Are broken "hard" disks common? Well, not in my experience, but it does happen and there have been deaths as a result of pieces striking workers. The good news is that with the proper precautions, we can reduce the likelihood of injuries when using hand-held grinders.
- Always inspect disks for imperfections, cracks, and other damage. Performing a "ring" test may help identify cracks that you may not be able to see.
- Always follow the appropriate lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures when changing disks. In this case, LOTO means unplugging the tool before you change disks or guards. And, be sure that you keep your hands clear of the trigger plugging it back in.
- Wear gloves when operating this tool. The disks operate at high speed and can "kick" back at you. Gloves can prevent many minor injuries to your hands.
- Never use the grinder above chest height.
- Always wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In this case, at least use safety glasses, hearing protection, gloves, and a face shield. Our shop reduced eye injuries in our shop by 65% after we required the wearing of face shields in addition to safety glasses. Although all previous eye injuries were minor, it is evident that face shields work!
Recently, we conducted a tool box safety talk about grinders emphasizing the use of guard and we always end with a reminder of the LOTO procedures. Imagine my surprise when, about 20 minutes after the training session, I was called the the first aid room to find an employee with a grinder injury. He had just completed a blade change (a "hard" disk) and had followed the proper LOTO rules. But, when picking up the grinder to begin work, the glove web between thumb and forefinger contacted the grinder's trigger. The spinning disk pulled his gloved left forefinger into the blade pinching it between the blade and the guard. He had an ugly gash on his left forefinger, but luckily, required only a few stitches - no permanent injury.
So, even when you think you are following all of the safety rules, PPE, LOTO, etc., you must always remain diligent when using a grinder. And always keep you mind focused only on what you are doing.