How to stay safe when grinding
A razor-sharp wheel spinning at 6500 RPM is never going to be a 100% safe tool to be around. However, there’s plenty that you can do to stay safe on site when using a grinder.
Large 9” angle grinders have serious power, and safety and PPE procedures should be closely followed to avoid injury when using them. Even smaller 5” grinders are cause for concern if they are not used properly.
In particular, taking safety shortcuts is a bad idea: removing guards, using bigger wheels than the tool is designed for, or not using the proper tools to secure the wheels can all cause safety hazards.
Read on to see how to work more safely with your angle grinder.
Reducing hazards when using an angle grinder
Making sure that you do not use a grinder that is overpowered for the job is important. Additionally, ensure that the type of disc used is suitable for the task. The wrong disc could shatter or ‘grab’ the item you’re working on, causing kickback and therefore injury.
Furthermore, the guards must never be removed. They’re there for a reason! Guards should be positioned so they cover half of the disc area and sit between the disc and the operator.
As always, it’s best to follow the hierarchy of workplace hazard controls to try and engineer out hazards. This means you could potentially change your work processes or use administrative controls before resorting to using safety gear.
Angle grinders can present hazards such as sudden kickbacks, impact hazards from shattered wheels, as well as serious cuts and lacerations. Bystanders can be put at risk too if the person grinding hasn’t allowed for a wide safety zone around the area.
Things to check before you start
- Ensure operators are properly trained.
- Choose an angle grinder that has an automatic cut-off or dead-man switch as part of the handgrip. This is designed to cut off power as soon as finger pressure is released.
- Make sure there are no defects, cracks or damage to the disc, and ensure the type of disc is appropriate for the material being cut or ground.
- Ensure the correct flange and locking nut is in place for the type of disc being used, otherwise, the disc can shatter at high speed
- Only use the tightening tool supplied by the manufacturer to tighten the disc – other methods can damage both the disc and grinder
- Check the guard and handles are secure
- Check you’re using the correct disc diameter and central disc hole size
Finally – use a quality grinder from a reputable brand, such as the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 9” Angle Grinder.
PPE for grinding
Your state workplace safety authority can provide more detailed information, however, the following PPE will help to protect you on the job. Note you should always check with your workplace health and safety officer regarding what is required for your individual situation.
- Protect your eyes and face: wide vision goggles or medium impact safety glasses should be used at a minimum. For 9” angle grinders, a face shield combined with goggles or glasses can provide high impact protection. As per Australian Standard AS1337, the highest level of protection that glasses and goggles can provide is medium impact protection, which is rated as particles travelling at 6mm 45m/s. Large grinders can throw particles at faster speeds, and therefore high impact protection is the safest option. High impact rated face shields provide protection for 6mm particles travelling at 120m/s. (Here’s some more information from eyewear manufacturers Uvex on the different levels of protection.)
- Protect your ears: ear muffs or ear plugs will lessen the volume. Class 5 hearing protection is ideal, although the choice of grinding or cutting disc, as well as the type of material the grinder is being used on, will affect the decibel rating.
- Safety boots with steel toecaps are a must, as well as properly fitted clothing without loose or dangling parts that could be caught in the grinder.
- Additionally, comfortable work gloves will provide good grip and help prevent dropping or losing control of the grinder. Gloves that provide excellent dexterity and cut resistance such as a cut 5 rated glove are a good choice.
Section 298 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 - Security of Workplace
"A person with management or control of a workplace at which construction work is carried out must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace is secured from unauthorised access."
Disclaimer: This information is provided as an introductory guide only and does not constitute professional advice. Ensure you make your own independent enquiries before deciding if a particular product is right for you. Consult the regulations and standards applicable to your area and check with your workplace health and safety representative for further information. Jaybro does not warrant the accuracy, content, completeness or suitability of the information on this site (or any site owned by the Jaybro Group) for your individual purposes.