Table of Contents
Any powered tool can pose a safety risk and when we are using an angle grinder, this risk is pretty significant. But it might surprise you to learn that almost half of all angle grinder accidents are down to improper use rather than the tool itself. For this reason, it is essential that, when learning to use an angle grinder, you make safety your number one priority.
Angle Grinder Injuries
There are many different types of injury that can occur as a result of angle grinder accidents. One of the most common are cuts or abrasions to the skin and in the most severe cases, amputation of a finger. Since an angle grinder is designed to cut through very tough materials, cutting through your bone and flesh will be like a hot knife through butter; ensuring correct safety precautions is therefore essential.
It is also very common for users to experience head and foot injuries or other types of injury related to contact with the tool. But in addition to this, these things can be caused by materials and sparks flying back from the angle grinder.
How To Prevent Accidents With An Angle Grinder
As we have discovered, many angle grinder accidents are a result of the user not operating the tool correctly. To ensure that accidents are, as much as possible, avoided, there are several things you can do.
Use PPE (personal protection equipment)
One of the most simple yet most frequently overlooked aspects of using an angle grinder is ensuring that the correct PPE is worn. Many people are blase about this and think ‘It’ll be OK, I’ll only be using the tool for a few minutes, only to find themselves at A&E shortly after.
The most basic form of PPE but one that could save you a finger is a pair of work gloves. However, you should ensure that these are well-fitting and that you retain full dexterity. Additionally, you should always wear safety glasses. These should not only cover the front of the eyes but should offer full protection as flying debris can enter from any angle.
Moreover, users may consider wearing a dust mask, particularly when working with things like mortar and concrete where a lot of dust is inevitable. While a one off job might not cause significant lung damage; professionals who use these tools on a daily basis will be at risk of serious problems.
Always Read The Instructions That Came With Your Angle Grinder
When you get your angle grinder, we understand that you’ll be eager to put it to good use. If you’re a total beginner, it can be useful to read beginner’s guides, like the one we have put together here. But more than this, every tool will be different and will have its own quirks and features.
For this reason, it is vital that you read the instruction manual fully before attempting to use the tool. If there is anything you are unclear about, you will be able to find contact details for the manufacturer on the packaging; don’t hesitate to call them and ask for more information. This may take additional time but it is worth it for your safety.
Use The Side Support Handle
Angle grinders come with a side support handle. While the tool is typically gripped from the back, this doesn’t give the user a good degree of control over it. These side support handles are designed so that you can better control and grip your appliance.
It may surprise you to learn that a lot of seasoned angle grinder users find that the side handle gets in the way and so either remove it or never attach it in the first place. This is a classic mistake and sees a lot of people ending up with an injury they didn’t bargain for.
While it may take some getting used to, there is nothing more important than keeping two hands on your tool at all times. You will also find that many manufacturers now have side handles that can be adjusted to a position that is more comfortable for you; so be sure to make use of this feature.
Do Not Remove The Blade/Safety Guard
The blade guard, sometimes called the safety guard, is there for a reason; to protect you so it should never be removed, no matter how tempting it may be. In days gone by, blade guards may have been set in one position which could make it trickier to see what you were doing. For this reason, many users removed the guard before starting the tool.
However, this is something that manufacturers cottoned onto, especially with the number of reports of accidents. So now you will find that most angle grinders come with an adjustable blade guard which makes life easier for you without having to compromise on safety.
Position The Blade/Safety Guard Correctly Depending On What You Are Using It For
Now that we know that safety guards can be repositioned, it is also important to know when you need to do this. Not only are these guards positionable for convenience but they can also be used to complement the kind of work you are doing.
In most cases, you will find that there is a setting for cutting and another for grinding. Having the blade guard in the right position will allow you easier access to your work. At times when you need to get into tight angles, this repositioning is imperative so always be sure that you take the time to set the guard in the right position before beginning.
