Safety warning issued over angle grinder incidents

NT WorkSafe has issued a safety alert after four workers were injured in four separate angle grinder incidents within a five-week period. In the first incident, a young apprentice boilermaker was using an angle grinder to cut plates off a bumper bar when the grinder kicked back into his hand and the cutting disc broke. The apprentice required surgery for over five hours and was lucky to not have lost his thumb. In a separate incident, a worker was using an angle grinder to cut sheet metal for ductwork when the grinder ‘grabbed’ and kicked back, lacerating the worker’s hand. A handle was not attached to the grinder when the incident occurred.

A first-year apprentice was cutting a section of metal frame using a five-inch angle grinder when metal particles entered his eye, requiring medical treatment. The incident occurred even though the apprentice was wearing safety glasses. In the fourth incident, a construction worker was injured and required surgery when the angle grinder he was holding kicked back into his hand. The worker was using an older model nine-inch grinder that did not have a safety switch when he accidentally hit the start switch before he had full control of the grinder.

Angle grinders can be dangerous power tools if used incorrectly and have caused a number of serious injuries in the Northern Territory. The main causes of injuries are being hit by flying particles from the item being ground or cut, being hit by fragments of the grinder disc if it breaks and being cut by the grinder when it kicks back.

NT WorkSafe has urged all workplaces using angle grinders to undertake Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment and Control (HIRAC) before starting any job. NT WorkSafe also recommends that employers ensure the right tool is used for the material being cut, and to consider whether tools like mitre saws, cold saws or gas cutting kits (such as oxy-acetylene) are a safer option for the job. Due to an increased risk of injury, employers are urged to consider other alternatives before using a nine-inch (230 mm) angle grinder. The use of older model grinders that don’t have automatic cut-off or dead-man switches is not recommended. Employers should also ensure workers have the appropriate information and training (including the manufacturer’s safety instructions) and that they are competent in using an angle grinder.

Employers and workers should select an angle grinder that has an automatic cut-off or dead-man switch, a removable side handle that can be attached to suit a left- or right-handed user and moveable guards that can be repositioned.

Employers are advised to make sure the correct disc type is used for the work being done and is suitable for the material being cut or ground. The flange and locking nut must also be compatible with the disc used. Worn or damaged discs must be replaced, and discs that have been dropped should not be used. Employers should also ensure that the guards and handle supplied by the manufacturer are used and that the guard covers have the disc.

NT WorkSafe advises employers and workers to wear eye protection such as wide-vision goggles, safety glasses or face shields; tight-fitting clothes and gloves should also be worn to prevent entanglement. They are also encouraged to wear earmuffs for hearing protection. Employers must also provide appropriate supervision for inexperienced workers.

Source: NSCA Foundation

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