A table saw is one of the most basic tools for woodworking. A woodworking setup would be incomplete without a table saw because of its ability to perform various tasks quickly with accuracy and precision. A table saw is generally a safe tool to use, but it can get pretty dangerous if you don’t follow safety measures. According to a report published by National Center for Biotechnology Information, over 30,000 table-saw injuries occur annually.
Fingers and hands are the most frequently injured body parts, and lacerations are the most common injury. You would be surprised to know that the treatment cost for table saw injuries are estimated at more than $2 billion every year.
Luckily, you can avoid these injuries by taking some relevant safety measures. These safety measures are easy to take and don’t affect your working accuracy. To keep you safe, we have listed all the safety precautions you need to take while operating a table saw.
Table Saw Safety Guide
The below-mentioned safety measures are important for all users regardless of your expertise or working skills with a saw. We have divided the safety measures into three categories for easy understanding.
Let’s make the table saw safe for you!
Safety precautions before using a Table Saw
Owner’s Manual: Read the owner’s manual, usage guide, setup guide, or any other brochures that come with your tool. The user manual contains relevant information, and it is more credible than all the safety guides available online. The owner’s manual also contains information about troubleshooting and dealing with several problems.
Warranty Terms and Conditions: Understand warranty terms and conditions so you don’t end up voiding the warranty on your table saw.
Applications and Limitations: You must get to know the applications, uses, and limitations of your table saw before using it. It is even better to read about table saw applications before buying. It often happens that your desired use can be performed better with some other tool than a table saw.
Safety Equipment: Before operating your table saw, it is very important to check all the safety features on your machine. The blade guard, riving knife, and anti-kickback claws protect the user from various hazards. Make sure you set them properly.
Safety Precautions to follow while using a Table Saw
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): When working with a tool like a table saw, you need personal protective gear to keep yourself safe from sawdust, flying wood pieces, and the unbearable noise it makes when cutting the wood. You will need eye and ear protection. We don’t recommend wearing your regular glasses while working with a table saw. You need proper safety goggles when working with the tool to protect your eyes from flying wood pieces and sawdust. Hearing protection is recommended for every woodworker, either professional or hobbyist. Hearing loss is common with woodworkers. It comes without symptoms and is irreversible, so don’t make any compromises here. If you frequently work on table saws, you are also going to need respiratory protection. A KN-95 mask works best with table saws. We would also suggest you wear your work boots because they offer better grip while standing on the ground.
The glove question? Some people suggest wearing gloves while working on a table saw. Well, they are wrong. Wearing gloves while feeding wood to a saw can be very dangerous. First, gloves don’t provide enough grip to hold the wood. Second, it can result in loss of tactile sense. The gloves can get loose over time and can get in the way of the blade. However, you must always wear heavy-duty gloves while handling a table saw blade.
Working Attire: Don’t worry; you don’t have to wear a uniform while operating a table saw. All you need to do is get rid of all your loose clothing items such as jewelry, ties, bracelets, watches, necklaces, and long sleeves. If you have long hair, tie them before running the blade. All of these things can get stuck in the blade and cause an injury.
Standing Position: You must stand comfortably while operating the saw. Make sure there are no tripping hazards near your table saw. Make sure that you keep your feet far enough apart for maximum balance. If you are cutting long sheets which require you to take steps towards the saw, make sure you don’t rush into it. We recommend wearing non-slip work boots.
Keep the Area Clean: Make sure you clean your work area before cutting wood. Remove any sheets, cutoffs, sawdust, or any other items on your table. Such things can come in contact with the sheet/blade or reduce your ability to make accurate cuts. You must also clean the ground around your table saw and remove everything that can present a tripping hazard.
Cutting Instructions: Ok, this one is going to get a bit lengthy.
- Use push sticks when cutting short pieces. If you keep your hand away from the blade, you reduce the chances of feeding your fingers in the blade.
- Use a stop block while cross-cutting short lengths.
- Make sure your body is not in line with the blade. It keeps you out of the kickback zone and keeps the sawdust out of your face.
- Feed the stock against the direction of the blade.
- Never leave the sheet unattended or stop pushing it unless it has been completely cut. Doing so will increase the chances of kickback. You can use a push stick to push the end of the sheet towards the blade.
- Check the blade before using a table saw and ensure that it is running freely. Make sure to unplug the saw before checking the blade.
- Check your sheets before cutting. Sometimes the stock has some foreign objects like nails and screws. Such things can get pretty dangerous when they come in contact with a spinning blade.
- Always use the right blade and blade insert for making a specific cut. If you are making a dado cut, use dado blades and dado blade insert.
- Use extra stands or tables while cutting large pieces of stock.
- Never adjust or change any setting on your table saw unless the blade has stopped rotating. Even a slow rotating blade can hurt you badly.
- Make sure that the throat insert is in its place before operating a table saw. The wood pieces can drop down into the lower part of the blade and come out ferociously in the next trip.
- The most important of all, never make a free-hand cut with a table saw. Guide the sheets into the blade using a rip fence and miter gauge.
Blade Safety: This one is also very important, and hence we have explained it in detail
- Always unplug your tool while handling table saw blades.
- Wear heavy-duty work gloves while sharpening, removing, or putting back your blade.
- Never remove the blade guard when the blade is running, or the machine is plugged in.
- Make sure you use the right blades for the work being done.
- Keep your blades sharpened, clean, and properly set, so they cut freely.
- Make sure that the blade guard is high enough to cover the part of the blade rising above the stock.
- Turn off the saw and lower the blade after finishing your work.
Table Top: Always keep your tabletop clean and polish it regularly. A dirty or rough tabletop can be damaging to your saw. It can get rusty pretty quickly, and you will have to exert more pressure to get the sheets through the blade.
Rip Fence and Miter Gauge Safety: Rip fence and miter gauge allow the user to make straight and angles cuts, respectively. They are not meant to be used simultaneously, and you must not adjust them when the saw is running.
Things to avoid while working with a Table Saw
- Never operate your saw if the wire is wet.
- Don’t let children and pets get near to your saw.
- Never leave a running saw unintended.
- Never operate the saw at a lower voltage and without a GFCI outlet.