A table saw is one of the most useful power tools that a contractor or home DIY enthusiast can own.
However, if used without proper safety precautions, a table saw could be a dangerous device, leading to serious injury. If you’re going to be purchasing a professional grade saw, then you’re absolutely going to need to brush up on your table saw safety practices.
Power Tools Ninja is not only committed to bringing you the most comprehensive table saw reviews, comparisons, and buying guides, but also the best safety tips that will ensure you are able to work without injury or incident.
Always stick to the following advice, whether you’re on the worksite, fixing things around your home, or working on your latest craft piece in your home workshop.
First Things First – Read the User Manual
The leading table saw manufacturers like DeWALT, Bosch, Ryobi, Craftsman, and others, all take great care to produce comprehensive user manuals the cover all safety and operational information for their table saw models.
When you unpack your new saw, make sure that you read and fully understand the manual before you assemble and start using the table. There are some safety instructions that will be unique to your device, particularly when it comes to accessories and power requirements.
Taking the time to read the manual can also aid you in troubleshooting your machine should something not run as expected or if you need to perform fine tuning, and it’s generally good practice to read the manual before using any kind of power tool.
Table Saw Safety Procedures, Steps, and Best Practices
Before using your table saw, ensure that you’re working on a stable and secure surface.
If your table saw comes packaged with a stand, make sure that you follow all assembly and mounting instructions, and double check all fittings before erecting and operating the table saw.
If you will be using the saw on a workshop table permanently, then consider bolting the saw to the table surface.
Clothing and Protective Equipment
It’s important that you wear appropriate clothing and use the right safety equipment when operating your table saw. Clothing that is too loose or hanging should be avoided at all times.
While it’s important that you’re comfortable while you work, you shouldn’t create the risk of getting any lose clothes caught in the table saw blade and pulling you towards it.
Keep shirts or jackets buttoned up, and if you’re wearing loose sleeves then these should be rolled up before you begin. Likewise, you should not be wearing a necklace, bracelet, or watch that could come into contact with the table saw blade.
Lastly, check your shirt or jacket pockets and ensure that there are no items in them that could fall into the table saw.
Always remember to use a particle mask and eye protection when you are sawing.
A particle mask will be particularly important if you are working with hazardous composite materials or plastics. The best kind of eye protection will be a full visor, or at least googles that block out debris from all directions.
Perform a Quick Visual Inspection as Part of Your Table Saw Safety Procedures
Check around your table saw for any debris or objects that may be on the underside of the table, and make sure that nothing is obstructing the blade.
You also need to ensure that the blade is securely in place, and you can do this by simply gripping and lightly tugging the blade. It should go without saying that this initial inspection should be performed before you have plugged the table saw into an outlet.
During your initial inspection, make sure that all of your safety accessories are intact. The riving knife, kickback pawls, and blade guard should be correctly installed and in good condition. Again, if this is the first time that you’re using the table saw, consult the user manual to ensure that you are able to assemble the unit correctly.
If everything passes your inspection, then move on to the power cord and any extension cord that you may be using. Check for frayed wires, excessive bends, or any other damage that could cause an electrical fault.
Your table saw will have specific extension cable requirements, depending on the amperage of the motor and the length of the cable that you’re using. Your user manual will provide details about the type of cables that are safe to use, including an AWG gauge rating.
Ensure that you always use high quality extension cables and an appropriate mains outlet to avoid incidents.
If it’s time to plug it in, check that the power switch is not engaged before you connect the table saw to your wall outlet.
Table Saw Safety Procedures While Operating Your Device
If you’ve confirmed that everything is in safe working order and is good to go, then you can get on with actually making some rips and crosscuts.
One of the most important things to mention is that you need to keep your splitter or riving knife connected to the blade assembly whenever it is practical.
Your table should also integrate kickback pawls, which will help to prevent any nasty incidents if you lose control of your piece of material.
The modular blade guard on modern saws should be relatively easy to use, and you should keep this attached to the assembly whenever possible. If you do need to remove the guard for any particular reason, make sure that you take extra care to keep your hands away from the blade.
If necessary, use a push stick to safely control your material.
If you’re working with particularly large pieces of material, then you should use some kind of outfeed support system. There are numerous outfeed systems available for purchase, such as this Bosch TS1016 Outfeed Support Assembly
For a full outfeed table, Rousseau makes a range of portable folding outfeed tables, such as this Rousseau 2720 PortaMax 18-Inch by 48-Inch Folding Outfeed Table.
As you are moving your work piece through the blade, make sure that you do not let go of the material (whether using your hand or a push stick), until it has completely passed through the blade.
Make sure that you never have to lean towards or over the blade, and always use a stick with awkward or smaller pieces of materials. It cannot be stressed enough that your hands should never come into close proximity with the spinning blade.
Are You Ripping or Crosscutting?
Remember that the fence on your table saw is for ripping, and the miter gauge is for crosscuts.
You should never use both tools at the same time.
Before making any kind of cut or rip, check the quality of your work piece. Knots and burrs in the wood, as well as twisted, warped, and deformed wood, could all cause a lockup of the blade and lead to an incident.
Only work with quality pieces of material and make sure that the size is kept within the limitations of your table saw.
If you’re going to use a push stick for your rips, then you may want to upgrade from the standard push stick that comes with most table saws.
Table saw safety accessories like an upgraded push stick can offer you better grip, and better contact with your work piece.
One of the best examples is the Big Horn 10230 Woodworkers Power Hands Safety Push Stick.
You could also purchase a combination push stick and push block set for working on different jobs. Powertec makes a highly rated 5 piece set .
Generally, you should use a push stick for any piece of material that is less than 6 inches in width.
This Table Saw Safety Advice Could Save You from a Serious Worksite Accident
You wouldn’t drive a car without learning the basics, just as you wouldn’t operate a potentially dangerous power tool without being aware of all of the table saw safety procedures.
These steps won’t just protect you, but they could also protect others on the jobsite or within your workshop. It is your responsibility to take adequate safety measures whenever you use a saw, and you should also ensure that anyone else who operates it is aware of how to use it safely.
Remember, always be aware of the unique safety precautions required by your table saw, and read the manual before assembling or operating your unit. No matter how comfortable you become while using your device, you will never have an excuse to ignore your safety and the safety of others.
When you do follow all of the right procedures, you’ll be rewarded with quick and accurate work, and many years of stress-free usage of your table saw.
Below you can watch an excellent video produced by the Woodworkers Guild of America, which shows some very useful tips on table saw safety.