Cleaning up the Industrial Industry

Angle Grinders: Five Safety Guidelines To Keep In Mind

by Alfredo Harper

It would be difficult to imagine being a welder without having access to an angle grinder. These do-it-all tools are able to cut, grind, and finish metal in all kinds of tough environments and at remote job-sites. However, it is said that familiarity breeds contempt, and a lax attitude when using angle grinders can be hazardous to the health of welders. Below are five safety guidelines that should be kept in mind when using an angle grinder:

Always use eye and hearing protection

Angle grinders produce rotational speeds of over 10,000 revolutions per minute (RPM). That kind of speed can deflect solid objects at high velocities, and that's why wearing eye protection is an absolute must. Even better, use a full face shield whenever possible to protect your mouth, nose and cheeks from being struck by a piece of debris. Be sure any eye or face protection you choose is compliant with ANSI Z87.1-1989 standards in order to provide maximum protection against high-speed strikes.

Your hearing is also worth protecting; that's why you should also wear ear plugs or muffs when using an angle grinder. Some models generate noise in excess of 100 decibels, and that level can cause permanent hearing damage within a matter of just a few minutes of use per day.

Wear tight-fitting gloves

When using an angle grinder, use a pair of high-quality work gloves that are designed to provide protection against superficial cuts and scratches. Wire brush wheels can shed their bristles, and a pair of gloves is helpful in keeping them out of your skin. However, be sure the gloves you choose are tight-fitting and do not have any loose pieces of fabric or material hanging from them. If the material is caught by a rotating wheel, it could pull your fingers into the grinder, and the consequences could be grim.

Keep a safe distance from flammable objects

Angle grinders produce showers of spark when used on most metals, especially iron and steel, and those sparks are more than capable of igniting flammable materials. Direct the sparks away from anything that might catch fire or be damaged by the heat. Steer clear of grinding around carpeted floors or wood that is freshly finished with oil-based products. Never use a grinder in close proximity to gasoline or other flammable fuels, and be cautious when working close to acetylene and oxygen bottles. Since many flammable gases are heavier than air, be especially cautious if you need to grind in a depressed area such as a basement, service pit or other low spots. Finally, if you detect an odor of natural gas in the area, pause your work until you can confirm there are no leaks.

Secure all work pieces

Anytime you are using an angle grinder, be sure the object being worked on is secure and unmovable. Objects should either be heavy enough on their own to prevent any sudden shifting, or they should be securely clamped in a vise or to a work bench. Be sure that you periodically check your vise and clamps for a tight hold; the vibrations can loosen the grip on the work piece, and you may be caught off-guard if it shifts out of position.

Replace damaged or worn wheels

Angle grinder wheels are not designed to last indefinitely, and you will need to monitor them for any signs of fatigue or cracking. Never use a wheel that has been damaged or is missing material; this can unbalance the angle grinder when you turn-on the power, and you may lose control of the machine. In addition, worn or damaged wheels can fragment at high speed, and this could send potentially-deadly debris flying in all directions. When replacing wheels, be sure that you disconnect the source of power, whether electric or pneumatic, from the angle grinder itself.

For more information about the safety of on-site welding, contact an experienced company like Suburban Welding & Steel LLC