Tool Safety #4

Powered Abrasive Wheel Tools

    Powered abrasive grinding, cutting, polishing, and wire buffing wheels create special safety problems because they may throw off flying fragments.

    Before an abrasive wheel is mounted, it should be inspected closely and sound- or ring-tested to be sure that it is free from cracks or defects.   To test, wheels should be tapped gently with a light non-metallic instrument.   If they sound cracked or dead, they could fly apart in operation and so must not be used.  A sound and undamaged wheel will give a clear metallic tone or “ring.”

    To prevent the wheel from cracking, the user should be sure it fits freely on the spindle.  The spindle nut must be tightened enough to hold the wheel in place, without distorting the flange.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Care must be taken to assure that the spindle wheel will not exceed the abrasive wheel specifications.

    Due to the possibility of a wheel disintegrating (exploding) during start-up, the employee should never stand directly in front of the wheel as it accelerates to full operating speed.

    Portable grinding tools need to be equipped with safety guards to protect workers not only from the moving wheel surface, but also from flying fragments in case of breakage.

In addition, when using a powered grinder:

  • Always use eye protection.
  • Turn off the power when not in use.
  • Never clamp a hand-held grinder in a vise.

Powder-Actuated Tools

    Powder-actuated tools operate like a loaded gun and should be treated with the same respect and precautions.  In fact, they are so dangerous that they must be operated only by specially trained employees.

Safety precautions to remember include the following:

  • These tools should not be used in an explosive or flammable atmosphere.
  • Before using the tool, the worker should inspect it to determine that it is clean, that all moving parts operate freely, and that the barrel is free from obstructions.
  • The tool should never be pointed at anybody.
  • The tool should not be loaded unless it is to be used immediately.  A loaded tool should not be left unattended, especially where it would be available to unauthorized persons.
  • Hands should be kept clear of the barrel end.  To prevent the tool from firing accidentally, two separate motions are required for firing: one to bring the tool into position, and another to pull the trigger.  The tools must not be able to operate until they are pressed against the work surface with a force of at least 5 pounds greater than the total weight of the tool.

    If a powder-actuated tool misfires, the employee should wait at least 30 seconds, then try firing it again.  If it still will not fire, the user should wait another 30 seconds so that the faulty cartridge is less likely to explode, than carefully remove the load.  The bad cartridge should be put in water.

    Suitable eye and face protection are essential when using a powder-actuated tool.

    The muzzle end of the tool must have a protective shield or guard centered perpendicularly on the barrel to confine any flying fragments or particles that might otherwise create a hazard when the tool is fired.  The tool must be designed so that it will not fire unless it has this kind of safety device.

    All powder-actuated tools must be designed for varying powder charges so that the user can select a powder level necessary to do the work without excessive force.

    If the tool develops a defect during use it should be tagged and taken out of service immediately until it is properly repaired.


    When using powder-actuated tools to apply fasteners, there are some precautions to consider.  Fasteners must not be fired into material that would let them pass through to the other side.  The fastener must not be driven into materials like brick or concrete any closer than 3 inches to an edge or corner.  In steel, the fastener must not come any closer than one-half inch from a corner or edge.   Fasteners must not be driven into very hard or brittle materials which might chip or splatter, or make the fastener ricochet.

    An alignment guide must be used when shooting a fastener into an existing hole.  A fastener must not be driven into a spalled area caused by an unsatisfactory fastening.

* Put Safety In Your Toolbox *