Safety in the use of abrasive wheel

Safety in the Use of Abrasive Wheel

Safety in the Use of Abrasive Wheel focuses on how employees can use abrasive wheels to perform task without injuries. Such wheels are used in grinding machines.

A grinding wheel  composes of an abrasive compound and is very useful for various grinding (abrasive cutting) and abrasive machining operations. Composite materials consisting of coarse-particle aggregate are the major raw materials in the production of the wheels. The materials are pressed and bonded together by a cementing matrix to form a solid, circular shape. Various profiles and cross sections are available depending on the intended usage for the wheel.

Other Useful Materials for the Production of Abrasive Wheels

Other useful materials for the production of abrasive wheel include a solid steel or aluminium disc with particles bonded to the surface.

However, today most grinding wheels are artificial composites made with artificial aggregates other than natural composite stones.

Due to the inherent safety risks with the spinning disc, wheels manufacturing requires a precise and tightly controlled process. Furthermore, manufacturers need composition and uniformity to prevent that disc from exploding due to the high stresses produced on rotation.

In conclusion, grinding wheels are consumables, although the life span can vary widely depending on the use.  This ranges from less than a day to many years. Meanwhile as the wheel cuts, it periodically releases individual grains of abrasive. That is typically because they grow dull and the increased drag pulls them out of the bond. Fresh grains are exposed in this wear process, which begin the next cycle. However, the rate of wear in this process is predictable for a given application, and is necessary for good performance.

Safety in the Use of Abrasive Wheel
Grinding Discs

Risk Associated with the Use of Abrasive Wheel

There are many potential hazards surrounding the use of abrasive wheels. Nevertheless, the ones relevant to your situation will be dependent on the type of equipment that you’re operating. Working environment and the work materials are also key factors in determining the risks.

  • Touching the Wheel

An accidental touch of the wheel can cause the operator serious damage, and this is down to the power of the machine. Generally, grinding and cutting tools will cause significant damage if they come into contact with human skin while in operation.

This is a key example of why personal protective equipment is essential, and why operators must wear the appropriate gear. Learning techniques from a competent instructor can also reduce the potential for injury.

  • Bursting Abrasive Wheels

A bursting wheel has the potential to be fatal for the operative or anyone within its vicinity. This is a particular risk with new wheels, and it can be controlled with safe system of work. Practices such as ensuring the wheels are run within the suggested speed parameters and providing the appropriate guarding.

Additionally, provide appropriate abrasive wheel training (this is a legal requirement). It helps staff learn the correct procedures involved, such as handling and mounting the wheels.

  • Sparks

When in use, abrasive wheels can create sparks. This has the potential to lead to fires or even explosions if their surroundings aren’t keep clean and ventilated.

In order to protect against this, it is the duty of both the employer and those using the wheels to maintain them. They should also ensure clean, well-ventilated working environment when using wheels. Personal protective equipment such as gloves and eye protection should also be worn, and any guarding should be in place.

Safety in the use of abrasive wheel
Abrasive wheel-Pearl
  • Reduced Blood Circulation

The vibrations associated with abrasive wheel operation can occur when the incorrect type, size or weight of wheel is used.  Loose bearings are also a possible cause of this, as well as a faulty wheel design.

All of this can cause discomfort and in some circumstances, it can also result in a condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

“HAVS is a painful and disabling condition that affects the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hands and arms. It causes tingling and numbness in the fingers, reduces grip strength and the sense of touch, and affects the blood circulation” (HSE)

To avoid this, it is important that the correct wheel type is chosen. If the operator is beginning to feel discomfort or tingling as a result of their job task, they should report this to management immediately.

  • Dust and Gas Inhalation

Although this does depend on the material in question, dust and gas inhalation can affect the health of the operator and cause serious consequences to their health.

Because of this, it is important to manage the environment they’re working in, again ensuring that it is well ventilated. The operative must also wear the appropriate respiratory protective equipment (RPE)for the task at hand.

Control Measures

Download HSE Guidance on the Use of Abrasive Wheel here

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