According to RoSPA, accident statistics show that nearly half of all accidents involving abrasive wheels occur because of an unsafe system of work or operator error.
What are the risks that cause injury?
∙ Contact with a rotating wheel
Abrasive wheels rotate at a high speed and are capable of causing severe injury if they come into contact with flesh.
∙ Wheel breakage and resulting wheel pieces
If the wheel breaks it’s likely that the resulting pieces will eject at a high speed which can cause severe wounds and death as the speed in which the abrasive wheel runs is 80 to 100 MPH.
∙ Ejection of particles and or in the workplace
The sparks that are seen when the abrasive wheel is in use come from particles shedding and wearing down. Sparks can cause severe injury if they come into contact with bare skin and are especially dangerous if they come into contact with the eyes.
∙ Drawing in
Anything that comes into contact with the wheel
can become wrapped around it and drawn into the wheel. Eg: Wearing loose clothing when you are using or near an abrasive wheel whilst it’s being operated.
Other risks include –
When an abrasive wheel is in use it will emit dust, all dust is hazardous but cutting concrete can generate very fine dust called respirable crystalline silica (RCS). Exposure to RCS overtime is known to cause silicosis and lung cancer, it is crucial to wear respiratory protection when operating machinery.
When an abrasive wheel is in use it will generate noise, an angle-grinder, for example, produces 95 – 107 decibels (dB). The level at which employers are required to provide hearing protection is when employees are exposed to noise levels between 80 – 85 dB. It is vital to wear ear defenders when you are in contact with / are operating an abrasive wheel.
Any handheld machinery will produce vibration which is capable of resulting in Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) if you use it for an extended period of time, wearing gloves when operating machinery is critical for the prevention of developing a work-related musculo-skeletal disorder. Suppliers must provide vibration emission values for their equipment for the safety of the individual operating it.
∙ Electric shock
Any electrically operated machinery used on construction sites will be prone to a great deal of wear and tear on plugs and leads. An abrasive wheel can easily cut through things such as live wires which is extremely hazardous.
∙ Confined spaces
The risks of working in confined spaces include fire, explosion, loss of consciousness, deprivation of oxygen (asphyxiation) and drowning. Petrol driven machines produce toxic exhaust fumes, these gases are colourless and sometimes odourless. This is a toxicity hazard and can result in cancer if these fumes are inhaled for an extended period of time.
∙ Burns, fire and explosions
Angle-grinders generate sparks when operated on metal and the metal itself can become very hot, injury can be obtained by any skin coming into contact with machinery that hasn’t yet cooled down. If a machine has a petrol powered engine, if the fuel cap is loose or petrol is spilt, this can result in fire or explosion.
In order to prevent risk –
∙ Keep away from a rotating abrasive wheel.
∙ Always use safe systems of work when mounting abrasive wheels to reduce the likelihood of wheel breakage.
∙ When using an angle-grinder, ensure the workpiece is secured. Eg: Using a vice.
∙ Keep any loose equipment, loose clothing, hair, jewellery, etc away from the wheel in use.
∙ Always use the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
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