Careful Concrete Cutting

A commercial-duty cut-off machine can slice through things like paver stones, retaining wall blocks and pre-cast concrete—helping you and your crews more efficiently complete hardscape jobs of all shapes and sizes.

Also commonly known as “concrete saws,” “cut-off saws” and “power cutters,” these tools are not cheap. A good one can run upwards of $1,000 or more. As crew leader, it's your job to make sure you and your crewmates operate these tools with care—keeping unnecessary wear and tear in mind, not to mention safety.

Safety first

To reduce the risk of injury, the operator should wear proper protective apparel. This includes:

  • Heavy-duty, non-slip work gloves
  • Sturdy boots with non-slip soles; steel-toed safety boots are highly recommended
  • Properly fitted safety glasses or goggles with adequate top and side protection and meeting ANSI Z87.1
  • Hard hat
  • Ear plugs or mufflers

Clothing must be sturdy and snug-fitting, but allow complete freedom of movement. Avoid loose-fitting jackets, scarfs, neckties, jewelry, flared or cuffed pants, unconfined long hair, or anything that could become caught on any obstacles or moving parts of the unit.

Wear overalls or long pants to protect your legs. Never wear shorts.

Use the right kind of cutting wheel. First of all, make sure the speed rating of the cutting wheel is above or equal to the spindle speed of the cut-off machine. Furthermore, only use wheels that are authorized for use with your equipment and the type of material being cut. Diamond wheels are generally better when it comes to things like pavers. See your product instruction manual and/or consult your dealer just to make sure.

Before you start to cut. Ensure that all of the controls and safety devices are working properly. Ensure that the idle and maximum speed are correctly adjusted, the wheel is properly mounted, and the wheel guard is securely fastened.

Adjust the wheel guard so that sparks and dust are directed away from the operator and can't reach anything flammable in the area. Wet cutting is an excellent way to reduce the risk of health hazards associated with dust when cutting concrete.

Finally, make sure the drive belt is properly tensioned, and check a second time after an hour or so of use.

Operating tips. Get a solid grip—and use two hands. Hold the machine steady. Apply the cutting wheel gently at full throttle. Keep the machine in line with the wheel. Pressure from the side can damage the wheel and cause it to jam. Simply move the wheel slowly forward and backward in the direction of the cut. Maintain full speed until the cut is complete, allowing the machine to work without applying downward pressure. The cutting depth per pass should not exceed 2.5 inches.

Never grind with the side of the wheel; doing so results in wheel damage.

Check the wheel for cracks or chips during rest times. Also check the wheel guard for any damage.

To reduce the risk of kickback, avoid cutting with the upper front quadrant of the wheel. Be alert to potential movement of the workpiece (i.e. paver) or anything else that could cause the cut to close and pinch the wheel. Make sure the workpiece is properly supported so that the cut remains open during the entire cutting process.

Transport and storage. Before you load your cut-off machine onto the trailer, remove the wheel. Once back at the shop, store the wheel on a flat, level surface. Make sure the area is not in direct sunlight or subject to humid conditions, or frost if it's cold. Failure to follow these guidelines can result in broken or damaged wheels.

Finally, be sure to inspect the wheel before heading back out to the jobsite for further use. Check to see if the wheel is warped or if any cracks exist. Mount the wheel in the same direction as it was used before.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article includes merely a quick overview of basic safe operating procedures. As always—read, understand and follow the directions in your product instruction manual, along with the various safety symbols and warnings that appear throughout the manual and on the product itself . STIHL offers a cut-off machine DVD. Check out the complete video clip here.

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