Owning a table saw is one of the best achievements for most woodworking people. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, you will derive a wide range of benefits from the table saw. However, since this is a power tool, you will need to be extra careful when using it so as to prevent any incidents.
You should always purpose to stay safe when using the table saw and this is the effective way of preventing such accidents. One of the key reasons for the accidents that are attributed to table saws is the distraction. You need to be fully focused on the process so as to prevent your hand from being caught in the blade. Inspecting the stock is also paramount. If there are foreign objects in your workpiece, this will lead to kickbacks, which can cause serious injuries.
The main objective of this guide is to highlight the possible dangers that are associated with the table saw and suggest some safety measures. There are some devices and accessories that are intended to enhance your safety, and I will be looking at them as well. Please read on to the end and you will benefit greatly.
Statistics on Table Saw related Injuries
Understanding the frequency of these injuries may be a great way to create awareness. We have borrowed some data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For a general glimpse of the data that I looked at, there are over 40,000 injuries that are related to the use of the table saws in one way or another. In most cases, the injuries involved direct contact with the blade, where either flesh or pieces of clothing were caught by the blade. The issue of kickbacks is also common during the cutting process.
Any form of injury that is caused by the table saw can be painful and may have a number of setbacks. For instance, if this is your full time job, this means that you have to survive through other means. In addition to this, there are hefty medical bills that are incurred. The worst case scenario is when there have been deaths that resulted from improving the use of this tool.
Evidently, this is something that you need to be keen on and try as much as possible to avert it.
Common Dangers When Using a Table Saw
From my research, I was able to pick a number of problems that appeared to be common. Most of these dangers ended up causing permanent injuries. Here are the common dangers that you are exposed to when operating the table saw:
- Loose Clothing and Accessories
Wearing buggy clothing while in the workshop is not advisable. You need to keep away your necktie and other jewelry, as a safety measure. These clothes can easily be caught by the table saw and the result is having the entire body pulled towards the blade of the table saw. If the blade is already spinning, there is a very high likelihood of getting serious injuries.
- Blunt Blades
When most experts recommend that the blade of the table saw should always be sharp, most people assume this is to enhance effectiveness. While that is partially true, having sharp blades is a safety measure as well. When you try and cut your stock with the dull blade, there is a very high possibility of a kickback. This will push the stock out and can hurt you, depending on where you stand. Always ensure that the blade is sharp, before attempting any cuts.
- Foreign Objects on Wood
Even if you are in a rush to beat a deadline, take some time to inspect your workpiece. Look out for nails, wood knots, staples and other things that may be on the stock. When these items are caught in the table saw, they will be thrown out like missiles. Wood chips may appear to be small, but they can cause serious injuries when they land on your skin. This is one of the most common dangers that most tables saw operators have encountered.
- Falling Down
Falling is a common accident from time to time. However, if you were to fall when operating the table saw, then this could end up being tragic. In most cases, when you apply too much force when pushing your workpiece, you may end up falling. In other cases, if the surface that you are working on is wet or slippery, there is a very high possibility of falling and may end up coming into contact with a blade that is spinning.
- Wet Work Piece
You should never attempt to make cuts on wet wood as this would one of the reasons that could cause injuries. When the wood is not dry, it will slide and may also affect the blade of your table saw. This may occasion issues of kickback or tripping and fall at the table saw. This is dangerous and can even be fatal.
What Protective Measures Should Be Taken?
There is no doubt that having a table saw comes with a whole lot of convenience. You will be able to achieve accurate cuts, without much difficulty. However, this power tool is also dangerous and a potential hazard. I have highlighted some of the dangers that are associated with the table saw. In this section, I will emphasize on some of the protective measures that should be taken to enhance your safety.
- Always Wear Eye Protection
Having established that projectiles are some of the dangers that you have to contend with, you need to protect your eyes. You should only run the table saw when you have protective glasses or goggles. This is an effective way of keeping away saw dust, wood chips, nails and other objects. If you are involved in heavy duty cutting tasks, you should go for a face mask as this will protect the entire face.
- Feet Protection
You do not want to slip and fall when the table saw is running. As such, you need to wear non-slip shoes that will be offer protection for your foot. This is one of the measures that will ensure that you have the perfect balance when you are pushing your work piece through the table saw.
- Always Stand Away from the Table Saw
The place you stand when operating the table saw is quite essential. When projectiles come flying out, they cannot get to you if you are not standing near the table saw. In addition, even when there is an issue with your blade, you cannot be caught easily.
