An angle grinder is a hand-held power tool that employs an abrasive wheel to cut, grind, polish, or shape metal or wood. It’s considered a versatile tool that comes with two rotating discs each powered by an electric motor with a gearbox. The discs are rotated at high speed and the teeth on the discs cut through any material that comes into contact with them.
It is commonly used in industrial settings to cut sheet metal into parts for welding, fabrication, or to make holes and shape surfaces. Some people also use it to remove paint from wood and other surfaces. However, the angle grinder has also been known to cause serious injuries and fatalities due to its power and speed. Here are a few safety concerns associated with the use of an angle grinder:
- A wrong angle will result in the cutting wheel getting stuck and the user might get injured.
- Using too much force while grinding can lead to sparks flying from the wheel and cause fires or explosions.
- Dust explosions occur due to the accumulation of particles on the wheel and in its air intake, which causes enough pressure to explode when it reaches a certain level.
How Does It Work?
The angle grinder’s design provides increased power over other tools such as a hacksaw or reciprocating saw. It works by spinning a wheel with sharp teeth along its edge and using centrifugal force to cut through the material. The speed of the motor is controlled by the operator using an onboard handgrip. It normally has two wheels that rotate in opposite directions and a handle with an adjustable-angle head. Ultimately, it also has variable speed settings to control how fast it rotates, depending on what you are cutting or grinding with it.
How to Safely Use an Angle Grinder?
An angle grinder is an essential tool for any professional mason or carpenter. However, it can also be dangerous and can cause severe injuries if not used properly. Hence, certain precautions should be taken when using an angle grinder. Here are some of the following safety tips:
Wear Proper PPE
The first step in using an angle grinder is always wearing PPE (personal protective equipment). It includes safety glasses and ear protection. If you have long hair or dreadlocks, tie them back so it doesn’t get caught in the spinning blades of the angle grinder. Also, it will prevent you from being exposed to high dust and debris levels, leading to serious health problems in the long run.
Appropriate Wheel Size
The most important precaution when using an angle grinder is to use the proper wheel size. To ensure safety, you should use a wheel with a diameter of 3-5/8 inches or 7/16 inches. However, wheel sizes vary according to the material. For instance, the correct wheel size for an angle grinder to specifically cut wood or plastic is 6 inches. If your wheel size is smaller than these dimensions, it will make it difficult for you to use the tool properly as it will not have enough power to cut through material effectively. In the worst scenario, the wobbling and instability of the wheel can kick back toward the operator, leading to injury. Always remember that the sizes of the wheels affect the RPMs.
Secure the Work Area
Ensure that you have secured your work area before starting your project. Always keep the work area free from clutter and ensure no people or obstacles are nearby. As a result, there will be no way for anyone to walk in unexpectedly and get hurt by flying debris or sparks from the machine itself.
Inspect the Abrasives
When these abrasives are used on metal and other hard surfaces, they can create a lot of heat that can burn your hand or cause other damage if not handled correctly. Consequently, inspecting the abrasive will help you use your angle grinder safely and efficiently. In addition, you should inspect how long it has been used to determine its condition. Also, don’t forget to check whether the plastic or metal casing is intact or not. If there are any cracks or chips on the casing, it may lead to serious accidents. Thus, always inspect the wheel first, whether you are working with a brand new abrasive or a used disc.
Maintain Control With Two Hands
Most people who use an angle grinder for the first time tend to use one hand only because they want to get the job done quickly. However, this can be dangerous as you might end up cutting off your fingers or hand if you don’t maintain control with both hands. To maintain control, you need to have a firm hold on the handle and the guard of the tool. You should also ensure that your fingers are well-positioned around the trigger. Finally, keep your hands away from moving parts, such as gears, belts, and spindles.
Tighten the Discs
Always ensure the discs are properly tightened before using the angle grinder. It will ensure that the disc stays in place and doesn’t fly off when using the tool. To tighten discs properly, you need to use a wrench or pliers. Moreover, it would help if you started with the teeth of the disc facing outwards and then turned them towards the center by hand so that they are in line with each other. Further, you may tighten them by turning the nut clockwise until it’s tight enough.
The Bottom Line
Operator error is one of the most common causes of accidents industry-wide. The possibility of accidents increases when an operator takes on a task they do not fully understand or are unfamiliar with. For example, a new operator may be unaware of some safety precautions that should be taken while using an angle grinder, such as wearing protective clothing, using proper hand protection, and keeping their hands away from moving parts. Therefore, all operators must follow the safety precautions and manuals before initiating the task with such a risky tool.