Abrasive Tools

Portable grinders are one of the most potentially dangerous tools on any work site.  The majority of injuries associated with portable grinder use are foreign bodies to the eyes and lacerations to the hands and body. These injuries typically result from the improper selection of tools, improper use or operation of tools, failure to utilize the correct personal protective equipment, improper abrasive/grinding wheel selection, improperly inspected and maintained equipment or using equipment without proper guarding.

Safe Practices and Behaviors

  • Choose the right tool to protect you and others from the potential dangers of portable grinders. 
  • Inspect the grinder for damage, guard placement and abrasive wheel compatibility.
  • Do not use a grinder without a protective guard. The safety guard must cover the spindle end, nut and flange projections and be of sufficient strength to retain fragments in case of accidental breakage.  The maximum angular exposure of the grinding wheel periphery and sides shall not exceed 180 degrees. There are specific requirements depending on wheel type (see chapter 807)
  • Check grinder discs before each use for nicks, cracks, or other defects. Replace immediately if they are damaged.
  • Wear a proper face shield, eye protection and hearing protection during all grinding operations.  Use a respirator when required.
  • Ensure that grinder discs are matched to the RPM rating of the grinder. A low-RPM disc may shatter on a high-RPM grinder.
  • Ensure grinder discs are used and matched to the materials for which they are intended.  Discs may shatter if used on incompatible materials.  Make sure type and size of wheel matches grinder size and guard.
  • Handle grinders carefully. If dropped, inspect the grinder and disc right away for damage.
  • Always test start a new wheel where it can do no harm to yourself or others.
  • Use only the zone specified for grinding on each wheel.
  • Never bump the abrasive wheel against the surface to be ground or lay the grinder down while the abrasive wheel is turning.  Doing so may fracture or weaken the wheel resulting in it disintegrating into multiple projectiles.
  • Keep a solid two-handed grip on the grinder and position the work or yourself so the surface to be ground and the grinder are within your ability to control.  Grinders 4 inches or larger require use of side handles.
  • Work from a stable surface to assist with your efforts to control the torque and kick back generated by the grinder.

Presenter tips

  • Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
  • Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
  • Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.


Questions for Discussion

  • Is the tool the right size for the job?  Can a smaller lighter more maneuverable tool be substituted for a heavier less maneuverable one?
  • Is the correct personal protective equipment available and are you prepared to use it accordingly?
  • Is there a stable slip free working surface from which to work?