If you’ve read our guide to buying a table saw you’ll already know how useful these tools are. If you already own one, though, you’ll know how important proper safety procedures are when working with – or around – a table saw.
If in any doubt, and if you’ve got a strong stomach, Google “table saw injury”.
This safety guide is not exhaustive and is intended to alert readers to the need for safety when using table saws.
Please follow all of the safety instructions provided with your table saw and comply with all Health and Safety guidelines, rules and regulations at work when using any power tool. It is your responsibility to use your power tools safely.
Properly Set Up Your Table Saw
It should go without saying that your table saw should be assembled and be made ready for use per the manufacturer’s guidelines, including making sure the saw blade is properly aligned. This is your responsibility and should be done before undertaking any work on with the saw.
This would include making sure the blade is set at the proper height for the cut you’re about to make.
The blade should never be more than 6mm above the height of the piece you’re cutting. Doing so not only guarantees the blade will make the best possible cut (click here for more info on this) but it also serves to protect your digits should your hand slip near the blade; only a tiny part of the blade will be spinning above the work piece.
Make sure the tabletop is clear of obstacles. A dirty or rough tabletop will require you to push harder on your workpiece as you cut, putting you at risk.
Don’t be Complacent
Over-familiarity with power tools is a regular cause of injury. The more experienced you may believe you are with your tools, it’s likely the more casual you’ll be when setting up and using them.
This is especially worrying when using a table saw due to the risk of serious injury! Many injuries with power tools can – and should – be avoided by you – the operator – taking nothing for granted! That means you need to make sure your saw is properly set up, per above, and that you’re adhering closely to all published guidelines for operator safety, even if you’ve been using the tool for many years.
Keep a Safe Distance
Good quality professional table saws are supplied with push sticks. Be sure to use yours as this will keep your hands away from the tables saw’s most dangerous area; the blade. A saw blade spinning at over 3000rpm is designed to quickly and easily cut wood. It will, quite literally, make mincemeat of your flesh.
This cannot be overstated:
It’s possible to buy push handles for your table saw. These tend to be a little safer than push sticks, featuring a handle which gives you a solid grip of the stick while keep your fleshy parts safely away from the spinning blade.
But, as above, be sure to adhere to the manufacturer’s safety instructions, either for using the push stick or an aftermarket push handle.
When cutting large pieces, set up an outfeed support.
Keep All Safety Features in Place
The blade guard, splitter and/or riving knife are fitted by the manufacturer for a reason; to keep table saw operator’s safe. Hence, removing them is bonkers, so don’t do it, unless you’re removing the riving knife to perform a concealed cut. But once you’ve made the cut, reattach it. It’s there to prevent your workpiece kicking back and it also protects you from the rear of the blade.
The blade guard is there to protect your fingers from the blade. It also helps keep dust and wood fragments from flying into your face, a real issue when cutting partical board, MDF and so forth. So, it’s there for a reason; leave it in place.
Wear the Proper PPE
Before hitting the start button on your safety saw, regardless of whether you’ve followed the above steps, it’s imperative that you done the appropriate PPE. This may be specific to the job site you’re working on, but even if you’re in your own workshop, shed or garage, protecting your person with the proper equipment is vital.
- Safety glasses, gogglesor a face shield
- Dust mask if the cutting operation is particularly dusty (better yet, fit a dust extractor to your table saw)
- Non-slip footwear
DO NOT WEAR:
- Gloves when operating the saw
- Long sleeved tops
- Dangling jewelry
Like complacency, bad habits when addressing the table saw, and the piece you’re cutting, can lead to serious injuries. Thompson Rivers University has published a guide to making sure you stand in such a way as to avoid harming yourself:
- Position your body so that it is NOT in line with the blade. This is to avoid being injured by flying sawdust, woodchips or the work
- Always stand firmly on the floor and avoid any awkward operations. This is to avoid falling into the blade by slipping or losing your balance
- Do not reach behind or over the blade unless it has stopped turning
For more reading on safety when using table saws, we recommend you check out the linked to article from Thompson Rivers University above, and this great piece by The Family Handyman, packed with tips and tricks on getting the most from your table saw.
What tips do you have for working safely with table saws? Leave them in the comments section below.
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