If you go into any welding workshop or seller of welding supplies. you will no doubt find several different types of grinders. The right angle grinder is used to cut, grind, blend, buff and clean metal. Roughly 80% of a welders time is spent prepping the material, and there’s no doubt in our mind that the grinder is used the majority of the time during the preparation of the work.
Since it is such a common tool, complacency can occur on a fairly regular basis. Guards are often thrown away right out of the box, along with the handle. In addition to the lack of safety features used on the grinder, proper PPE is often overlooked as well. There are many safety violations that occur on a regular basis and these bad practices get passed on from senior employees to the new apprentices.
We at Neil’s Steels are dedicated to maintaining safety protocol (as well as the limbs of our employees!) and review proper PPE distribution as well as tool operation multiple times daily. But we want to keep these industry standards standard and think some of you guys out there should be aware of them too.
We have seen these common practices occur time and time again, and they often end up with a trip to A&E. In an attempt to help those in the industry learn how to properly use a grinder and mitigate the risks associated with its use. So we created this short guide, in the hope that implementing the training discussed below can help to keep you safe whilst using the right angle grinder.
Grinder Tool Prep Safety
Prior to hitting the switch and bringing the wheel of the grinder to the work piece, there are several things you want to consider. First, in its current state, is the grinder safe to use? Does it have all of its safety features attached properly (handle/guard)? Are there any cracks in the housing? Is the cord in good working condition? These should all be checked and verified prior to use. The next step is to make sure you have the right wheel for the material and application.
You NEVER want to cut with a grinding or grind with a cut off wheel. This is not what the wheel was designed to do. You also want to make sure that the wheel is rated for the material you plan to grind. Using a wheel meant for steel on aluminium can clog up the wheel, cause it to become off balance, and the wheel could separate during use. Another major consideration is to verify the wheel you intend on using has an equal to or less than RPM rating. You never want to put a wheel on a grinder that isn’t rated for the RPM#s the grinder will generate. Just because the wheel will fit on the arbor, doesn’t mean it should go there. Always check the label on the wheel and the label on the grinder.
Grinding Safety Guide
In addition to the above factors, you want to make sure you’re using each type of wheel the way it was designed to be used, so we cover each type of wheel and the technique that should be used. In general, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when operating a wheel regardless of the type. Pressure is a big factor, most people think that the harder they push the tool, the faster they will remove material. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You should let the tool do the work. Apply light pressure to the tool against the material and use slow steady strokes. Applying excessive pressure will overheat the tool and the wheel. The adhesives, used by the manufacturer are not rated for the excessive amount of heat and the wheel will then start to disintegrate. The only thing you are doing by applying too much pressure is tearing up the tool and the wheel. This will not only become a potential safety hazard, but it will cost additional money to repair or replace the tool and you will use more wheels to do the same amount of work.