While table saws are one of the most important and useful tools in the woodworker’s workshop, they can also be one of the most dangerous. While you don’t need to be afraid of your table saw, they are a tool that you need to take care with when operating.
To help keep you safe and to allow you to enjoy many years of accident-free woodworking, here are our top 13 table saw safety tips. If you always take the proper safety precautions when operating table saws, you can minimize the risk of anything going wrong.
1. Wear eye and ear protection
Whenever you operate a table saw, you should ensure you have the proper eye and ear protection.
If you don’t wear eye protection, you risk sawdust and woodchips flying up into your face, which can result in permanent blindness. For this reason, proper safety glasses or goggles are a must – regular specs will not give you the necessary protection.
Exposure to loud noise will result in permanent deafness. With hearing damage, you won’t notice the damage until it is too late, so you should make sure you protect your hearing when operating any kind of loud machinery.
2. Don’t wear gloves
You might think that wearing gloves can protect your hands, but when operating a table saw, they won’t.
Furthermore, they will hinder your work as you will not be able to feel the wood you are working on and may even become caught in the blade. They are best avoided.
3. Wear short sleeves and avoid baggy clothing
The best clothing for working with table saws is something with short sleeves. If you wear long sleeves, there is always a risk that they can get caught in the blade and dragged in. Also, avoid any other baggy clothes for the same reason.
It goes without saying that dangling jewelry, neckties and anything similar should also be avoided.
4. Adopt a firm stance and stand to the side
Make sure you are standing firmly when working with your table saw. This will help you avoid slipping, which can result in an accident.
Also, make sure you don’t stand directly in line with the blade – this will mean if there is a strong kickback and a piece of wood is thrown out, it is less likely to hit you. Always stand slightly to the side of the line of the blade.
5. Don’t perform cuts in strange positions
Having said that you should not stand directly in line with the blade, you should also make sure you are not positioned awkwardly to make a cut.
If you find you need to reach over or otherwise contort yourself into unnatural positions to achieve a cut, it probably means you shouldn’t be making the cut. If you attempt to make a cut like this, you increase your chances of slipping and having an accident.
6. Keep the floor tidy
Always ensure the floor is kept clear of sawdust and pieces of stock that have been cut off. If you don’t keep the floor clear, you might slip or trip on something – and with a spinning blade in front of you, this could cause a serious accident.
7. Always disconnect from power before changing a blade
Whenever you change a table saw blade, you should always make sure the tool is completely unplugged from the power source. This will remove all risk of the saw starting by mistake – which could be disastrous.
8. Never start the blade when it is engaged with stock
Always make sure the table saw is clear of any stock before starting it. If you start it when stock is engaged, there is a high risk of dangerous kickback.
Before starting the saw, it is a good idea to turn it a couple of times manually to check if any small pieces of wood have fallen inside – although always make sure there is no chance of the blade starting when you do this.
9. Use a push stick
When working with smaller pieces of wood, you should always use a push stick to push the stock onto the blade. Some people say that you should never bring your hands to within 4” of the blade – but a safer guideline would be 6”.
10. Always use a throat plate
A throat plate prevents pieces of stock falling into the throat. If off-cuts fall into the throat as you work, the blade may throw them out violently, causing potential danger. For this reason, you should never work without a throat plate to make sure this can’t happen.
11. Always have the fence parallel to the blade
If the fence is not completely parallel to the blade, it may cause the stock to bind, again causing a risk of kickback. To avoid this, always make sure the fence is set up parallel to the blade.
12. Check stock for nails, knots etc.
Before feeding stock into the blade, you should always check it for nails, knots, screws or anything else like this. If something is present that might get caught in the blade and cause it to bite, it may damage the blade – or it might cause a dangerous kickback.
13. Never make free hand cuts
An important safety precaution to remember is that you should never make free hand cuts with table saws.
It doesn’t matter whether you use a smaller table saw like a jobsite table saw or a larger model like a contractor table saw or a cabinet table saw – if you make free hand cuts, you won’t have enough control over the wood if it kicks back.
Always think about safety first
When operating a table saw – or any similar type of machinery – you first thought should always be for safety. They are dangerous tools, but with the right precautions, there is no reason why you should ever have an accident.
As you can see, many of our safety tips concern preventing the possibility of kickback. Make sure you also keep your hands well away from the blade and that you always wear the proper clothing and safety equipment. This way, you should be able to operate your table saw without any problems.
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