While angle grinders aren’t exactly the most dangerous tool out there, you still need to exercise a lot of caution when using them. Angle grinders are powerful tools meant to grind away materials like metal. So, whenever you have a tool this powerful, there are going to be a lot of ways that you can get hurt when using it. In this article, I want to talk about the possible dangers of using an angle grinder, as well as some safety tips that you should keep in mind that will help you avoid accidents while using the tool.
Angle Grinder Accidents
The main reasons for angle grinder accidents are abrasive disc shattering and improper use of the equipment. Here are some of the most common types of accidents that happen often.
- Finger Amputation
- Face injury
- Eye injury
- Cuts and burns on the skin
- Head injury
- Foot and leg injuries
The Dangers Of Using An Angle Grinder
When I use an angle grinder, there are three specific dangers that I want to keep an eye out for. These are dangers that are specific to angle grinders; I’m not counting hazards that apply to all power tools like wire failure, tool failure, etc. Those are something to consider, don’t get me wrong, but I want to talk specifically about issues that are unique to angle grinders.
When an angle grinder is used on metal, sparks will be produced. Why? Well, the very high speed of the angle grinder produces a lot of friction. The friction and it heats up the microscopic metal particles. When these tiny particles fly off the metal, they take the form of sparks. Sparks are easily the most visible danger when using an angle grinder, but they aren’t that dangerous when compared to other potential issues that I will talk about later in this article.
See, while sparks look dangerous, they are more bark than bite. Because the metal particles are so small, they cool very rapidly. By the time you actually see the sparks, they aren’t nearly as hot as they could be, so there is less risk. Sparks landing on your skin or clothing are unlikely to cause any real damage.
However, this doesn’t mean that they are entirely harmless. While the spark may not be hot enough to burn your arms or other areas where the skin is thick, those with sensitive skin might find the sparks to be painful. Likewise, the skin around the face is a lot more sensitive, which makes the sparks more painful if they land in that area. It also goes without saying that your eyes are very vulnerable, even if the sparks aren’t particularly hot.
Can sparks from a grinder start a fire?
The sparks aren’t a serious fire hazard because they aren’t that hot. So accidental fire won’t occur unless the grinding sparks fall continuously at one spot on a flammable material. But it’s also better to be safe than sorry, so make sure that there isn’t any flammable material near you when using the angle grinder.
Disc Debris – The Major Cause of Angle Grinder Accidents
A far more serious danger to be wary of when using your angle grinder is abrasive disc shattering.
The angle grinder abrasive discs can break when being used. Usually, this would just be an inconvenience, but because of the speed that most angle grinders operate at, the debris can be hazardous when it goes flying. For example, just a few years ago, a man in Australia was killed when a piece of his angle grinder’s disc broke off and penetrated his chest.
Now, that was a large 9-inch angle grinder that that man was using, but even small angle grinder discs can cause issues if they break off and hit you in the face or other sensitive areas.
Tip: Use a diamond disc when possible. These blades are less likely to shatter. However, a segment loss due to poor weld on a diamond blade can cause injury. You can get safety blades which are diamond blades without welding.
Finally, you have to be cautious when dealing with kickback. Lots of tools can have very hard to deal with recoil, but angle grinders are definitely up there in terms of hard to deal with recoil. Veteran contractors and tool users will know how to deal with the kickback, but amateurs might not.
Kickback on its own isn’t too dangerous (although it can cause some soreness depending on how bad it is). The real danger comes with what happens if you lose control of the tool because of the kickback. You could easily drop the grinder or lose control of it and accidentally hit something or someone with the disc at full speed.
It can also cause the abrasive disc to break or shatter.
You can get the best angle grinder for money in the market. But if you ignore the safety guidelines it will cost you dearly. While the dangers I listed may be terrifying, there are thankfully some ways that you can minimize the risk to yourself when using an angle grinder. These are the sorts of safety precautions that I use when I bust out my grinder, and I would certainly recommend that everyone else use them as well.
For some of you, I don’t doubt that these tips will be obvious, but not everyone has the same experience levels with power tools. Plus, it never hurts to have a reminder of the basics.
Use Both Hands
Pretty self-explanatory. I would always recommend making sure that you have the tool firmly gripped with both hands. Don’t take your hand off the tool until it’s completely shut down. Otherwise, you could end up losing control of the machine.
Never ever hold the workpiece with one hand and operate the grinder with the other hand. This is the primary reason for amputation of fingers.
Even though sparks aren’t as dangerous as they may look, your eyes are very vulnerable to even the slightest irritation. So, make sure you have a good pair of goggles on whenever you fire up the angle grinder. Even if you are only planning on working for a few minutes, you should still make sure to put the goggles on.
I made this mistake once and had a minor accident. I wanted to make a quick chamfer on steel piece I was working and did not bother to wear goggles. A tiny metal chip flew into my eyes and stuck there. I had to go to the hospital and let the Doctor check my eyes with the microscope to find the tiny chip. Luckily once it was spotted Doctor could easily remove it.
Always protect your eyes when using a power tool.
Double Check the Disc
Remember how I talked about how dangerous disc debris can be? Well, the main reason a disc on an angle grinder goes flying is that the abrasive-disc is already cracked somewhere when you go to use it. Because of this, you should always check, and then re-check the disc before using it. Make sure there aren’t any cracks or breaks anywhere on the disc.
Never Use the Grinder Near Your Face
A common mistake some amateurs make is getting too close to the angle grinder when working. That is a big mistake and one that can cause severe accidents if the disc breaks or if a sudden burst of sparks comes out.
Always try and keep your angle grinder at about waist level. If you need to inspect your work closely, stop using the grinder and take a closer look, and then restart the tool.
Wear Leather Gloves
The regular mechanic’s gloves won’t provide sufficient protection for your soft tissues from the spark. Get a pair of good quality leather gloves to protect your hands.
Do not remove the factory safety guards off the grinder. They are there for a reason. The angle grinder safety guards can greatly reduce the accidents that occur from shattered abrasive discs.