Setting Standards: Part 1

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100 Years of Leadership in Abrasives Safety

The year 2016 marks a special anniversary for our company: 100 years since the creation of the first ever safety code for abrasives. Throughout the year we will be featuring a series of articles to celebrate this pioneering achievement made possible only through the former Norton Company’s leadership in the field of abrasives safety.



In 1916, following more than a decade of safety research, advocacy and leadership by the Norton Company (now Saint-Gobain Abrasives), a major milestone was achieved: the publication of the Safety Code for the Use and Care of Abrasive Wheels.  This 13-page booklet, containing an unprecedented set of safety devices and procedures, was a spark that changed the entire future of the abrasives industry.


By the time of its release the safety code had already won the endorsement of 23 grinding wheel manufacturers, and its recommendations were quickly adopted by grinding machine builders as well.  Over time, as the effectiveness of the code was seen, its influence grew and within a few decades a revised version of the safety code was enacted into law by several states. Later, in the 1970s, it received the ultimate endorsement when selected by OSHA  as the basis of new federal regulations concerning abrasive wheel machinery . Today, it remains the authoritative standard for abrasives safety in North America, and across the globe it has informed standards writers from Europe to Asia and beyond.


Over the past century much about the safety code has changed and much has not. The title, for example, has changed several times; today it is commonly known as the ANSI B7.1 standard, though its full title is The Safety Requirements for the Use, Care and Protection of Abrasive Wheels. The content, of course, has evolved in response to advances in abrasive products and technology, but astonishingly the pillars of the safety code remain the same today: Guards, Flanges and Speeds.


One of these pillars, Guards, was championed by Norton Company in a time when rotating equipment was seldom guarded. As a result tragic accidents were commonplace with workers being entangled in machinery or struck by parts ejected from machines. This situation was only improved through the leadership of Norton Company in developing and promoting the use of protective guards on grinding machines.


Early guards were simple, consisting only of a peripheral band as shown in Figure 1, but designers recognized that pieces could still escape through the open sides. The addition of side enclosures as shown in Figure 2 helped to improve the guard. In years to follow, two important developments came about: the self-closing guard (Figure 3) and the full machine enclosure (Figure 4). Both have been crucial to preserving the safety of abrasive wheel operators as faster and more dynamic grinding applications have emerged.


The past 100 years have seen incredible developments in technology alongside a transformation in the safety culture of American industry. This progress can be traced back to landmark contributions that set new standards, and in the world of abrasives, the publication of the first safety code for abrasives is such a contribution. Not only was the industry changed, but many lives have been saved and injuries avoided thanks to the pioneering work of Norton Company, which is carried on today by Saint-Gobain Abrasives. 






For additional information on this topic or if you need any other abrasives safety information, please review ANSI, OSHA and all literature provided by the abrasive and machine manufacturer. You may contact the Saint-Gobain Abrasives Product Safety Department at (508) 795-2317, Fax (508) 795-5120 or contact your Saint-Gobain Abrasives representative.



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