The Comprehensive Guide to Grinder Safety
If you go into any welding shop, 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 my 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 occurs on a 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 over looked 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.
I have seen these common practices occur time and time again and they often end up with a trip to the Emergency Room. In an attempt to help those in the industry learn how to properly use a grinder and mitigate the risks associated with its use; we at weld.com have created a comprehensive grinder safety video. It is our hope that by watching this video, and implementing this training discussed therein into their own lives, we can help to keep you safe while using the right angle grinder.
Prior to hitting the switch and bringing the wheel on 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 wheel or grind with a cut off wheel. That 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 aluminum 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.
In addition to these 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 on 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 stokes. Applying excessive pressure will over heat 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.
Please take a moment and check out the video above for even more considerations when dealing with the angle grinder, as well as the proper techniques for the various types of wheels. We hope you enjoy the video and you walk away with a better understanding of how to use them. If you have any additional comments, please drop them in the area below and we will do our best to answer any questions you may have. Until next time, Make Every Weld Better Than Your Last!
About Jason Becker
Jason Becker is a welder/fabricator with 22 years of field experience in the welding industry and a Marine Corps Veteran. He is also an AWS Certified Welding Inspector and Certified Welding Educator (CWI/CWE). While teaching welding at his local college, Jason pursued his Bachelors Degree in Construction Management from Seminole State College and graduated with honors in 2016. He now works full-time as the co-host for Weld.com.