- Wear Proper Clothing
Do not come with loose clothing to the workshop as this can be an easy way to be injured. When you have neckties and other buggy clothing, they can easily be caught by the blade and this will drag your entire body towards the blade. If you have long hair, you need to tie it back and ensure that it is not hanging freely.
- Set the Blade to the Right Height
Whether you are a pro or a beginner, you need to set the height of the blade correctly. You should refer to the owners’ manual when operating the table saw as far as adjusting the height of the blade goes. As a general rule of the thumb, the blade should never be higher than 6mm above the work piece.
- Stay Focused
Most people ignore this rule as it sounds really simple. However, this is a safety measure that could save you a lot of accidents. When cutting with the table saw, full concentration should be on the machine. Do not try to multitask as this could end up being fatal. If you are working from home and need to talk to someone, please turn off the table saw and resume working when you are done talking.
These may appear like common things, but they are life-saving measures for anyone who has a table saw.
Must-Have Accessories to Avoid Table Saw Accidents
The table saw does not work on its own and has a number of accessories that are meant to enhance its effectiveness and improve your safety. Here are some devices that I would recommend, irrespective of your expertise level with the table saw:
- Push Devices: These are very crucial accessories when it comes to the operation of the table saw. The common ones are push sticks and push shoes. This will help you push your stock through the blade, without having to get too close. As such, you will prevent potential injuries.
- Dust Mask: Invest in a high quality dust mask so that you can protect your internal organs from the saw dust. The lungs need to be protected and the best way to do this is to keep off the dust using a mask.
- Blade Guard: This will cover the blade and in the event that you will trip and fall, you will not come into contact with the blade, but the blade guard.
- Emergency Switch: Ensure that your table saw has an emergency switch that is easily accessible. This is a safety feature that can save you from life-threatening injuries. In the event that you will get caught up by the table saw, you can easily shut down the machine.
Who Should Not Use the Table Saw?
As long as you are responsible and have the patience to apply the safety measures, you can make use of the table saw. However, there are some people who should stay away from this powerful tool. Let us look at some of these people.
Children are very curious and even if they appear to be responsible, they should not be allowed to use the table saw. This could spell a serious disaster.
- Intoxicated People
You need to be sober at all times when using the table saw. If you are under the influence of alcohol or any other toxic substance, you should stay away from this tool.
- Physical Limitations
You need to have a firm grip on your work piece and even stand properly when using the table saw. As such, if you have any form of physical limitation, it would be best to avoid using it.
This is not to say that first timer cannot use the table saw. The emphasis here should be on ensuring that they are well guided when they start using the table saw. It would be prudent to seek assistance from the experts so as to avoid the injuries.
There is no doubt that the table saw is a great tool that has a lot to offer. However, it can also be a death trap for some of the people that I have highlighted above.
Some Safety Tips to Bear in Mind
The only way that you will be enjoying using the table saw is when you put your safety first. Here are some additional safety tips that I believe will be of great help to you:
- Avoid wearing gloves when operating the table saw. This may sound illogical, but the reason is that you may lose your grip and the gloves can also be caught by the blade.
- Do not attempt any unconventional cuts using the table saw.
- Always have a stop block when you want to make cross cuts on short lengths.
- Do not reach over the blade while it is still in motion. You should allow it to come to a complete stop, for any adjustments.
- Disconnect the table saw from the power source when making any adjustments. This will prevent any accidental startup of the tool.
- Only release the stock when it is past the blade as releasing too early could cause kickbacks.
- Ensure that the tabletop surface is always clean and free from any clutter and debris. This will give you a clean working space, without interfering with your visibility.
- Inspect your work piece for things like screws, knots, nails and any other foreign objects before cutting.
- Confirm that all the safety features are working as required to avoid surprises, in case of an accident.
- Guide your work piece using a rip fence or a miter gauge. Even if you are experienced, do not make free hand cuts.
Ignorance can be quite costly when it comes to the operation of the table saw. When you scheme through the internet, you may be terrified about the saw, because it has been branded as a killer tool. However, in most cases, most of the accidents that are associated with the tool are as a result of ignorance and carelessness.
Your ultimate concern when operating the table saw should be your safety. Even when you feel like you have mastered the saw, it is advisable to be vigilant on your safety. I believe this guide should be effective in preventing the table saw dangers. Feel free to share it around with your loved one so as to keep them safe.