Table Saw Safety – Beginners Guide

Table saw safety

Using a table saw can be a rewarding experience, particularly when it helps you in the creation of a project. However, since these pieces of equipment can serve as a way of sustaining a significant injury, you should always be mindful of your safety above everything else.

The idea of a table saw is to give the user a greater degree of control over the cut and it certainly has this effect. However, even losing focus for a second or something as simple as not wearing the correct clothing could have devastating results.

In this beginners guide, we are going to be looking at how safely and effectively use your table saw.

How Dangerous Is A Table Saw?

When you compare using a table saw to some other household tools, you will quickly see that these are instruments with the power to kill.

This might sound dramatic but these tools are responsible for more than 67,000 injuries each year; in the USA alone.

When you consider this on a global scale, it isn’t hard to see why table saw safety is of the utmost importance.

When we talk about table saw injuries, we are not merely discussing a small nick that requires nothing more than a plaster to fix.

Table saw injuries are far more catastrophic and traumatic. Of those 67,000 table-saw injuries we talked about, as many as 4000 of those are complete amputations of a hand or limb, occurring when direct contact with the rotating blade happens.

One thing that you will notice with your table saw is that there is typically a plastic covering over the blade which is designed to prevent such injuries from occurring.

However, much like any piece of safety equipment, this is not always 100% effective and your own common sense and proper handling of the tool will play just as much of a role in preventing disastrous accidents.

However, a lot of table saw owners remove these plastic blade guards because they can get in the way of certain tasks. This then results in many more accidents happening than is necessary.

Table Saw Kickback

When you begin looking at table saw safety, one of the things that will haunt you again and again is table saw kickback and there is a good reason for this. Kickback is one of the most common causes for injuries when using a table saw.

This is simply when materials fly back from the saw, hitting the user and causing a variety of injuries. It is estimated that more than 30,000 American table saw injuries are as a result of kickback, that is almost half of all casualties for table saw injuries each year.

The wood from a kickback often flies so quickly that the operator has little warning or chance to escape the inevitable injury.

Table Saw Kickback Injuries

One of the most concerning injuries that can be sustained from table saw kickback is that a piece of debris would fly into the eye causing significant damage. At best, this could be painful and at worst, an injury like this may result in loss of sight in the affected eye.

However, the high-speed wood can also hit other parts of the body, causing a range of traumas including head injuries and injuries to the chest and torso.

But perhaps what is more devastating is that as the wood flies off the table, this happens so rapidly that the user does not have a chance to move his or her hand out of the way resulting in the hand making contact with the blade.

How Do I Stop My Table Saw Kickback?

If you are new to using a table saw, it is a wise idea to start as you mean to go on; this will be the best way to prevent injuries. One of the biggest reasons that so many people are affected by table saw kickback is that they do not understand why kickback happens and therefore, cannot effectively prevent it.

When you place your word against the fence and begin to move it towards the blade, there is a significant chance that it can start losing contact with the fence. As this happens, the wood may become stuck on the backside of the blade and this causes it to kickback and fly towards you.

There are several effective ways to prevent kickback, and while these methods will not eliminate it altogether, they will certainly give you much less chance of being seriously injured.

  • Using a splitter is a very inexpensive yet effective method of preventing kickback. This small nub acts as a way of stopping the wood from moving as it goes towards the blade.
  • A crosscut sled is a great way to stop kickback and causes the fence to move behind the blade as opposed to the side of it.
  • One of the best ways to avoid making hand contact with the blade in the event of kickback is to use a push stick to move the wood rather than using your hands.
  • A riving knife is one of the most common and effective ways to prevent kickback and will stop the wood from becoming stuck. This is such an effective method that we will look at it in more detail in its own section of this article.

Do I Need A Riving Knife On My Table Saw?

A riving knife typically comes with your table saw, if it doesn’t, you might want to consider investing in a newer table saw that comes with all the relevant safety features.

These small attachments are shaped like the fin on a surfboard and fit behind the saw, the curve of the ‘fin’ faces towards the blade. In the event that wood begins to drift away, the riving blade will prevent it from becoming stuck in the blade.

In most instances, you will need to have your driving knife on if you want to use the table saw safely; and of course, we would always advise this. However, there may be times when you have no other option to remove it simply because it would prevent you from doing the cut you need to do but getting in the way.

When you are using a stacked dado blade, the riving knife would get in the way and prevent you from being able to finish the cut. However, in all other instances, you should keep it on since using a table saw without a riving knife could be dangerous.

Tips For The Safe Use Of A Table Saw

Aside from attempting to prevent kickback, there are other things you should think about when operating your table saw. While the risk of an accident can never be totally eliminated, it can certainly be lowered.

  • Never wear loose clothing that could easily become caught on the rotating blade. You should also be sure to wear closed toe shoes.
  • Always wear protective eye wear to prevent injuries from kickback.
  • Use protective ear wear and invest in a high quality respirator, especially if you are going to be using the saw for long periods of time since the dust can be dangerous to your lungs if inhaled.
  • When operating a table saw, you should be sure to engage all of your senses. This will give you the best chance in noticing whether something is going wrong before an injury is sustained. Experts will always recommend being fully immersed in the process.
  • Many people ask about where you should stand when using a table saw and in truth, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable. If you do not, you may find that you cannot fully engage with the process. However, it is recommended that you stand to the left of the blade as this will cause you to automatically place the blade between the fence and yourself, lowering the chances of an injury.

Table Saw Zero Clearance Throat Plate

If you are looking to upgrade your table saw then a zero clearance throat plate could be the way forward particularly if you have problems with tear out on the bottom of crosscuts. They are also useful for people who find that they often experience narrow pieces of drop-off that become wedged between the saw and the throat plate.

All table saws will come with a throat plate but a zero clearance throat plate can make the saw a lot safer and easier to use.

It is perfectly easy to make your own zero clearance throat plate using strong, durable material. They will fit perfectly around the blade, giving no room for any drop off to fall through.


A table saw is a useful piece of equipment to have in the workshop and you will likely find that once you have used one, you will wonder how you ever survived without one. That being said, these are extremely dangerous machines when not used correctly and in order to avoid injury, you must make sure that you follow safety precautions.

While table saws can cause serious cuts and even amputation, one of the most common injuries is as a result of table saw kickback where wood or materials fly back off the machine, hitting the user. If the user does not react quickly enough, it is likely that their hand will also make contact with the blade.

Table Saw Safety – Beginners Guide

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