Keeping up with abrasive wheels

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Abrasive wheels are some of the most dangerous devices in the workplace and their safe use is imperative. Let’s look at your legal responsibilities.

Whether you are someone who works with abrasive wheels every day, have responsibility for those who do or are just aware of these tools, it’s hard to see these as devices that don’t deserve respect. Abrasive wheels are dangerous and statistics suggest that indicate that nearly half of all accidents involving abrasive wheels are due to an unsafe system of work or operator error. Accidents involving abrasive wheels are often serious and it’s not just operators who are at risk – a loose wheel spinning off an angle grinder can hurt people even if they’re not using the tool.

Paying attention to PUWER

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, PUWER, cover all businesses who operate, own or have work equipment. Work equipment refers to any machinery, appliance or tool for use at work. If your business uses work equipment, you must manage the risks from that equipment. This includes:

  • Making sure that it’s properly constructed and properly maintained
  • Making sure that it’s appropriately and safely used
  • Making sure that the equipment is only used in suitable purposes
  • Making sure that the equipment’s operators and supervisors are properly trained

PUWER is not a cover-all piece of legislation, however there are some specific tools and pieces of work equipment that are also covered by other regulations.

The risks of abrasive wheels

The risks of using abrasive wheels are very real and the consequences can be very severe. Typically rotating between 6,000 and 15,000 rpm and made from strong materials, they show little respect for flesh and bone and therefore, injuries can be disfiguring, permanently disabling and even fatal.

The risk of a shattered or broken wheel is the most obvious as well as ‘kick back’. Many of the injuries caused by abrasive wheel accidents are to the head and face. Angle grinders are particularly well known for their ability to deliver penetrating facial wounds. As well as to the head and face, the main areas of injury are to the upper limbs and to a lesser degree, the upper torso.

As well as the risks presented by the discs themselves, the materials that abrasive wheels are used to cut also present a risk. From splinters and sparks through to flying chips and particles. It is therefore essential that guards and safety equipment is properly maintained.

Staying safe

When it comes to abrasive wheel safety, then you have to consider more than just the operator and operation. Maintenance, parts, fitting and storage all play a part. From understanding how to order and procure replacement parts and new wheels, to knowing the marking system, inspection requirements and storage and transportation, the need for training is clear.

EEF’s one-day safe mounting of abrasive wheels training course takes delegates through all of the legal requirements, usage hazards, PPE, marking systems, storage, handling and transportation. Through this course, you will learn how to properly and safely operate abrasive wheels, and meet the PUWER and health and safety requirements.

Author

This person has now left EEF. Please contact us on 0808 168 1874 or email us at enquiries@eef.org.uk if you have any questions.

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