Workshop safety is important to prevent personal injuriy and damage to equipment. In this article, we are going to go over everything that you should know to operate a jigsaw safely. You will learn about key safety precautions, common injuries, common mistakes, the protective equipment to wear when operating a jigsaw.
- Ensure blade is correctly installed
- Ensure correct blade is used
- Secure wood properly
- Use two hands
- Wear PPE
- Inspect electrical components
Note: Most of these safety precautions come from the OSHA training site. Go to this site to learn more about jigsaw safety precautions. Below I will elaborate on the safety precautions along with my personal experience.
Ensure blade is correctly installed
Properly secure the jigsaw blade using the manufactures instructions of your jigsaw. You should also frequently check the blade ensure it has not become loose. A blade that is not properly secured can break, snag, and cause injury.
Ensure correct blade is used
You want to make sure you are using the correct blade for the job and the correct size for your jigsaw. Different sized blades are used for different materials and types of cuts.
In general, you want to use a blade that can cut the material you are cutting. So do not use a wood blade for metal and vise versa. Additionally, you want the blade thickness to match the type of cut you are performing. In general, thicker blades are for straight cuts and thinner blades are ideal for curved cuts.
Lastly, you want to make sure you use the correct blade shank for the jigsaw you have. The most common types of shanks are T and U shanks. Consult the manufatures instructions to see what type of shank is compatible with your jigsaw.
To learn more about jigsaw blades and which ones are best for your job, check out my article “Jigsaw blade types”.
Secure wood properly
When using a jigsaw, the workpiece should be properly secured to a workbench, saw horse, or other tabletop. If the wood is not secured, one side of the wood will start to drop as you cut the workpiece. This will the side of the wood that is falling to rub against the blade and potentially cause kickback from the jigsaw or wood pieces.
Use two hands
A jigsaw is designed to be held with two hands. Where you place your hands may vary slightly from make and model, but in general, your dominant hand will go over the trigger and handle and your other hand over the top of the saw. Your dominant hand will be used to guide the saw and your other hand will be to keep a good grip on it.
Using two hands is important when operating a jigsaw because it has excessive vibration that is very difficult to control with just one hand. Using one hand on the jig increases your risk of injury.
When operating a jigsaw you should wear hearing protection such as earmuffs or ear plugs. Additionally, you need eye protection that is ASNI apporoved. Lastly, you should wear a face shield when cutting materials that may shatter.
Inspect electrical componenets
Inspect the cords for wear and damage and the motor for signs of burn out. When checking the cords, make sure the ground pin is undamaged and the cord sheething is not wearing out. When checking the motor, look for discoloration, melting, and burning smells.
- Lacerations and amputations
- Blunt force trauma
- Compound Injuries
- Allergy like symptoms
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
- Temporary Threshold Shift
- Occupational Asthma
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Lacerations and amputations
A well known injury that can occur when operating a jigsaw is lacerations and amputations. Most of these injuries are caused by direct contact with the jigsaw blade. Many of these injuries are caused by poor hand placement, kickback, and not properly securing the wood.
Blunt force trauma
Blunt force trauma is caused when a flying object hits the operator. In woodworking, this is commonly wood pieces that fly back. To prevent this from happening, the operator should use the proper, sharp blade, not force the saw through the wood, and wear eye protection. Eye protection is so important because blunt force trauma to the eyes can leave serious, lasting effects like blindness.
Compounding injuries are different from the other injuries mentioned because they occur over time. These injuries can happen over hours, days, months, and even years.
Allergy like symptoms
Respiratory and eye irritation can occur from exposure to wood dust and chemicals. If you do not wear the proper PPE when operating a jigsaw, you will be exposing yourself to these particles. Luckily, allergy-like symptoms usually clear up in a few days to a few weeks.
Tinnitus is ringing in the ears that is caused from exposure to loud sounds. Jigsaws operate at more than 85 decibels (OSHA’s recommendations). Tinnitus is a chronic condition with many cases lasting 6 – 12 months. However, it can be longer lasting but is likely to improve over time (Medical Audiology Services 2021)
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is a condition where loud sounds damage the cochlea in the ear and results in hearing loss. NIHL can be more temporary or permanent and the best way to prevent this is by wearing the proper hearing protection.
Temporary Threshold Shift
Temporary threshold shift (TTS) is similar to NIHL but is a short term form of hearing loss. Hearing loss is considered TTS if recovery happens within a few weeks. TTS often lasts from a few hours to a few weeks (Ryan et al., 2016).
Sinusitis is when the sinuses become inflamed, swollen, and irritated. Some common symptomes of sinusistis are stuffy or runny nose and pain around the eyes, cheeks, and nose.
Most sinusitis is acute and lasts 1 – 2 weeks. However, some sinusitis can last 12 weeks or more (Acute sinusitis 2023).
