Angle grinders, sometimes known as side grinders or disc grinders, can be found in multiple sizes and be powered by electric, gas, or pneumatic. This power tool is an amazingly versatile machine that can be used for so many tasks like cutting, sanding, and buffing. It is definitely something that almost everyone can benefit from owning. However, it is important to familiarize yourself with safe and smart practices.
There is a wide selection of products available at EmpireAbrasives.com that will work with your angle grinder, from flap discs and grinding wheels to polishing discs and wire wheels. We'd like to provide these safety tips with you so that you get the most out of these products while preventing any potential harm that can be caused to you or others by improper use of an angle grinder.
What Makes an Angle Grinder Dangerous if Mishandled?
An angle grinder is a very powerful tool. They most often spin anywhere from 9000RPM to 11000 RPM, just inches away from your body, face, and hands. So, when you are using an angle grinder wire wheel, grinding disc, or cutting disc, any of them can easily cause severe damage to you or those around you if handled improperly. You can see how easily this tool can grind or cut through metal, so you definitely do not want to see what they can do to the human body. Whether it is for you or those around you, respecting the equipment and its safety requirements is always the smartest and safest thing you can do for yourself and any bystanders.
Angle Grinder Safety Tips
Always Wear Proper PPE
Even if you are just trying to do a quick cut or grind that should take a few seconds, you should always take an extra few seconds to put on the recommended PPE. OSHA recommends that you wear “eye & hearing protection; leather gloves; natural fiber clothing; apron and respiratory protection as needed.” In addition, you should also avoid wearing loose fitting clothing and tying back long hair.
Use the Proper Wheel Size
Each angle grinder comes with their own recommended disc sizes. Those guidelines are there for a reason. Imagine you have a 9" x 1/8" x 7/8" Pipeline Cutting and Grinding Disc on a grinder that is built to use an abrasive wheel like a 4-1/2" x 1/4 x 7/8" Grinding Disc. Even though the disc might fit on your grinder, it does not mean that it is properly calibrated for safest operation. The disc can become unstable, wobble, and will kickback toward the operator.
Additionally, when you are using any power tool or piece of machinery, it is important to remember sizes can affect the RPMs.
Match the RPMs with your Wheel's Allowance
Another important spec on your angle grinder will be the RPMs. Every grinding disc, wire wheel, etc. should have the maximum recommended RPM noted on the face of the abrasive, packaging, and/or the product description. Never use an abrasive tool that has a lower recommended RPM than your angle grinder is capable of spinning at.
The abrasive discs are designed to work only up to the recommended speeds. You risk destroying the discs when used at higher speeds that also causes more force/pressure than the disc can safely handle.
Use the Safety Guards as Designed
All the safety features on your tool are there for a reason. Guards installed on angle grinders are designed to be a barrier between your hands and body from the spinning disc and to also protect you in the event that your abrasive wheel or disc breaks or shatters. Almost all angle grinders have a burst proof guard for this reason. They have been designed to have a locking mechanism that prevents the guard from opening itself automatically to the operator in the event your wheel shatters. Those guards are not something you should ever work without being attached.
Some grinders have a guard that can be maneuvered to avoid working from awkward angles. If yours doesn’t have that feature, then you should only use it in the positions that feel comfortable to you rather than removing the guard just to make it work.
Don’t Tinker with the Machine
Some angle grinder owners may want to customize their tool, but we advise against this. If there are any customizations that you are considering, you should first contact the manufacturer or your angle grinder. They could easily provide you with data on why some modifications are okay whereas others are incredibly dangerous to do.
Only use accessories that are actually designed for an angle grinder. When you start rigging something to work, you are setting yourself and the machinery up for failure. Not only do you risk breaking your grinder (and likely voiding any warranty), but you put yourself and others around you at risk for a serious injury. If you are unsure if a particular accessory matches your grinder, you can usually find the information in a product description or you can give a quick call to the manufacturer..
Inspect the Abrasives
Accidental drops to happen. You may not have done it, but someone could have. You can observe to see if there is any damage to the accessory and if it is no longer safe to use it. Whether you are working with a used disc or a brand new abrasive, you should always inspect the wheel first. Cutting wheels can take a beating during shipping or be accidentally dropped during storage. Inspecting for chips, cracks, or any other damage before using the wheel helps your machine perform its best while keeping you and others around you safe from breaks and shatters. Remember: if you are questioning if something is wrong with the accessory do not use it!
Warm Up & Inspect the Grinder
Whether you are just picking it up for start of the day, coming back from break, or taking it from another worker -- let the angle grinder run with the accessory attached for at least one full minute before using it. This gives the machine a chance to warm up and get up to full speed while also giving you a chance to feel, hear, or see if the grinder is in its ideal working condition.
Avoid Fire Hazards
Any time you are grinding or cutting metal with an angle grinder, you will be shooting out sparks around your work area. These sparks can be highly flammable. To avoid igniting an accidental fire, make sure the work area is clear of any flammable material or kindling and make sure there are no flammable liquids or gasses in the area.
Tighten Discs Properly
Unless you have a Metabo angle grinder with a special mechanism to tighten and release your discs, your angle grinder should have come with a special pin wrench. This wrench is to tighten and loosen a grinding disc from your angle grinder. If you lost your wrench, we carry an adjustable spanner nut wrench made specifically for this and fits any angle grinder size.
When tightening the wheel or disc, always use the wrench to make it a snug fit. Many people hand tighten their wheels, which can be dangerous when in use. There is no need to make it extra tight, just a snug fit that you otherwise couldn't do by hand.
Maintain Control with Two Hands
One of the biggest safety tips is to always be in complete control of the machine. It is important to always have two hands on the tool in the correct positions. Having both hands on the grinder gives you far more control and much better leverage. You always want to have one hand on the side handle and one hand on the back of the grinder.
Additionally, never carry the angle grinder with your finger on the power button.
Do Only New Operators Make Mistakes?
While it is very common for new operators to make rookie mistakes in regards to their safety and those around them, it is also very common for people who have been operating them for a long time to make careless mistakes. When we become overly confident in ourselves, we sometimes tend to make very dangerous decisions. If you spend a few minutes on YouTube, you can find a lot of mistakes by experienced operators. Be careful if you are looking up some of these videos though. Some of the injuries are pretty gnarly.
If you are new to any piece of technology or machinery it is very important to familiarize yourself with it and its safety requirements prior to using it. It is very easy to make even the smallest mistake that can become life threatening just from lack of adequate training or not understanding or respecting the equipment. Make sure you understand all safety features that are with any tool you are going to use. If you do not have the manual, most of them are just a quick Google search away.
Need Help Picking Out the Right Accessory for Your Angle Grinder?
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We know how difficult it can be when a few products may work for you and we’re here to help guide you as best we can. Please feel free to reach out to one of our experts at Empire Abrasives, 1-800-816-3824. Whether you are experienced or a novice -- we are always happy to lend a helping hand.