8 Safety Tips For Using Belt Grinders

I run into a lot folks who are either fairly new to their craft OR who have never had a structured safety plan in place for their shops. If your craft is your full time business, this might not be new to you, but if you do this part time, as a hobby, or if you're just getting started with using grinders and abrasives more consistently (e.g. several days out of the week), I hope this list is useful. Take a look at this top 10 safety tips for using belt grinders and keep yourself and your people safe in 2019 and beyond!

  1. Wear safety glasses! Don't tempt fate. Anything can happen at any time. From flying pieces of metal to belts breaking in the middle of grinding, your eyes are at risk every step of the way.

  2. Wear ear protection! Look, explosions aren't the only thing that can hurt your hearing. The Center for Disease Control states that prolonged exposure to noises that measure 85 dB or higher can damage your hearing. According to their table, I would hypothesize that a grinder in use would fall between 85 and 100 dB.

  3. Don't wear loose-fitting clothing and keep long hair (and beards) away from the machine! You have no business getting your head within 5 inches of a 1 to 2 HP machine in operation! It's not a game of Chicken if you're the only player.

  4. Wear closed-toed shoes! Most of you make knives. You might not be as lucky as my ex-wife who dropped a chef's knife on her toe (handle first). I think she blamed it on me. I may have said I'm sorry and handed her my man card that day.

  5. For you high-pressure grinders, don't apply excessive pressure to the belt! Your over-zealous nature may have earned you some rank in the past, but here, it can get you injured here and cost your a lot more money in belts! For the record, I don't mind the latter.

  6. Inspect your sanding belts before using them! I know you're trying to push that profit margin, but I'd rather take your money than see you get hurt. Look for fraying and/or wearing. There are no winners in the end if you go hand-to-hand with a worn belt.

  7. Unplug your machine when changing out your belts or while doing any work on your machine! Turn it on one last time after cutting the power supply to expel any residual power. That should do it. It's unlikely that your shop time will turn into a scene from Final Destination at this point.

  8. So then there's California, right? I'm not aware of other states where abrasives/sandpaper manufacturers are required to include a warning notice in their shipments regarding respiratory risks. Wear a tight-fitting respirator when using abrasives. Remember, it's not just metal and sparks in the air, that sanding belt is taking a beating and releasing fibers, materials, and adhesives into the air - that's some toxic s***, man! Rule of thumb: If you're smelling it, you're breathing it! Read OSHA's content on types of respirators and use your discretion.

Eight is a strange number to end on, but these really are the "top" tips. For further reading, go to links provided in the Works Cited section below. Wishing you all some productive days ahead! Keep grinding!

Works Cited:

Five Safety Tips For a Belt Sander

What Should You Do To Work Safely With Belt Sanders

MIT Rules For Using Belt Sanders

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