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Angle Grinders [Hardfacts]


Angle grinders are one of the most common hand tools and  they can be encountered in just about any trade from welders to maintenance engineers in motor vehicle repair garages and on farms.  They are used for all manner of jobs from grinding off metal and the cleaning of welds to cutting   Most of the time they do the job without any problem, but they can cause serious injury and their use requires care and consideration.

Insurance claims have indicated that angle grinders have been the cause of many accidents involving serious injury to the user.  It seems that the most common cause of accident is the use of an angle grinder to cut metal.

If an angle grinder is to be used then consideration must be given to a wide range of issues

  •      Is the employee trained in the use of angle grinders?
  •      Is the correct size of grinder being used? 
  •      Is the correct disc being used?
  •      NB Different discs are needed for cutting and grinding.  Not all discs are suitable for “free hand” cutting.
  •      Is the work piece suitably supported before work commences?
  •      Is the correct guard properly fitted?

Guards fitted to angle grinders should never be removed when the tool is in use.   Unguarded discs present an increased risk of accident to the user and oversize discs run faster and present an increased risk of the disc bursting.

Equipment Selection & Maintenance

Due to the wide range of angle grinders available, advice should be sought from the supplier about the most suitable tool for the job in hand.  As a minimum, it should be to the appropriate British Standard and carry the CE mark.

Due to the wide range of angle grinders available, advice should be sought from the supplier about the most suitable tool for the job in hand.  As a minimum, it should be to the appropriate British Standard and carry the CE mark.

All angle grinders should be subject to regular inspection and maintenance including routine portable appliance testing.  Equipment rated at  240 volt should be inspected as follows (frequency for 110v in brackets):

  •    User Safety Check – Daily (Weekly)
  •    Formal Visual Inspection – Weekly (Monthly)
  •    Inspection & test – Monthly (Three Monthly)

The guidance for inspection frequency in workplaces such as construction sites or manufacturing environments is set out in HSG107  

Risk Assessment
Any job involving the use of an angle grinder should be subject to a risk assessment.  This will ensure all the possible hazards have been identified, the risks determined and appropriate control measures identified and implemented.  The need to use a portable angle grinder for cutting must always be questioned.  It may be that the angle grinder is not the best tool to use.  There may be another, safer piece of equipment that can be used or a less risky approach that can be adopted.

Use of an Angle Grinder for cutting  
The use of an angle grinder for cutting poses different hazards and requires a particular approach to ensure safety and protect the employee from accident and injury.
An abrasive disc is not suitable and should not be used for cutting.  Cutting must only be carried out using a disc that is specifically designed for cutting They are  not intended for grinding work.  

Employee Training
Angle grinders are simple pieces of equipment whose use appears obvious to employees.  However, there are right and wrong ways to use them and all employees should receive training in their safe and correct use.  Such training should cover the following:

  •      Pre-use inspections to ensure equipment is in good order, electrically safe and fitted with appropriate guards
  •      How to determine whether the disc is in good order or needs replacing
  •      How to identify discs and select the correct one for the task to be undertaken
  •      How to fit a disc correctly
  •      How to determine the correct method of use of an angle grinder
  •      Selection of the appropriate personal protective equipment for the task
  •      The importance of ensuring that a suitable, safe stance is adopted when using an angle grinder
  •      The special precautions to be observed when using an angle grinder for cutting jobs

Personal Protective Equipment
Appropriate protective equipment should always be provided for employees who use portable angle grinders:

  •     Eye protection – ideally goggles (but see below)
  •     Safety footwear with steel toecaps
  •     Gloves suitable overalls

Where the work is taking place above head height a full-face visor should be used.

Use of Heat
Angle grinding operations will often result in the generation of significant heat and sparks, and especially if carried out in direct contact or in close proximity to flammable or combustible substances or atmospheres there is a risk of fire or explosion, with the potential to cause serious injury or damage to property. It is therefore important to have suitable and sufficient Hot Work procedures in place to reduce the associated risks to an acceptable level.

More information is available in the Knowledge Store RC 7 Hot Work

Possible Health Risks
It is possible that the use angle grinders might give rise to risks to health.  It is not possible in this short Hardfact to cover such risks in detail but they could include

  •      Vibration – when there is extended use of angle grinders over several hours
  •      Exposure to nuisance dusts
  •      Exposure to silica – if the angle grinder is used to cut concrete products

More information on such risks can be found on the HSE website.

Key Action Steps

  •     Ensure the angle grinders provided are suitable for the tasks
  •     Arrange for regular maintenance and inspection
  •     Carry out risk assessments of all tasks involving the use of angle grinders
  •     Ensure only trained employees change discs
  •     Ensure that employees are trained in the correct use of angle grinders
  •     Determine the personal protective equipment required and issue to all employees who use angle grinders


Next Steps

  • Source discounted products, available to Aviva insured customers and brokers only, via our Preferred Supplier Scheme - click here to find out more about the savings you could make
  • View our Tools and Templates
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
  •  Email us at

Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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