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The Use, Care and Safety of Handheld Portable Grinders

Portable grinders are handheld power tools that are used for grinding, cutting or polishing. These versatile tools can be used for a variety of tasks when used with the proper grinder wheels according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, including:

  • Removing paint, rust or mortar
  • Cutting ceramic tile, stone, or concrete
  • Cleaning, cutting or polishing metal
  • Sanding wood
Gloved Worker Grinding Metal

Work with the handheld portable grinder may only begin after

  • setting up a safe, clean and stable work space.
  • selecting the right tool and wheel for the job.
  • inspecting the grinder, the wheel and the guard.
  • conducting a ring test on the abrasive wheel.
  • wearing appropriate PPE that provides the best protection for the task

Before work begins, ensure the guard in in the proper place, positioned between the operator and the wheel.

The guard should be easily adjustable, and should be adjusted as needed. Do not allow anyone else to stand near or in front of your grinding work task.

OSHA Construction Standard 1926.303(b)(1) Grinding machines shall be equipped with safety guards in conformance with the requirements of ANSI B7.1-1970.
OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.243(c)(3) Abrasive wheels shall be used only on machine provided with safety guards as defined in this section.

Person Holding Portable Grinder with Two Hands

Wear PPE that provides the best protection for the task.

Always wear approved safety glasses or goggles when using a portable grinder. Face protection is highly recommended to protect against flying debris. Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry and make sure long hair is secured. Evaluate the task and work environment to determine if additional PPE is required like gloves, a dust mask or hearing protection.

OSHA Construction Standard 1926.303(c)(9) All employees using abrasive wheels shall be protected by eye protection equipment.
OSHA General Industry Standard 1910.133(a)(1) The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles.

Plan your work space carefully to ensure you don’t have to over-reach while using the grinder and you can continue to maintain a firm footing and keep your balance. Grinder operators should be standing firmly to maintain focus and stay balanced. Use both hands to hold the portable grinder.

Inspect the portable grinder, the wheel that will be used and the guard before operation and follow all manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions for any grinders and accessories you may be using.

Liquid coolants should not be used with grinders as they can cause the metal to shatter.

Gloved Hands Using Portable Grinder on Metal, Sparks Flying

Only trained personnel should use handheld portable grinders.

Run any newly mounted wheels at operating speed for 1-minute before grinding and allow the grinder to come up to full speed before applying to the work. Ensure the grinder operates smoothly and is not vibrating. Avoid placing excessive pressure on the abrasive wheel. If there are unusual noises or vibrations, turn off the grinder and conduct another inspection to fix the issue before work resumes. Do not grind material for which the wheel was not designed.

After switching the grinder off, wait until the wheel has stopped turning completely before setting the tool down on the work surface.

When the task or work is complete, immediately unplug the power cord, clean the work area and safely dispose of the grinder debris.

Worker Wearing Gloves and Safety Glasses Using Portable Grinder on Metal in Shop, Sparks Flying

A portable grinder should never be clamped into a vise in an attempt to grind on smaller projects.

Never grind or cut on or near flammable or combustible materials, nor on any containers that have ever held these materials, as they could ignite.

Wet or damp abrasive wheels should be discarded. If the disc label is missing, do not use it.

Gloved Hands Using Portable Grinder to Cut Sone

If the portable grinder you are using is electric, it is important to follow safety precautions for the power cord also.

The power cord should be positioned in a way so that it doesn’t get near the grinding operations. When disconnecting the grinder cord from the power source always pull the plug. Do not yank the cord to pull the plug out of the power socket.

Never carry the power tools, including portable grinders, by the power cord.

Always keep cords away from heat, oil and sharp objects or edges.

Take care to store portable grinders and wheels properly.

Store portable grinders on racks or hooks. Do not store grinders on the floor. Always store wheels in areas that are free from excessive moisture and high levels of humidity.

Clean, lubricate, change accessories and service portable grinders according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Keep a record of maintenance for each portable grinder.

Portable Grinder, View from Above

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