drawn in between the wheel and the workpiece and should not be worn. Long hair should be tied back. 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 may not be able to stop this, but you do need to make sure you are in a safe environment for the use of 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.
You should always check the work area before using an angle grinder, and remove or protect any combustible or flammable materials.
Many angle grinders are electric, and you should consider accidents caused by portable electrical equipment. Visually check the tool before use, have periodic portable appliance testing, and route cables away from the wheel to avoid contact.
While we have focused on the main types of angle grinder accidents to avoid, it is worth bearing in mind that there are a few other risks that need to be controlled. These risks may not cause accidents, but long-term use can damage your health.
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.
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