Risk of Fire and Explosion

Grinding and allied processes produce molten metal, sparks, slag and hot work surfaces which pose a risk of fire and explosion, and which can result in fatalities, serious injury and plant damage. Flying sparks are the main cause of fire and explosion, especially as sparks can travel up to 10 metres from the work space. Sparks and molten metal can travel even greater distances when falling and can pass through and become lodged in cracks, clothing, pipe holes and other small openings. To reduce the risk of fire and explosion, a permit to work should be obtained before commencing grinding operations. Working areas and the areas below them should be kept free of combustible material. Fixed items of plant, such as installed electrical cables should be protected by a fire blanket. And sparks should be contained by means of a non-flammable material. Fire extinguishers should be close at hand, and the working area should be inspected when work is suspended to ensure there is no residual risk of fire or explosion.

Cutting Operations

Where cutting operations are performed, it is always important to give consideration to the effect that these operations will have on the stability of the work piece. In particular, consideration should be given to weight distribution, as the removal of significant weights may alter the balance of the work piece. Where appropriate, the work piece should be supported. You should also plan how items that have been removed will be lowered without risk to yourself, to others who may be working nearby, or to equipment.

Disk Burst

Serious injury can result when grinding wheels or disks burst, so it is important to take the steps necessary to reduce the risks associated with this hazard. Abrasive wheels should only be fitted by individuals who are trained and competent to do so. A pre-use check of portable grinding machines should be carried out to ensure that they are only fitted with reinforced discs, that the disc is suitable for the type of material to be ground, as well as for the speed of the machine and that guards are fitted and properly maintained. To avoid damaging discs, disc centres detaching and increased vibration levels, discs should always be applied at 90 degrees to the work piece to avoid the lateral stresses that leads to discs bursting. Uniform pressure should be applied during cutting and strategic cutting positions and / or restraints should be used where parent metal movement, which may result in snagging, is possible. All grinders have the potential to jolt when disc snagging occurs, which can result in serious injury. Where a Grinding Safety assessment indicates that snagging is a possibility, you should adopt a position that considers the direction the machine will move should snagging occur.


All personnel need appropriate training and experience to be able to use work equipment safely. Never use grinding equipment unless you have received suitable training and are competent to do so, or you are receiving supervised training to reach this level of competence. Remember that contact with the grinding wheel can result in serious injury and that you should also wear protective clothing including Kevlar gloves and a visor to reduce the risk of injury.


When conducting grinding operations, it is also important that you wear close fitting garments. Make sure your overall sleeves are buttoned, that you do not wear a tie or jewellery and that you tie back long hair and long beards to reduce the risk of entanglement.

Personal Protective Equipment

PPE is an important means of reducing the risks associated with projectile particles during grinding operations. At least standard PPE with gauntlets, leathers, a cotton drill or fire retardant overalls and a full face visor with neck muff worn over goggles should be worn. Prolonged exposure to the dust produced during grinding operations can potentially result in scarring of the lung tissue and subsequent breathing difficulties. During prolonged or heavy operations, disposable respirators should be worn. For permanent grinders, an air fed all in one hood should be worn. Only PPE in good working condition will reduce the hazards associated with your work, so it is important to remove, clean and store your PPE correctly. All PPE should therefore be cleaned down with a soft brush before removing.

Noise at Work

Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work is a significant source of occupational disease, with many people suffering deafness, tinnitus or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise levels at work. The level of noise and how long people are exposed to noise at work both contribute to potential hearing damage. Noise can be reduced to harmless levels by using ear plugs and ear defenders while conducting grinding operations and the use of hearing protection should be mandatory within high noise areas.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome HAVS

If you regularly use hand held grinders, you may be at risk of developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome or HAVS. This condition involves damage to the blood vessels, nerves and joints of the hand, wrist and arm. It is a painful and debilitating condition, resulting in numbness of the hands to the extent where it is impossible to feel with your fingers and very difficult for you to pick up small objects. This can make both occupational and leisure activities, such as playing darts, fishing or DIY, impossible. HAVS is entirely preventable. Always use the right tool for the job, as this will allow you to complete the job more quickly and will expose you to less hand-arm vibration. Carry out a pre-use inspection of all grinding equipment and report any damage to your supervisor, as faults and general wear may result in increased vibration. Try to reduce the amount of vibration you are exposed to in one go by doing other jobs in between grinding operations. Use a relaxed grip and avoid using excessive force on a tool or work piece. Store tools so that they do not have very cold handles when used next. Keep your hands warm and dry and take breaks to exercise your fingers regularly.

Sent to us by Kevin at Riskatmedia – Safety Video


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