Angle grinders in the metal manufacturing industry
- Did you know?
- Choosing the right tool
- Safe work procedures
- Personal protective equipment
- Instruction, training and supervision
Information in this fact sheet is specifically about angle grinders used for grinding metal in fabrication work, and not for grinders used with cutting discs.
Angle grinders used with cutting discs expose workers to a range of severe additional hazards. Safe work procedures should ensure that, wherever a safer alternative cutting tool is available or can be obtained, an angle grinder is not used as a cutting tool.
Angle grinders are one of the most dangerous hand tools in the manufacturing metal products industry.
Kickback, where the disc is thrust away from the object it is grinding, can result in severe cuts to hands, arms, head, torso and legs.
Discs can shatter or explode, sending pieces flying across the workshop. A boilermaker was thrown backwards more than 2 metres when a disc exploded, seriously injuring his hand.
Most angle grinder injuries are from metal particles lodging in the operator's eye.
The following questions are to help toolbox meetings to identify workplace hazards and to reduce the risks.
Is the grinding work necessary or could a different tool be used with less risk?
Is the correct size of grinder used for the job? Is there a risk of losing control of a heavier, more powerful tool? Could a smaller model be used for some or all of the work?
Is the correct disc used for the job, depending on:
- the type of material being worked on?
- the size of the disc?
Does the guard cover half the disc between the operator and the disc?
Does the grinder have an automatic cut - off or "deadman" switch as part of the handgrip, cutting off the power as soon as finger pressure is released? This may not be necessary for certain tasks with smaller models.
When replacement tools are purchased, does your workplace choose grinders that:
- are as light as practicable?
- have adjustable handles that can be moved to suit both left and right handed operators?
- have a "deadman" switch that is easy to hold?
Every employee who uses an angle grinder must receive training and instruction in safe work procedures.
Does your workplace have safe work procedures that ensure all operators:
- allow the grinder to "run up" to operating speed before applying it to the job?
- hold the grinder against the workpiece with minimum pressure, so the disc doesn't "dig in" and cause it to kick back?
- never bump the grinder on to the job, or let the disc hit any other object while grinding?
- keep the grinding disc at a 15 to 30 degree angle to the work?
- make sure the workpiece is held firmly in a bench vice, where necessary?
- keep the work at waist height during grinding, where possible?
- adopt a comfortable stance, with feet apart and well balanced, and with a clear view of the job?
- wear kneepads if work at floor level cannot be avoided?
- never use a grinder between the legs while sitting on the floor?
- stop the grinder at regular intervals for a short break to rest your hands and arms?
- disconnect the power and place the grinder on a bench with the disc facing upwards when not in use?
- never put a grinder down until the disc stops rotating?
- remove the plug from the power point before changing discs?
- never use a cut off wheel for grinding or a grinding disc for cutting?
Is the operator trained to check before each use that:
- the correct type of disc is being used?
- the guard and handles are secure?
- the correct flange and locking nut is in place for the type of disc being used? Otherwise the disc can shatter at high speed.
- there are no defects or damage to the disc?
- any disc that has been dropped or become damp is thrown away? Cracked or weakened discs can shatter in use.
Are welding screens placed between workers to stop flying particles and sparks?
Are all employees trained to keep at a safe distance when an angle grinder is used?
Are two hands always used to operate an angle grinder? One hand should grip the handle and "deadman" switch while the other supports the weight of the tool.
Is it workplace safety policy never to remove the guard or handles from an angle grinder?
Is appropriate protective equipment provided and used, for example:
- wide vision goggles, or safety glasses and a faceshield?
- a hood for extra protection against particles rebounding in a confined space?
- safety boots with steel toecaps?
- overalls or other close - fitting clothing?
- well - fitting gloves that allow a good grip of the tool?
Have all operators of angle grinders been given appropriate instruction and training, including safety instructions provided by the angle grinder manufacturer?
Have all operators been trained in safe work procedures specific to the tasks being done at the workplace?
Is one-to-one supervision provided for people receiving training, or who are unfamiliar with the use of angle grinders?
Are all angle grinders regularly checked for electrical safety to ensure:
- no breaks or damage to the machine's outer body?
- all screws tight?
- brush caps intact and firmly in position?
- sheathing of flexible cord held securely at the tool?
- no exposed wires?
- flexible cord in good condition, free from cuts or breaks?
- plugs and extension sockets free from cracks or damage?
- a safety switch or residual current device (RCD) is always used?
Are all defects repaired by a licensed electrical person?