More than 60,000 table saw injuries occur every year. About half of those are from hobbyist woodworkers and half are on-the-job injuries. While not every accident may not be avoidable, observing good safety practices when working with a table saw can save a lot of pain, lost hours and possibly limbs.
Make a Habit of the Obvious
The basics of table saw safety should be so ingrained in your daily habits that you don't have to think about them -- but that doesn't mean you should ignore them, either. Elementary concepts like not reaching over the saw while it's in motion (or even plugged in) seem a little obvious, yet they're easy to forget when you're in the groove of working on a project. Basic safety habits go out the window when you're tired or rushed. Try not to work with your saw when you're feeling exhausted and give yourself plenty of time to complete a project.
Inspect and Clean
Table saw safety begins before you ever start your project. Inspect your equipment: have you put the blade on correctly? Is it sharp? Is it the right blade for the job? Clean any debris from your work table before you begin, even if you think it isn't in the way. Check your power cord for any frays or tears prior to plugging in your saw.
Take inventory of yourself, too. Are you feeling foggy-headed or tired? Do you have an injury or ache that might make standing a certain way too difficult? For example, you should always firmly plant your weight on both legs and avoid leaning on your saw table to avoid injury should the wood lurch or kick. If your knee is hurting, you might not be alert enough to avoid falling onto the saw if the wood reacts in an unexpected way. Make sure your personal protective equipment is in good order, too. At minimum, you should have a serviceable pair of safety goggles. PPE does no good if it's sitting on a shelf, so don it before starting your work.
Expect the Unexpected
Woodworking is an adventure and sometimes the wood acts unpredictably. Anticipate kickback from the saw. Consider that it could happen at any time. Check and double check the positioning of your equipment and yourself every time you switch spots to make a new cut. Know your limits and respect them – there’s nothing so important that you should lose a finger over it. Keep the guard on and use a push stick for cuts six inches or closer to the blade.
Table saws are fast and they're powerful – that's what makes them one of the most invaluable tools in your workshop. Give them the respect they deserve by recognizing their potential to cause devastating injuries and be diligent in your safety practices while operating the equipment. Make safety a habit to avoid injuries.
What safety tips would you add to this list?