Use The Correct Type And Sized Blade/Accessory
One of the great things about the angle grinder is that it is a very diverse tool and can be used for a multitude of applications. You will notice that there are many different accessories and blades/discs that can be attached depending on the type of job you need to do.
Unfortunately, there are some blades that cannot be attached and one of the most obvious is the saw-toothed blade. Yet amazingly, many people still attempt to use these. What you need to keep in mind is that these blades are designed for saws that cut away from you whereas an angle grinder cuts towards you; this is the first reason why angle-grinder specific blades should always be used.
Moreover, angle grinders can turn at up to 11,000RPM which is significantly less than, let’s say your average circular saw, which might only run up to 7000RPM. Physics would dictate that you need a much more lightweight accessory that is designed for these types of tools.
But the size of the blade or accessory is just as important. Angle grinders come in different sizes and this relates to the size of the discs that you can attach to the spindle. If you are using an angle grinder with a larger disc, this will generally be suited to more heavy-duty work whereas a smaller disc is great for lightweight applications and finer work.
More than this, if you try to use a blade that is too large for the tool, there is an increased risk of kickback. If this happens, there is a significant chance that the tool will kick back towards you and you do not want to be in the way of an out of control angle grinder!
Insert The Blade The Correct Way Round
According to Haspod, there is an incredible number of angle grinder accidents relating to the way that the blades are inserted; incorrectly. To avoid sustaining an injury, it is vital that you always follow the instructions and put the blade in as intended.
Furthermore, you should only ever use blades and wheels that are intended for the tool you are using.
Unplug The Tool When Changing Blade Or Adjusting The Safety Guard
It can be tempting to leave your angle grinder connected to its power source when performing maintenance or changing the blade. Many people think that they would never accidentally turn the tool on but you may be surprised how frequently this happens.
The only way to ensure that the angle grinder does not start up unintentionally is to unplug it from the mains or remove the batteries if you are using a cordless tool.
Keep Hands And Clothing Away From The Blade
It should go without saying that you should not put your hands or any other part of your body near the blade when it is in motion. Doing this will result in a nasty injury. However, what many novice angle grinder users don’t keep in mind is that their clothing may also pose a risk.
Loose clothing could become tangled in the blade so you should always wear fitted garments that do not flap around. Furthermore, if you have long hair, this should be kept tied back and well out of the way of the blade; it doesn’t take us to tell you the devastation that could follow if this is not done.
What PPE Is Recommended?
While we have already discussed the important types of PPE that are recommended when using an angle grinder, here is a quick recap of this extremely important safety aspect.
- Eye goggles
- Dust mask
- Work gloves
- Hearing protection
- Fire retardant clothing
- Face shield for heavy duty work
Precautions To Take When Cutting Different Types Of Material
As well as ensuring safe and correct use of the angle grinder, it is also important to note that there are different precautions you might take when working with different types of materials.
When working with ceramics such as floor tiles, the noise of the angle grinder can be significant so in this case, ear defenders are a must. Depending on the type of stone you are cutting, there may also be a lot more dust and so it is important to wear the correct dust mask or face shield to protect you from this.
Angle grinders can be very useful for cutting straight lines in metal. Some types of metal, for example, stainless steel could be potentially riskier. Moreover, if you are working with anything that may contain lead, additional precautions should be taken. The simplest way to combat this is to wear a respirator as this will provide sufficient protection from hazardous dust.
Mortar and Grout
With a lot of dust coming from the mortar or grout, it can be helpful to ensure that the room is well ventilated. But what is most important when using the tool for grinding materials like grout or mortar is that you never use cutting blades; these are not designed for this purpose and there is a very significant risk that they will shatter during use.
An angle grinder is an invaluable tool that can be used for a variety of applications, however, since these tools are extremely powerful and rotate at very high speeds, they can be dangerous when not used correctly. Following the tips in our angle grinder safety guide will ensure that your risk of an accident is minimal.