Safe Use of Abrasive Products Training Resource

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General principles of safety

Abrasive products are a valuable and beneficial resource, however if used improperly they can be very dangerous. You should always follow the instructions provided with the abrasive product and by the machine supplier and always ensure the abrasive product is suitable for its intended use. All abrasive products should be examined for damage or defects before mounting and you should always follow the correct procedures for handling and storage of abrasive products.

Be aware of the hazards associated with using abrasive products and always observe the recommended control measures. The main hazards are listed below and the recommended control measures are detailed further on.


  • Bodily contact with the abrasive product at operating speed.
  • Injury resulting from product breakage during use.
  • Grinding debris, sparks, fumes and dust generated by the grinding process.
  • Noise.
  • Vibration.

You should only use abrasive products that conform to the highest standards of safety and the BS EN standards listed below provide the essential safety requirements for relevant abrasive products.

  • BS EN 12413 for Bonded abrasives.
  • BS EN 13236 for Superabrasives.
  • BS EN 13743 for Specific coated abrasives (vulcanised fibre discs, flap wheels, flap discs and spindle-mounted flap wheels).

Only use equipment designed for the job or task being undertaken and never use a machine that is damaged or has defective parts. Risk assessments should be in place to identify the appropriate hazards and required control measures and equipment should only be used by experienced trained staff.

Hazard: Bodily contact with the abrasive product

Control measures:

  • Always take great care and attention when using abrasive products. Tie back long hair and do not wear loose clothing, ties and jewellery.
  • Prevent accidental start-up of the machine before mounting or changing an abrasive product. Isolate machines from their power source where necessary.
  • Never remove fitted guards from machines and ensure they are in good condition and properly adjusted before starting the machine.
  • Always use gloves and suitable clothing where the workpiece or machine is hand-held. For gloves, a minimum protection level of EN 388 Category 2 is recommended.
  • After switching off the machine, ensure the product has come to rest before leaving the machine unattended.

Hazard: Injury caused by product breakage

Control measures:

  • Always handle abrasives with great care, they are easily damaged. Examine all products for defects or damage before use.
  • Store abrasives in dry, frost-free conditions avoiding wide variations in temperature. Ensure they are properly protected and supported to prevent damage and distortion.
  • Coated abrasives should be stored at 18-22ยบ C, 45-65% relative humidity.
  • Abrasive belts should be hung on a rod or peg not less than 50mm diameter.
  • Never use an abrasive product beyond its expiry date where marked. Observe the recommended shelf life for the following specific products; Resinoid and Shellac products 3 years, Rubber products 5 years, Vitrified products 10 years.
  • Check abrasive product or package for any warnings or other safety information as seen below:

  • Ensure that the correct abrasive product is selected, never use a product if it cannot be properly identified.
  • Follow the instructions provided by the abrasive product or machine supplier when mounting abrasive products. Observe any mounting indications marked on the product such as direction of run or mounting position.
  • Never force the abrasive product onto the mounting fixture or modify it to fit.
  • Never exceed the maximum operating speed where specified.
  • Check that the correct mounting devices are used and that they are undistorted, clean and free from burrs.
  • Use mounting blotters where supplied.
  • Do not tighten the mounting device excessively.
  • After mounting or re-mounting an abrasive product, conduct a trial run at operating speed with the guard in place for at least 30 seconds, standing clear of the machine before use.
  • Ensure the workpiece is secure and properly supported and that work rests are properly adjusted and secure.
  • Never start the machine with the workpiece in contact with the abrasive product.
  • Never apply excessive force or shock to the abrasive product or let it overheat.
  • Do not grind on the part of the product that is not designed for the operation. Avoid grinding with the edge of abrasive belts, use the centre of the belt if possible.
  • Avoid clogging and uneven wear to ensure the abrasive product is working efficiently. Dress frequently where appropriate.
  • Let the abrasive product stop naturally, not by applying pressure to its surface.
  • Turn off and spin out excess coolant before stopping the machine.
  • Do not leave abrasive belts under tension when not in use.

Hazard: Grinding debris, sparks, dust and fumes

Control measures:

  • All dry grinding processes should be provided with adequate extraction facilities.
  • Do not use abrasive products near flammable materials.
  • The use of respirators complying with EN149 is recommended for dry grinding processes even if extraction systems are provided.
  • Guards where provided should be adjusted to deflect sparks and debris away from the operator. Take additional measures to protect people working nearby.
  • Eye protection is recommended for all machine applications for abrasives. For hand-held machines or workpiece, goggles or full-face shields with a minimum protection level of EN166 Grade B are recommended.
  • Ensure the correct abrasive product is selected, an unsuitable product can produce excessive debris and dust.

Hazard: Noise

Control measures:

  • Ear protection complying with EN352 is recommended for all applications where the workpiece or machine is hand-held, irrespective of the noise level.
  • Ensure the correct abrasive product is selected, an unsuitable product can produce excessive noise.

Hazard: Vibration

Control measures:

  • Action needs to be taken if tingling, pins and needles or numbness is experienced after 10 minutes continuous use of the abrasive product.
  • The effects of vibration are more pronounced in cold conditions so keep the hands warm and exercise hands and fingers regularly. Use modern equipment with low vibration levels.
  • Maintain all equipment in good condition and stop the machine and have it checked if excessive vibration occurs.
  • Use good quality abrasive products and keep them in good condition during their life.
  • Maintain mounting flanges and back-up pads in good condition and replace if worn or distorted.
  • Do not grip the workpiece or machine too tightly and do not exert excessive pressure on the abrasive product.
  • Avoid continuous use of the abrasive product.
  • Use the correct product. An unsuitable product can produce excessive vibration.
  • Don’t ignore the physical symptoms of vibration – seek medical advice.

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