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Safety Tips | Machine guarding | Power tools

Stay on guard when woodworking

May 1, 2011

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In woodworking, potential contact with a saw blade presents a very serious hazard. Fingers can be amputated in mere seconds, warns Canada-based WorkSafeBC. To protect against injuries, the organization recommends:

  • Whenever possible, use a push stick to move stock. Customize push sticks for the operation.
  • Use an outfeed table of adequate length to support long pieces during the cutting process. Avoid reaching over the blade to retrieve stock or waste pieces. If the saw does not have an outfeed table, ask for assistance.
  • Keep hands as far away from the blade as possible while maintaining control of the stock.
  •  If stock gets jammed between the fence and blade, stop the saw and wait for the blade to come to a complete stop before clearing stock from the saw.
  • Saws always should have functioning guards in place to prevent the risk of accidental contact with the blade.
  • Watch for excess clearance between the top of the stock and the guard. If needed, adjust the guard so it effectively covers the blade.
  • If a saw blade guard is missing, immediately report it to a supervisor.

Even though guards offer protection, it is important to remember they alone cannot prevent an injury from happening. Safe work practices also must be followed. Safe practices for table and panel saws include:

  • Hand position. It is possible for an operator to be injured even when guards are in place. Determine safe hand positions for various applications, and make use of push sticks or other safety devices.
  • Guard height. For guards that do not self-adjust to the material height, make sure there is minimal clearance between the guard and top of the material. This helps maintain the guard’s effectiveness.
  • Blade height. Operators often set the saw blade far higher than it needs to be. The blade will function effectively with the blade height set so the bottom of the gullet clears the top of the material by no more than one-quarter inch. Setting the blade higher than that increases the risk of injury to the operator.
  • Removing the guard. The guard always belongs on the saw with the exception of infrequent circumstances in which removal is necessary for specific cutting operations. Determine when the guard may be removed, and specify what safety devices must be used during those cutting operations. The majority of amputations involving table saws occur on unguarded machines.

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