It’s a handheld tool with a sharp disc at one end and is used for grinding, cutting, slicing, polishing, sanding etc.
Being a power tool, it works by spinning the disc at lightning speeds (try over 100 times every second!) to achieve grinding perfection.
Unfortunately, in its pursuit for grinding perfection, even the best angle grinders, when handled recklessly (read: with a disregard for safety precautions) can be hazardous to life and limb, and that ought to scare the livin’ bejesus out of even the most foolhardy hillbilly!
With that in mind, here are some safety precautions to keep in mind when using an angle grinder:
1. Wear proper gear
Angle grinder safety starts by ensuring you’re dressed appropriately from head to toe.
Ensure that you’re wearing the following protective articles before operating the grinder:
-> Glasses (a full face helmet is strongly recommended)
-> Work overalls
Since angle grinders operate at such high speeds, random chunks of debris flying towards you won’t be an infrequent occurrence. Some users have reported grinder discs breaking and flying towards them! Hence, the value of proper gear cannot be underestimated.
2. Ensure the grinder itself is in proper condition
The grinder itself must be in proper condition.
All the parts must be tightly screwed in and no attachment must hang loose. The handle must not have any play in it and the grinding disc must be locked and screwed into place tightly. Ensure that the flange (the metal ridge-like collar) is correctly attached.
Look out for things specific to your machine (type) such as governors on pneumatic models, linkages on floor-stand machines etc. Refer to your owner’s manual for the maintenance schedule and follow it strictly.
3. Use the correct disc
Choosing the correct grinding disc for your specific application is crucial.
Operating your grinder with the incorrect disc may result in disc/grinder damage and is a potential threat to the user’s safety.
Before you determine the kind of disc you need, decide what size you want it in. Discs generally range from 115mm (4 ½ inches) to 230mm (9 inches) in diameter. Smaller discs are suited to non-industrial DIY jobs whereas the larger ones are designed for heavy-duty industrial use.
Assess the material of the object you wish to use the grinder on and attach the appropriate disc. Some common types of cutting and grinding discs are:
-> Grit discs (used for cutting and grinding metal and stone)
-> Diamond discs (like grit discs except with diamond-tipped ends, used for cutting and grinding harder items)
-> Wire discs (used for removing paint and rust)
There are many other kinds of discs available and the selection process may get confusing, so choose wisely.
4. Use the disc guard
An angle grinder must never be operated without the disc guard.
Contrary to popular belief, disc guards are NOT optional and it is imperative to have yours in place prior to operating an angle grinder.
Wheel guards are designed to deflect the aforementioned random chunks of debris joined by the occasional spark or two off the body of the user. If you’re lucky, it may even protect you should your disc decide to fly off for a field trip to your face!
Contrary to further popular belief, disc guards do not impede operation in any manner. While this may have been true for earlier models, the latest models utilize adjustable guards which do not hinder grinding or cutting at all.
The importance of a disc guard cannot be over-emphasized. Some unfortunate workers are reported to have lost their lives when angle grinder discs broke off and became lethal projectiles aimed at them.
If only they’d used their disc guards.
5. Slow down, speed up
Modulating your grinder disc’s speed while working is important.
As a thumb rule, it’s best to start slow, find your groove and speed up as much as comfortable.
Different grinding discs require different operating speeds. If you’re not sure what the ideal speed for your grinder-disc combination is, do not hesitate to ask your vendor.
It is recommended to start slow while using an angle grinder. Start with making a small incision in the material at slow speed and gradually work your way inwards with smooth back-and-forth movements.
Operating your grinder at a speed higher than it can handle may lead to complications. It may become difficult for the operator to handle the grinder. It may also lead to the grinder overheating and/or jamming which can lead to damage.
6. Keep the grinder away from flammables
Angle grinders must never be operated in proximity of flammable items.
Anything that can catch fire; an oily rag, a gas can, aerosol cans etc. must not be placed anywhere near an angle grinder while it is being operated.
The reason for this precaution is obvious. Angle grinders, during operation, especially on metals, may produce a lot of sparks. If some of them were to fall on flammables, it would lead to a nasty fire.
Obviously, the fires may get out of hand rapidly and endanger life, limb and property, hence, it is always better to stay safe and keep flammables far, far away.
Angle grinders are great tools to have in your shed. They can be used for a variety of applications and make light work of some very cumbersome tasks.
But, as useful as angle grinders are, they are very dangerous tools and must be handled with the utmost care and caution. Following the precautions listed out in this article are essential and failure to do so may result in loss of life, limb or property.
They are not very difficult to follow and arise out of common sense. Wish you a safe and productive grinding experience!