Safety hazards involved with using portable cutting and grinding equipment

As with any power tool personal protective equipment is vital when using angle grinders. Typical hazards when using angle grinders can be summarised as follows:

  • Flying particles. When used correctly particles of the work material as well as that of disc will leave the working area. These particles may leave the working area at speeds of up to 80 Metres per second (M/S), approximately 180 miles per hour. Although the guard should be positioned in a manner that protects the operator, some of the particles may impact on the body. It is vital that operators wear protection suitable for impact resistance that covers the eyes but also the face as particle impact can cause serious scarring to the skin. Attention should be paid to others nearby who may require the same protective equipment or at least protective spectacles or goggles. As well as protection to the face many of the particles coming from the working area will be in the form of sparks. These sparks can easily set light to clothing. Where possible the use of leather overalls and gauntlets should be considered as well as flame retardant clothing.
  • Noise. Noise from the machine during use can damage hearing. Care should be taken in choosing the right type of hearing protection to prevent loss of hearing or damage that may result in industrial diseases such as tinnitus. Advice on many aspects of hearing are available to read and download on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) web site.
  • Vibration. The effects of excessive vibration to an operator’s health can be devastating and as with noise can worsen with use. Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) can leave the operator with pain and restrictive use of fingers, hands and arms. The HSE have extensive information available to read and download including methods to monitor vibration and the effect it can have on the health of an operator. Improvements have been made to angle grinders to reduce vibration and their are many type of gloves available that can reduce the effects of vibration. More on HAVS.
  • Dust and vapours. This may stay air born for a considerable time especially when angle grinders are used in confined spaces. Under all circumstances the operator should wear appropriate respiratory protection. Consideration should be given to the type and nature of the dust and vapours in determining the level of respiratory protection required as well as the protection required by others in or near the working area. Correct fitting of the mask is important to avoid the problem of dust entering the respiratory area. As with noise and vibration useful information is available on the HSE website.
  • Insecure work-piece. Because of the surface roughness of the work-piece care should be given as to the type of gloves required in its handling. When working with an angle grinder the work-piece needs to be fully secure, to prevent possible kick-back, allowing the operator to use the angle grinder two handed with one on the handle and the other hand on the body of the machine. Because of this, and especially with regard to cutting components, it may be expected that part of the work-piece may move from the working area. Therefore it is vital that the operator wears shoes or boots that give adequate protection from any possible contact.

For many operators the above mentioned hazards are typical of their working environment. Other types of PPE may be required to work safely and can include high visibility clothing, hard hat and more.

At Abtec we recognise that PPE is a vital part of keeping the operator of the angle grinder safe from injury. We strongly recommend before using an angle grinder the operator has suitable training in the use of angle grinders and in the use of the correct type of PPE.

More on training

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