A table saw is a very useful tool used to cut and shape all types of materials; however, they can cause serious hand injuries. The hands are vulnerable as they are used to guide pieces into the saw.
The degree of injury can vary widely. The severity depends on the location of the injury (finger, hand or forearm). Also, the depth of the injury is important (skin only vs. deeper tissues such as tendons, nerves, arteries and bone). Qualities of the table saw change the injury as well. Differences in kerf (width of the cut made by the saw blade - Figure 1), tooth pattern, type and force of the saw can change the injury.
Anything that contacts the saw blade can be injured. Nerve injuries cause loss of feeling or loss of ability to control certain muscles. Circulation may be lost if the arteries are injured. Saws can also break bones. Sometimes you can lose part of the bone, which would lead to amputation. Electric shocks and burns can also occur with the operation of a table saw.
Many table saw injuries are caused by failing to follow safety precautions. Follow all the safety instructions provided for your tool. Do not override safety guards; they are there for your protection.
There are now commercial table saw products available to decrease injury. The technology works quickly to stop the blade from cutting if it senses you have touched the blade.
Some treatment options include:
Not all of these treatment options are possible. Consult your hand surgeon for the best option. Side effects such as weakness, stiffness or numbness are common after table saw injuries.