Working with Abrasive Wheels – Risks and Control Measures 

Abrasive wheels are widely used in a variety of industrial and commercial settings to grind, cut, and polish materials. While abrasive wheels can be very effective, they also pose several health and safety risks.

Health risks 

The main health risks associated with the use of abrasive wheels include: 

  • Dust and fume inhalation: Abrasive wheels can generate a significant amount of dust and fumes, which can be harmful to breathe. Exposure to dust and fumes from abrasive wheels can cause a variety of health problems, including: 
  • Respiratory irritation: Dust and fumes can irritate the airways, causing coughing, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. 
  • Asthma: Exposure to dust and fumes can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma. 
  • Lung diseases: Long-term exposure to dust and fumes can cause serious lung diseases, such as silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 
  • Noise: Abrasive wheels can produce high levels of noise, which can damage hearing. 
  • Vibration: Abrasive wheels can also produce vibration, which can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). HAVS is a condition that causes numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hands and arms. 


Safety risks 

The main safety risks associated with the use of abrasive wheels include: 

  • Eye injuries: Flying debris or sparks from abrasive wheels can cause serious eye injuries. 
  • Cuts and abrasions: Contact with a rotating abrasive wheel can cause severe cuts and abrasions. 
  • Kickback: Abrasive wheels can catch on the material being cut, causing the tool to suddenly jerk and potentially injure the operator. 
  • Wheel breakage: Abrasive wheels can break due to defects, improper use, or wear and tear. When an abrasive wheel breaks, pieces of the wheel can be ejected at high speeds, potentially causing serious injury or death. 


Control measures 

  • Engineering controls: Engineering controls are the most effective way to reduce the risks associated with abrasive wheels. Engineering controls include: 
  • Guards: Guards should be used to prevent operators from encountering rotating abrasive wheels and flying debris. 
  • Dust and fume extraction systems: Dust and fume extraction systems should be used to remove dust and fumes from the workplace atmosphere. 
  • Vibration reduction systems: Vibration reduction systems should be used to reduce the amount of vibration transmitted to operators. 
  • Administrative controls: Administrative controls include: 
  • Training: Operators should be trained on the safe use and maintenance of abrasive wheels. 
  • Safe work procedures: Safe work procedures should be developed and implemented to ensure the safe use of abrasive wheels. 
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): PPE should be used to protect operators from the remaining risks associated with abrasive wheels. PPE includes: 
  • Eye protection: Operators should wear safety goggles or a face shield to protect their eyes from flying debris or sparks. 
  • Respiratory protection: Operators should wear a dust mask or respirator to protect themselves from dust and fumes. 
  • Hearing protection: Operators should wear earplugs or earmuffs to protect their hearing from noise. 
  • Hand protection: Operators should wear gloves to protect their hands from cuts and abrasions. 


Additional safety tips 

  • Inspect abrasive wheels before use: Abrasive wheels should be inspected before each use to check for cracks, chips, or other damage. Damaged abrasive wheels should not be used. 
  • Use the correct abrasive wheel for the job: Abrasive wheels are available in a variety of types and sizes. It is important to use the correct abrasive wheel for the job at hand. 
  • Mount abrasive wheels correctly: Abrasive wheels must be mounted correctly to prevent them from breaking. 
  • Maintain abrasive wheels properly: Abrasive wheels should be dressed regularly to remove any glazing or build-up of material. Glazing and build-up can make abrasive wheels more likely to break. 
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Operators should be aware of their surroundings when using abrasive wheels. They should be careful not to trip or stumble, and they should be mindful of other people who may be in the area. 


By following these control measures and safety tips, operators can help reduce the risks associated with the use of abrasive wheels. 

The iProtectU health and safety software provides: 

  • An inspection and Audit App which allows for safety inspection of the workplace and associated report 
  • eLearning on a wide range of EHS topics, including using equipment safely 
  • Scheduling functionality for managers to send eLearning, risk assessments and documents out to all staff via the software with tracks completion and compliance 
  • Risk assessment templates covering equipment use 
  • Management system to document control the policy on using equipment safely 
  • Method Statement module for the creation of equipment use working instructions 
  • Legal register that provides legislation guidance on using equipment safely 
  • Incident investigation module that tracks incidents involving use of abrasive wheels both with an app and via desktop 
  • Hazard observation app where staff can report and record any concerns regarding abrasive wheel equipment to the organisation 
  • Asset management App ensuring assets are recorded in the software 




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