Safety first

Have you ever done something that could be referred to as “shooting from the hip?

Before turning on a right-angle grinder, make sure that the cord isn’t damaged or patched with tape. Also, check that the bearings in the housing aren’t excessively worn.

Have you ever done something that could be referred to as “shooting from the hip?” Oxford Languages defines this as reacting suddenly or without careful consideration of one’s words or actions. It is never good to “shoot from the hip” if you have a right-angle grinder strapped to your leg, ready for quick-draw grinding.

Operators can use right-angle grinders in business and for personal use without any issues. However, a plan needs to be prepared before using any tool. It is recommended to identify what the hazards could potentially be and if operators are wearing the proper PPE.

Possible hazards

When using a right-angle grinder, there are more possible safety hazards than most people might realize. Therefore, to stay safe, it’s important to know about all of the potential hazards and then seek out safety guidelines and advice to ensure that operators won’t be at risk for injury. To help in those efforts, here is a comprehensive list of possible safety hazards and tips to avoid them.

  • Fire danger: Identify and remove any flammable items around the workpiece or where the spark pattern can reach. Always keep a fire extinguisher available.
  • Ventilation: During grinding, metal dust can create a harmful cloud to breathe in and that can react with flames. Be sure the work environment is properly ventilated.
  • Grinder speed: Spinning a grinding wheel too fast can cause it to come apart, while running it too slow breaks down the wheel faster, causing premature wear.
  • Possible maintenance issues: Is the grinder properly maintained? For example, check to see that the cord is not damaged or patched with tape, or the bearings in the housing are not excessively worn because these issues can cause the grinder to catch fire. Also, damaged housing can lead to electric shock or it can come apart in the operator’s hands while grinding.
  • Guard installation and usage: Check that all guards are appropriately installed and being used. Wheel guards save eyes, fingers and lives. Make sure the guards are properly located so if any of the abrasive becomes damaged, the debris will hit the guard and not the operator. If the operation prevents a guard from being used, rethink the process and tool being used. Simply removing the guard is not the right solution.
  • Secure workpiece: Ensure the workpiece is strapped or held in place while grinding. It is not recommended to use one hand to hold the workpiece while the other hand holds the grinder.
  • Damaged grinder or wheel: Inspect backup pads and grinding wheels before using. Never drop or place a right-angle grinder on the wheel because it can cause the wheel to become damaged. If the grinder is dropped with a wheel installed in it, replace the wheel even if there is no visible damage.
  • Improper storage: Store all abrasives between 60 and 80 degrees F and 35 to 50 percent relative humidity. Also, rotate stock to prevent the product from sitting too long in storage.
  • Grinding wheel setup: Use products correctly and as they are intended to be used. For example, do not grind with a cutoff wheel or use a grinding wheel at too flat or too sharp of an angle. Avoid excessive force or bouncing the abrasive off the workpiece as it will damage the wheel or disc. Fiber and quick-change discs must be used with a backup pad.
  • Poor posture: Proper body stance while grinding can prevent tripping and upper body fatigue. Use the mid and lower body to move the upper body in order to reduce injury to elbows and shoulders. The upper body should be holding the grinder while the lower body helps move the grinder back and forth or up and down.
  • Slippage: Use both hands and the handle while grinding to prevent the grinder from getting away.

Proper PPE

As with almost every operation in a factory or manufacturing shop, PPE is the first line of defense for potential safety hazards. In terms of right-angle grinder applications, it is always a must. Here is some of the recommended PPE to use:

  • Use eye protection be it goggles or safety glasses.
  • Face shields are recommended to prevent small metal and abrasive particles from hitting the face and eyes.
  • Gloves reduce the chances of injury if the workpiece becomes hot while grinding and prevent cuts from metal and abrasives.
  • A heavy cotton or leather apron and long-sleeved shirt prevents debris from hitting open skin.
  • Cotton pants and steel toe shoes prevent leg and foot injuries if a workpiece or grinder is dropped or if coming in contact with debris from the grinder while in use.
  • Hearing protection must be used correctly to prevent long-term damage.
When using a grinder, proper PPE, such as safety goggles and a face shield, are a must.

Online safety resource

The Norton Safety Resource Microsite offers a range of resources to help ensure the safe design, application and use of Norton abrasive products. Beginning in 1885 with the research, advocacy and leadership of the founders of Norton Co., the company’s commitment to safety has continued through the work of its product safety department. Norton | Saint-Gobain has more than 100 years of service to various safety programs such as ANSI, UAMA and others.

Educational content on the new online safety resource includes safety data sheets that are accessed by entering the UPC code found on Norton products. Safety guides for Norton’s most popular products such as grinding wheels, portable wheels and coated/non-woven abrasives are offered. Ten informative safety videos cover a range of applications, including using form belts, precision grinding and dressing, guard conversions on right-angle grinders, wheel mounting, abrasives use on railroads and in foundries, and grinding wheel safety presented in English, Spanish and French.

A spotlight on the product safety department is provided to get to know the team at Norton | Saint-Gobain whose mission is to design, manufacture and provide safe products. A safety icon library shows how to identify different types of safety icons including hazard alert, prohibition, mandatory action and proper machine use. Visitors can browse the latest articles to gain insight from Norton experts on abrasives safety and more. And the latest Norton safety poster is also available to order in English, Spanish or French.

As mentioned at the opening of this article – and what can’t be stressed enough – is that it’s important to consider all of the potential safety hazards to ensure that operators stay safe. Having a plan before grinding will reduce injuries and prevent damage to the workpiece.

Norton | Saint-Gobain

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