Angle grinders are undoubtedly very useful tools. They can handle a variety of attachments such as wire discs, cutting discs, and grinding discs, and can therefore perform a variety of tasks. However, those discs spin at extremely high speeds, and whenever such high amounts of speed and power are involved, there is a potential for injury to occur.
Today, we are here to talk about what makes an angle grinder so dangerous, and what you can do to keep safe while using one. These are the most important angle grinder safety tips to follow.
What Makes an Angle Grinder So Dangerous?
Angle grinders feature a variety of very hard wheels that spin at extreme speeds. They generally spin at up to 11,000 revolutions per minute. Moreover, angle grinders are designed to work on extremely hard and tough materials, things like metal pipes. This combination of a powerful machine and difficult to work with materials leads to serious potential for accidents to occur.
When using an angle grinder, there is always the possibility of kickback occurring, which is when the machine jumps from the workpiece and shoots backward towards the user. If you think that an angle grinder can do serious damage to a metal pipe, you can just imagine what it can do to your fingers and hands, and any other body parts too. The potential for that high-speed disc to come into contact with you is perhaps the biggest danger of all.
Furthermore, those discs can break or shatter, thus sending pieces flying in your direction. Pieces of the workpiece being ground also have the potential to become dislodged and come flying at you. Finally, the other thing that makes angle grinders so dangerous is that they are a bit of a fire hazard. They produce a lot of heat, and when metal is being ground, they send hot sparks shooting all over the place.
8 Angle Grinder Safety Tips
Now that we know what makes an angle grinder so dangerous, let’s cover the most important angle grinder safety tips that you absolutely need to adhere to.
1. Always Wear Protective Equipment
Some people might think that squinting their eyes while doing some grinding will allow for adequate protection. This is obviously not the case. Pieces of the discs or the workpieces can become dislodged and fly straight at your eyes. It would not be the first time an angle grinder has caused vision loss, or worse. Therefore, wearing industry-standard eye protection, safety glasses, is an absolute must.
Next, angle grinders are quite loud, so to prevent yourself from suffering hearing loss from prolonged use, hearing protection is recommended as well.
There are also other pieces of protective gear to be worn here, items like long-sleeved clothing made of natural fibers (tight-fitting), thick leather gloves, an apron, and perhaps most important of all, respiratory protection. The fumes created when grinding are very hazardous to your lungs, so a face mask, or even better, a respirator, should be worn at all times.
2. The Safety Guards are There for a Reason
Angle grinders usually come complete with guards that are placed between the grinding wheel and the user. These are generally referred to as burst guards. They are designed to prevent pieces of the disc from flying into your face in the event that it shatters or cracks. It also helps prevent pieces of the workpiece being ground from flying in your direction.
The tip here is that you should never remove these guards. Some people may remove these guards so they can grind something in a tight space. People, if you can’t get to what you need to grind with the guard in place, then you need to choose a different tool or method to complete the task at hand. Never remove a guard from an angle grinder.
3. Always Use the Right Wheels
Angle grinders are not all the same, and some are designed to use certain discs and wheels, whereas other machines are designed to use others. You always need to use the recommended disc size for the angle grinder in question. Never use a larger or smaller disc size than is recommended.
Using the wrong disc size, even if you can fit it onto the grinder, can result in the disc wobbling, becoming unstable, and even causing kickback. This is by far one of the biggest mistakes that newbie angle grinder users make.
4. Don’t Be an Inventor
When we say don’t be an inventor, what we mean is that you should never try to make modifications to your angle grinder. You never want to make your own DIY customizations for an angle grinder, or really for any such tool in general.
Don’t start building rigs and jigs, and don’t use accessories that aren’t intended for angle grinders. By using the wrong angle grinder parts and accessories, as well as homemade contraptions, you put yourself and those around you at serious risk of injury. You’ll definitely void the warranty on the machine too.
5. Use the Right Speed
Something else to keep in mind is that certain wheels and discs are designed to be used at certain speeds. For instance, a small wire disc needs to spin at a different speed than a large grinding disc. Both the size and the type of the disc being used will determine the appropriate speed range.
Perhaps the biggest tip to follow here is to never use any kind of abrasive disc that has to spin at a slower speed than your machine can move at. Using such abrasive discs with excessive speed can be extremely dangerous. Not only do you risk breaking the disc, but it may also kickback or shatter during use.
6. Always Tighten the Discs Properly
One mistake that many make is to not tighten the discs properly. A loose disc can wobble and cause kickback, it can lead to the disc shattering, and it can even cause the discs to come detached from the machine. Therefore, you always want to use the included pin wrench to ensure that the disc is fitted as tightly and securely on the angle grinder as possible.
Never tighten the wheels with just your hands, because you won’t ever be able to tighten them enough to be truly safe. Sorry to burst your bubble folks, but your fingers just aren’t that strong.
7. Always Inspect Your Machine and the Discs
Always inspect the grinder and the abrasive discs before using an angle grinder. If a disc has been dropped, or if it is just old and past its prime, then it may have been damaged to the point where it is no longer safe to use. Never use wheels or discs that have cracks, are bent, warped, or are anything but in perfect condition.
Using abrasives that are in prime condition will help make any task at hand much easier, and much safer too.
Once you are sure that the disc is fine, attach it to the grinder and then turn it on to see if everything feels, looks, and sounds alright. If there is something wrong, you will be able to see, hear, and feel it. On a side note, this inspection process will also give the grinder a chance to warm up before heavy use.
8. Stay Away from Flammables
The final tip we want to leave you with for today is to always stay clear of anything flammable. When grinding metal, a lot of sparks are produced. Those sparks are hot, and if there are flammable objects nearby, things like very dry wood, sawdust, synthetic clothing, and flammable liquids, then there is a big chance that you may start a fire. Anything that can catch fire should be removed from the area before you start grinding.
What Can Happen If You Mishandle an Angle Grinder?
As we touched on above, there are a variety of things that can happen if you mishandle an angle grinder, with it kicking back and causing serious injury to you being the biggest issue of all. If mishandled an angle grinder may also cause pieces of the grinding discs or the workpiece to shoot back at you.
This can cause serious injuries to eyes, limbs, and more, and in some cases has even led to fatalities.
There is always a chance of you starting a fire as well, especially if you do lots of grinding near flammable materials.
That said, if you follow all of the tips that we laid out above, then you should be able to safely use an angle grinder without injuring yourself or those around you.
As you can see, while angle grinders are not the safest tools around, if you use them properly, you can make them safe, or at least as safe as humanly possible. Follow all of the angle grinder safety tips that we have discussed here today to minimize the chance of an accident occuring.