Cutting building materials safely

There are many dangers when it comes to cutting building materials, both from badly used tools and from the materials themselves. By taking sensible and adequate precautions - both before and during cutting - you can reduce the risks considerably.

We recommend you look at the following advice:

Safety precautions before use

  • Ensure blade type and specification are suitable for the material being cut
  • Inspect the blade for cracking, detached segments, undercutting of the steel centre just below the segment, uneven wear or any other defect
  • Check machine spindle rotation matches the arrow direction printed on the blade
  • Ensure blade bore size matches the spindle size
  • Wear adequate safety clothing, including eye protection
  • Check the machine is in safe working order - especially important are the protective guards.
  • Make sure you have proper protective footwear - safety toe shoes at the very minimum, and full metatarsal protection if possible

Safety precautions during use

  • Do not apply excessive force when cutting. This can damage the blade
  • If overheating occurs, the product being cut is too hard. A blunt blade can can be re-sharpened by running in soft abrasive material such as brick or block. If this problem recurs, stop using the blade and consult your supplier
  • Ensure the material being cut is secured firmly
  • Check the blade frequently for signs of damage (see above)
  • Ensure there is a plentiful supply of water to both sides of the blade when wet cutting

Some precautions for cutting specific materials

Concrete is found on almost every building site. While diamond blades can make a great job of cutting, there are some other issues to be addressed. Concrete dust can be harmful to the lungs and the eyes. Wet cutting can solve the problem, with the dust being carried away safely in the cooling water.

When using any power tool with cooling water, you need to be careful that it is properly grounded, insulated and has ground fault protection - especially if you end up standing in a pool of water.

Whatever you are cutting, if it’s in place on site you should consider what lies in the material or behind it, such as electrical conduit or plumbing. A blade that will happily cut concrete will make short work of conduits, wiring and pipes.

Similar to cutting concrete, cutting ceramics releases harmful dust (silicon dioxide), which can cause lung problems, into the air. You should therefore wear gloves, goggles and the correct kind of mask when cutting ceramic materials, in addition to your usual hard hat. In many cases, ear protectors can be advised, too.

Take care and you’ll not only be safe, but produce great quality, accurate cuts with ease.

Dave Symons is Technical Manager of Hilbor Diamond Tools, whose Spectrum brand provide a large range of cutting tools for drilling concrete through to tile cutting.

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