Because of its durability, reliability and ease of use the table saw is one of the most commonly used woodworking devices in today’s manufacturing processes. To make the finest of wood items, table saws will rip wood, cross cut, dice, miter, bevel and even cut shapes and edging.
The table saw, however, can be one of the most dangerous devices in your “tool box” if not used properly. National Electronic Injury Monitoring System (NEISS) reports that there are an average of 38,000 table saw accidents per year. Such injuries range from minor lacerations to extreme amputations, which in medical treatment will cost millions of dollars and lost wages.
What can you do to protect table saw users today? Most importantly, you need to repair / replace any under-standard equipment, offer relevant training and enforce safety expectations. Consider the following safety tips for operation with optimum table saw.
•Avoid loose fitting clothes – keep long sleeves above elbow, DO NOT WEAR GLOVES
•Wear ear and eye protection
•Be sure table saws are securely fastened to the floor and do not wobble
•Be sure blade is sufficiently affixed and tight
•Check blade guard and anti-kickbacks for proper operation, and check alignment of the riving knife (riving knife is preferred over standard splitter)
•Inspect wood before sawing – don’t cut wood with knots, warps, or twists
•DO NOT start the saw with the blade engaged or touching the stock
•Always keep blade guard, riving knife, and kickback paws in place unless impossible (dado cuts)
•Be sure there is plenty of out-feed support at the back of the saw table
•Keep the saw table free of any other items
•ALWAYS use a “push stick” to guide smaller pieces toward the blade (your hands should NEVER be near the blade)
•Never reach over a moving blade
•Don’t saw freehand
•Use a miter gauge or a sled for crosscutting and the rip fence for ripping
•Never back a board out of a cut
•Always stand to the side of the blade when cutting, not directly behind the blade
•Unplug the saw whenever you perform a blade change or adjustment that puts your fingers in close proximity to the blade
•Always use dust collection system to control wood dust accumulation
•Keep the saw blade clean and sharp
•Unplug the table saw when making adjustments/maintenance
The CPSC went one step further in issuing a proposed rulemaking notice (NPR) requiring table saws to include advanced safety features that will limit human flesh injury. The CPSC did not specify how the saw will do this, but, when contacting the spinning blade at one meter per second, set a limit of a 3.5 mm cut to a finger. It is assumed that, should this rule be adopted, technologies similar to what is currently available at SawStop will become the industry standards. Considering the recent patent infringement litigation between SawStop and Bosch, this could be a long drawn out issue without clear resolution. Irrespective of that, the issue of table saw safety is clearly in the national conversation that should benefit all users.