Using Sanding Equipment Safely
Sanding equipment is another tool which has risks to health associated with it. One of the primary sources of danger is the dust that will be produced from the act of sanding whatever material is being worked. Sanding equipment of various sizes and types are used on a range of different materials such as wood and stone, and the act of grinding down the surface will create dust which can cause damage to a person's respiratory system (throat, lungs etc.) either in the short-term or causing long-term damage.
Most types of dust health hazards come under COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations unless they have their own particular regulations, for example asbestos and its associated dust. Even dust which is not comprised of hazardous particles can cause damage in sufficient quantities, and can aggravate existing medical conditions that a person may have such as asthma.
The risk to health from dust produced by the sanding can be reduced by certain control measures including using ventilation equipment to extract the dust and take it away before it has a chance to spread into the air and be inhaled by the operator or those working nearby. Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided if required to protect the wearer from dust.
However, dust is not the only risk presented through the use of sanding equipment. Sanding machinery is likely to be noisy, and long-term or even short-term exposure to this noise can cause permanent hearing damage to a worker. Again, suitable protective equipment such as ear defenders are a way of combating this risk.
Vibration is also an issue as the sanding process is likely to create vibrations to some extent no matter what size or type of sanding machine is being used for the job. A combination of gloves, frequent rest breaks and regular replacement of the sanding belt to prevent the need for avoidable exertion can all help to lower the danger to health from vibration whilst sanding.
Fire is another potential danger. Not only can faulty equipment or damaged electricity cables cause a fire just like it can in other power tools, but the friction created by sanding may in some circumstances cause any flammable material to ignite.
Finally, if the surface is requiring sanding, then it is probable that the surface is rough or sharp. These sharp surfaces present a sharps risk to those handling the object, and it may therefore be prudent to provide these workers with sharps training to prevent injury to themselves from cuts and abrasions.