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5 Main Industrial Hazards: How to Reduce Risk in the Workplace

January 23, 2024

Image of icons representing industrial grinding hazards

Industrial grinders are essential for material removal in industries ranging from metal fabrication to construction and shipbuilding. Heavy duty and high speed, industrial grinders make light work of deburring, contouring, chamfering, fettling, and weld seam removal. But they also introduce several potential hazards into the workplace that need mitigation.

Grinding risks


Grinding disks can burst if not correctly fitted and applied, if damaged, or if overdue for replacement. Disk burst creates shrapnel that can cause serious damage to people and other equipment. In one real-life case, an incorrectly fitted disk flew off the grinder and embedded itself in the ceiling. 


Dust particles are created in quantity during the grinding process. These can enter the mouth, nose, or eyes causing not only short-term discomfort but also longer-term injury, such as pulmonary diseases. 


Grinding exposes workers to high levels of vibration, which can lead to circulatory problems and nerve damage collectively known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Noisy workplaces can also expose workers to the risk of hearing impairment.


Heavier tools require more effort to deploy, leading to muscle discomfort and operator fatigue. Some electric grinders manufacturers add brakes to their disks which increases the weight of the grinder, which can be a hazard.


Sharp cutting edges present the risk of cutting the skin or even amputation of fingers. If the airline supply is severed, it can cause the hose to whiplash with sufficient power to break bones.

Grinder stop time: a major industrial hazard

Run-on risk, where the wheel continues to turn after the trigger is released, is another potential grinding hazard. The risk increases where multiple grinders are involved, e.g. switching from cutting to deburring. Run-on risk is particularly associated with electric grinders because it can take several seconds for the wheel to stop once the power is cut. Pneumatic grinders have always been capable of stopping within a few seconds, as cutting the air supply causes a vacuum-like effect that takes the momentum out of the wheel. Electric grinders are generally equipped with a brake to stop the wheel in a couple of seconds, but this adds another safety-critical component which requires maintenance to prevent it wearing out.

Prevention not cure

image of PPE (icons)

Reducing grinding risks requires a multidisciplinary approach. Some of the hazards can be prevented by simple adjustments to the environment. For example, dust levels are radically reduced if the workplace is well-ventilated. Wearing the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, including breathing masks, safety goggles, and heavy-duty gloves and boots, also helps to protect operators from the risk of injury during grinding operations. Operator fatigue and the risk of developing HAVS can be greatly reduced by adjusting shift patterns, where possible, to reduce exposure periods.


image of training (icon)

It plays a central role in mitigating grinding risks. Under controlled conditions, operators can learn core skills such as how to select the correct grinding wheel and how to apply the correct pressure during grinding operations. Essential dos and don’ts include always checking a new disk before running the tool, never removing the wheel guard, and ensuring safe working distances to protect colleagues. Tool set-up and maintenance should also form part of the grinder operator’s training regime.

Safer by design

image of safety (icons)

Industrial grinders are generally equipped with a safety guard to protect the operator from contact with the cutting edge of the wheel. However, if this guard is stationary or difficult to adjust it not only affects efficiency but may also encourage the operator to remove it altogether. Safety screws are the accepted way of ensuring that grinder wheels cannot become detached during operation. Unfortunately, safety screws can be lost. They also make wheel changes quite time-consuming because they involve a double action: removal of the safety screw followed by removal of the flange.

Célia Esnault- Global Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

We recommend a Hexs pindle shaft as a good alternative to safety screws embedded in M14 or 5/8”-11” spindles because only one action is needed to remove the wheel. This makes the Hex spindle shaft a safer and more productive option.

Célia Esnault , Global Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

Reducing vibration can also be achieved through proper tool design. ISO 28927-1-2019 defines the test methods for evaluation of vibration emissions and specifies the frequencies that need to be addressed to prevent operators developing HAVS. In addition to regulation compliance, look for grinders equipped with vibration damping side handles to minimize operator exposure.

Tool manufacturers are also addressing continued concerns about run-on risk. Although pneumatic grinders have always achieved spool down times within a few seconds, the latest models can deliver average stop times of just two seconds, matching electric grinder braking performance. 

To sum up, grinding is an intrinsically dangerous activity, and it is not as simple as it initially seems to get it right. Careful tool selection, backed by operator training, not only improves efficiency, it also mitigates safety risks such as disk burst and long-term health effects like HAVS. 


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