Lift engineers are regularly faced with a number of hazards as part of their everyday job. This includes the use of dangerous equipment. However big or small the risk, it is important not to become complacent when working with tools as this could result in an injury and trip to A&E, or worse still, a fatality.
The angle grinder is a handheld power tool used for cutting, grinding and polishing. It’s a vital component of any engineer’s toolbox and is used to cut materials when modernising and installing lifts. In this blog we look at the risks involved when using this powerful, sharp tool, along with key safety tips you should always be aware of on the job.
Danger – Metal particles
One of the dangers of using an angle grinder is metal particles that can get lodged in the eyes. These metal foreign bodies could lead to an eye infection or a condition called Siderosis (if the metal contains iron), which leads to poor vision over time.
Never set your grinder too fast as this could cause more metal particles to fly at you. Make sure the speed of your grinder follows the recommended Rotations Per Minutes (RPM). You should also wear a protective face shield and gloves to avoid any metal sparks coming into contact with your skin.
Danger – Dust
Another danger is dust containing silica generated from grinding concrete or stone, which can pose health risks. The faster the grinder discs go the more dust is made and therefore the bigger the risk to the respiratory system. Known as Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS), this fine dust can cause a number of respiratory diseases, as well as lung cancer.
Although many health issues associated with angle grinder dust are not instantly apparent, it is important to take measures to avoid any long terms health problems. In most cases it is inevitable that dust will be generated so make sure you are in a well ventilated and dampened area to prevent excess dust. Protective clothing is also a must, including a respiratory mask to reduce the chances of dust being inhaled.
Danger – Fire
The heat and sparks produced when using the angle grinder could pose a risk of fire, especially if you are in an environment where flammable materials are in close proximity.
To reduce the risk of fire, check your work environment before use, ensuring any combustible materials are kept away from the area. Make sure appropriate PPE is worn to protect yourself from flying sparks.
Danger – Kickback
One of the more serious injuries that can occur from an angle grinder is caused by a kickback, where a disc thrusts back violently towards the operator at high-speed, often resulting in severe cuts and sometimes even amputations. This can happen if the grinder is pushed too hard into the material, when using the wrong wheel or if the wheel has become dull or damaged.
Make sure you do not push the grinder too hard and ensure you are using the right disc for the material you are cutting, as well as for the grinder you are using. You should also check before use that the disc has no obvious signs of wear, which could increase the risk of accidents, such as any breaks or cracks.
Other key safety tips you should adhere to include checking the guards on your angle grinder before use. Guards should always be in place to protect you from injuries. Additionally, make sure your angle grinder is completely switched off and disconnected from the power socket when removing or changing discs and once you have finished the work.