Table saws and grinders are in my opinion the two scariest tools out there. Our philosophy here at United is that if we don’t need to use these tools let’s not and use another, and we have realized that the tools were usually being used in the wrong application anyway!
There are about 100,000 saw-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms per year involved stationary saws, table saw, miter saws, band saw and radial arm saws. Most of those injuries are hand related from deep cuts to complete amputations. Why would any construction worker cut corners and jeopardize one of their most valuable asset. Their hands!
California Polytechnic Institute has developed a Code of Safe Practice for a number of woodworking machines as a guide for operators and supervisors in the industry. Wood Magazine took this list and added to it they also suggest you always follow the checklist before doing any cutting with your table saw in the shop.
- Remove from the saw table all scrap materials, tools, fasteners, and other debris. Also clear a 2′ perimeter all around the saw (more where you’ll stand if ripping long stock).
- Use the blade that best suits the job (never a crosscut blade for ripping or vice versa), and make sure it’s sharp. Check the arbor nut for tightness and the blade itself for chipped teeth, cracks, and other defects. Do all of this with the machine unplugged.
- Set the blade height. Flat-ground blades should extend no more than 1/4″ above the wood. Hollow-ground or planer blades must be raised as high as possible to avoid binding.
- Inspect all of your saw’s safety devices (the blade guard, splitter, and anti-kickback device, if present) for proper operation. The blade guard must move up and down freely to accommodate different wood thicknesses.
- Double-check the location and condition of the on/off switch.
- Realign the electrical cord to avoid tripping over it.
- Set the fence to align parallel to the blade at the width of the cut.
- Have safety glasses ready to wear, or if cutting material that tends to chip, a full-face shield.Because a tablesaw gets so much use in woodworking, turning it on to make a cut becomes as automatic as flipping on a light switch. But it shouldn’t. Ponder this advice:
- Never run your tablesaw when you’re tired. Fatigue leads to errors in judgment and mistakes. In fact, studies have shown that many serious tablesaw injuries occur to woodworkers when most other people are getting ready for a good night’s sleep. Also, stay away from the saw if you’re on medication or have been drinking alcohol.
- Don’t rush. Plan all your cuts.
- When ripping stock, always anticipate the possibility of kickback. Plan to minimize any damage from it to you or the work piece. For instance, don’t stand directly in line with the blade, but off to the side of it. To make sure your pushing hand won’t accidentally run into the blade, hook the small and ring fingers of the your pushing hand over the fence to slide with the wood.
- If you’re planning to rip boards longer than 3′, get a helper to support the wood after it passes through the blade, or use an off-feed table or roller.
- All cuts should incorporate either the fence or the miter gauge. Never attempt freehand sawing. Turning the stock on the blade even slightly causes it to bind in the wood and kick back. On the other hand, never use the fence and miter gauge together. If you try to crosscut with the miter gauge using the fence as a stop, for example, the cutoff piece trapped by the blade may fly back at you.
- Don’t remove the blade guard from your saw unless absolutely necessary to make a specific cut.
- Make sure you have a pushstick handy for any cuts that require your hand to pass within 6″ of the blade.
- If you have doubts about making a cut, don’t do it.
Here are a few items I would add to the above list:
1) Keep your Saw clean & follow operators manual on maintance and cleaning
2) Keep your area free of debris, dust and tripping hazards
3) Use the correct saw blade
4) Feather boards (spring activated attachment that keeps the wood tight up against the fence
5) Splitters are a great attachment that keeps the wood from closing in on the blade and creating a kick back
6) Push Sticks and Push block prevent you from getting to close to the blade.
7) Make sure you do not wear loose clothing