Occupational Asthma is asthma that is triggered by the workplace and normally subsides when away from work for an extended period of time. Occupational Asthma will affect you when you are at work and when you go home, but may get better on weekends and when on vacation (Occupational asthma 2022). Longer exposure can make occupational asthma long term and potentially permanent.
Chronis Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstrucitve Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lung disease that causes obstructed airflow. Two of the most common types of COPD are Emphysema and chronic bronchitis (COPD 2020). COPD is commonly caused by inhaling gases and particulate matter such as cigarrete smoke, chemicals, and wood dust.
People with COPD may experience shortness of breath, wheezing, chronic cough, lack of energy, and swelling of ankles and feet. COPD is a chronic disease that may get better with time and medications, but is not curable.
- Improper hand placement
- Incorrect setup
- Improper blade
- Improper PPE
- Neglecting safety checks prior to use
- Not addressing fatigue
- Arm overextension
- Not properly securing wood
- Not checking blade path
Improper hand placement
When operating a jigsaw, you should have both hands on the saw at all times. Your dominant hand will go over the trigger and your other hand will go over the saw. This will give you more control over the saw.
The jigsaw is very difficult to operate with just one hand because of the excessive vibration. Additionally, not putting your hands in the correct position lead to poor grip, slippage, and injury.
When setting up the work space, you should properly secure the workpiece to the worksurface and ensure you can cut the wood without the blade hitting the workbench, sawhorse, or worksurface.
You should ensure you are using the correct blade for the job and correct shank for your jigsaw type. To learn more about jigsaw blades, check out my article “Jigsaw blades”.
When operating a jigsaw, you need hearing protection that can lower the decible rating to at least 85, eye protection that is ASNI approved, particulate mask, and a face shield if cutting glass or other material that may shatter. Not wearing the correct PPE or PPE that is not approved for the job at hand can result in some of the injuries discused previously.
To learn more about PPE, check out my article “Woodworking Safety glasses”.
Neglecting safety checks prior to use
Check the jigsaw for electrical issues like cord wear and tear, missing ground pin, and motor burn out. Additionally, you should check for blade damage and frequently check for blade secureness inbetween cuts.
To check for motor burnout, look for discoloration, melting, and burning smells. To check for blade damage, look for missing blades and blade warping.
Not addressing fatigue
The jigsaw has excessive vibrations in comparison to other handheld woodworking saws. As a result, you are likely to experience fatigue quicker. When you feel fatigue, it is important to take a break as it can lead to mistakes that can damage the saw and injure yourself.
The further you extend your arm the less control you have on the jigsaw. Additionally, if you reach too far, you increase your chances of slipping.
When you have less control of the saw, you are more likely to have injury in the event of kickback and are more likely to not be as precise in the cut.
Not properly securing wood
The jigsaw vibrates excessively so you want high quality clamps that can keep the wood secure. Clamps with with little clamp force or older clamps that loosen over time can lead to issues in cut effectiveness and safety.
In my experience, it is common for cheaper/older clamps to loosen when using a jigsaw due to the amount of vibration the saw has.
Not checking blade path
Before operatining a jigsaw, you want to make sure you have enough blade clearance when cutting. When cutting off the side of a workbench, make sure you align the wood so the blade will not hit the workbench mid-cut.
Additionally, when performing an elevated cut, make sure the wood is elevated high enough so the blade will not hit the workbench in the process.
- Hearing protection
- Eye protection
- Particulate mask
- Face-shield (if needed)
The main forms of PPE that you will need when operating a jigsaw are hearing protection, eye protection, a particulate mask, and a face-shield.
Hearing protection such as earmuffs or earplugs are necessary because the jigsaw is over the 85 decibel limit. You will want hearing protection that is workshop approved to lower the noise to 85 decibels or lower.
Eye protection that is ASNI approved is necesarry to protect your eyes and prevent your eye protection from shattering.
A particulate mask is needed to prevent fine particles from being inhaled. A gas mask is also effective, but is not required if you are not working with chemicals.
Lastly, a face shield should be used when cutting materials that can shatter, like glass.
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Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, April 15). COPD. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/copd/symptoms-causes/syc-20353679
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, May 3). Occupational asthma. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/occupational-asthma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375772
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2023, August 29). Acute sinusitis. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-sinusitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351671#:~:text=Acute%20sinusitis%20causes%20the%20spaces,the%20face%20might%20feel%20swollen.
Medical Audiology Services. (2021, January 26). https://medicalaudiology.com.au/frequently-asked-questions-tinnitus/#:~:text=Will%20my%20tinnitus%20ever%20go,it%20persists%20beyond%20this%20period.
Ryan, A. F., Kujawa, S. G., Hammill, T., Le Prell, C., & Kil, J. (2016, September). Temporary and permanent noise-induced threshold shifts: A review of basic and clinical observations. Otology & neurotology : official publication of the American Otological Society, American Neurotology Society [and] European Academy of Otology and Neurotology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4988324/