Table saw safety: Injuries, precautions, and mistakes


Table saws are a very safe woodworking tool when proper techniques and safety rules are followed. In this article, I will go over the 3 common types of table saw injuries, table saw safety rules, tips on how to avoid injuries, and what to do when issues arise.

Directory

  1. Common table saw injuries
  2. Table saw safety rules
  3. How to avoid injuries
  4. Table saw safety scenarios

Common table saw injuries

Most accidents occur on the table saw from blade injuries and injuries due to kickback.

Blade Injuries

  • Cuts
  • Lacerations
  • Amputations

Kickback Injuries

  • Cuts
  • Blunt Force Trauma

Compounding Injuries

  • Noise-Induced Hearing loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Vision problems
  • Respiratory problems

Blade injuries

Some of the most common blade injuries include lacerations or amputations of the fingers, hands, and arms.

Kick back

Kick back is when an object is shot back at the user. This commonly results from a dull blade, pieces of the wood already being loose, and improper use of the machine.

Kick back cannot be 100 percent prevented and protective equipment should be worn like protective glasses.

Kickback can lead to lacerations of the face, eyes, and body. Kickback of larger items are easier to prevent. However, glasses should be worn to protect you from kickback of smaller wood pieces.

Compounding injuries

Compounding injuries are injuries that happen over time. Some common compound injuries with woodworking a respiratory and hearing problems. To prevent these injuries, you should always wear a respirator and hearing protection when operating a table saw.

To learn more about protective equipment and woodworking safety, you should check out my article “PPE for woodworking”.

Table saw safety rules

When operating a table saw, you should follow safety rules to prevent making these common table saw mistakes.

Table saw
  1. Wear PPE
  2. Do not force wood
  3. Don’t try to twist the wood
  4. Use an outfeed table when needed
  5. Use a push stick for thin pieces
  6. Use a jig for trimming wood
  7. Start machine before wood touches blade
  8. Use blade guard

Below, I will describe each rule in detail, why it is important, and the implications if the rule is not followed.

  1. Wear PPE
  2. Do not force wood
  3. Don’t try to twist the wood
  4. Use an outfeed table when needed
    • A limitation to tables saws is that longer pieces of wood can pose a hazard without the right accessories. Wood outfeed can fall over the other side of the saw thus potentially causing you to slip or fall.
    • An outfeed table will allow your wood to stay parallel to the saw, thus eliminating the risk
  5. Use a push stick for thin pieces
    • Push sticks are used to push the wood through the saw without your fingers having to risk coming close to the blade. This is especially essential when working with smaller pieces
  6. Use a jig for trimming wood
    • Normal table saws should not be used to trim wood. Cutting small pieces off wood can result in the pieces falling in the hole of the spinning blade and potentially shooting back at you.
    • A work-around for this is to use a zero-clearance insert. You can buy one to match the make and model of your saw, or you could just make your own.
  7. Start machine before wood touches blade
    • Just like the circular saw, having the blade touch the wood before the saw is powered on can result in kickback
  8. Use blade guard
    • Just like the circular saw, for the table saw, the blade guard is used to protect you from the blade
    • The blade guard is not as effective in preventing you from cutting your fingers when you are pushing the wood. This is due to the way they are made. However, it can be really beneficial if your outfeed falls and you slip and fall over the table.
    • While that is pretty rare, it is life saving if it does happen

How to avoid table saw injuries

  1. Pay attention
    • Many, if not most, injuries that occur when working with power equipment is due to distractions, tiredness, and not paying attention.
  2. Keep work area clean
    • A messy work area increases the chances of accidents occurring. This will limit trip, slip, and tipping hazards.
  3. Wear PPE
    • Not all incidents can be fully predicted and prevented. You should wear PPE to prevent injuries to incidents.
    • Additionally, PPE can prevent compounding injuries that happen over time, like hearing and respiratory problems.
  4. Use a push stick, blade guard, and riving knife
    • Use a push stick, blade guard, and riving knife to prevent kickback and to prevent cuts, lacerations, and amputations
  5. Use miter gauge or rip fence
    • Miter gauges for cross cuts and rip fences for rip cuts keep the wood straight and prevents wood binding and kickback
  6. Unplug the saw during cleaning and adjustment
    • The table saw should always be unplugged when cleaning, adjusting, and changing the blade
  7. Set the blade to the minimum height needed
    • Having a table saw blade that is too high can cause injury such as the blade injuries mentioned previously and injuries resulting from kickback

Table saw safety scenarios

Sometimes issues occur when operating a table saw and you will need to know how to handle these scenarios safely to prevent injury. The two common scenarios that I will go over is when kickback occurs and when the wood gets stuck in the table saw.

What to do when kickback occurs on the table saw?

  1. Wear PPE
  2. Use a push stick
  3. Stand slightly to the left of the blade

The best protection that you can have if kickback occurs is PPE. The most important PPE that I recommend is eye protection. The two things I will never skip is eye protection and hearing protection. During kickback, the most vulnerable part of your body is your eyes.

Using a push stick can also help you holding wood down that looks like its about to bind. You can sometimes catch the early signs of kickback if the wood is raising up on one side and/or slowing coming towards you. If you see either of these actions, you can use a push stick to correct it.

Lastly, you can also stand slightly to the left of the wood to lessen your chances of getting hit. This will not guarantee safety from getting struck by a piece of wood.

Kickback can still lead to pretty severe blunt force trauma. That is why it is crucial to take the safety precautions.

What to do when the wood gets stuck on the table saw?

  1. Hold the wood there
  2. Turn off the saw
  3. Inspect surroundings and the wood

If the wood gets stuck mid-cut and no go through the table saw, do not try to force it. Forcing the wood through can cause blade or kickback injuries.

If the wood is stuck, you should stop applying pressure to the wood, hold it there, and turn off the saw. After the saw is powered off, remove the wood and inspect the area for the cause of the wood not being fed through. A poorly aligned riving knife may cause the wood to get caught along with a mis-aligned outfeed table, external blockage, and wood knot. After you find what is blocking the wood, then you can fix it try the cut again. If you if its a wood knot and the blade is having trouble cutting, you can either try to sharpen or replace the blade. You can also handsaw the knot to get the cut started and run it through the table saw again.

Rachel

My name is Rachel Blanding and I am a woodworker. I started woodworking at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mainly create and refurbish furniture and create art. In this site I will share with you the knowledge I have gained over the years, and what worked for me and what didn't.

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