Despite being one of the most widely used power tools, the table saw is also statistically the most dangerous workshop machine.
According to a publication in the National Center for Biotechnology Information journal, medical costs resulting from the table saw injuries exceed $2 billion every year.
But these grim statistics do not mean you cannot use a table saw safely.
Taking simple safety precautions and making sure you know what you are doing when handling a table saw should make it safe enough.
Here are more detailed safety tips that you need to keep in mind.
1. Wear Safety Gear
The first and most important safety tip to know if you will be using a table saw is that you need to wear safety gear before starting the job. Here safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying dust and debris are crucial.
Given how loud these tools can get, it is also vital to ensure you have adequate ear protection. Additionally, proper clothing is critical.
The most important thing is to make sure you never wear anything loose-fitting and other things like jewelry and neckties as they are all potential hazards.
Although many woodworkers love wearing gloves when working, you should avoid them when using a table saw.
Gloves protect the hands, but they cause you to lose tactile sense and gripping power.
2. Keep the Work Area Clean
A dirty work area poses a considerable risk to you when using a table saw.
Although using this tool generates a lot of dust and there will always be debris all over, it is vital to have an effective system for cleaning it up.
When your work area is dirty, there is an increased risk of tripping or sliding, and you can easily fall on the blade or bang your head on the rigid cast iron table, which results in nasty injuries.
3. Use Outfeed Tables/Stands When Appropriate
Another vital tip to keep in mind is that you need to use the saw’s tables and stands appropriately.
Like every other part of the tool, they have a specific purpose, and so for your safety and everyone else around you, make sure you put them into good use.
The outfeed table and stand are convenient when working on a large workpiece such as a sheet of plywood as they support it, so you do not have to carry their entire weight.
Trying to cut large pieces without making use of the stand and table increases the risk of accidents.
4. Use Proper Cutting Positioning and Stance
Every seasoned woodworker will tell you that using a table saw requires a specific technique, which takes a lot of practice to master.
However, the starting point should always be getting the cutting position and stance correct.
Here you first need to make sure you have a comfortable standing position. You should keep your feet apart to maintains good balance.
Additionally, make sure you position your body so that it is never in line with the blade. Doing this keeps sawdust off the face and ensures you are also not in the direction of most kickbacks.
5. Check Boards Before Cutting
Before you start cutting any board, you must check it to ensure it is safe for cutting. Check for things like screws and nails as they can make the board dangerous to cut.
Additionally, boards with natural things like knots or even stones embedded in them can be hazardous to cut. Such items can become flying projectiles when cutting and lead to severe injuries.
6. Use a Pushing Mechanism
At some point, you will have to push the stock through the blade when cutting.
When this happens, it is vital to make sure you do not push with your fingers. Instead, use a push stick to drive the board through the blade.
Using a push mechanism keeps your hands safe because if they are not close to the blade, there is less risk of getting cut.
While push sticks are not always necessary when cutting large stock, it is vital to use them when handling materials less than 6 inches wide.
7. Make Proper Use of Miter Gauge and Rip Fence
Guiding the stock through the blade with free hands affects its quality and accuracy and puts you at greater risk of accidental cuts.
However, it is vital to remember that the rip fence and miter gauge are not meant to be used together.
8. Disconnect Power Before Changing Blade
As you will need to change your table saw blade at some point, it is crucial to ensure you always disconnect power before doing it and also for any other maintenance job.
Disconnecting the power eliminates the risk of inadvertently switching on the table saw as you work on it, even if you accidentally hit the power switch.
While a table saw is among the most dangerous woodworking machines, it is still possible to use it safely. All you need to do is follow the simple safety tips above.
With these tips, keen adherence to the manufacturer’s instructions, and if you keep learning how to use the table saw safely, you should be okay.
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