Table saws are very useful tools used to cut and shape all types of materials; however, they can cause serious hand injuries. The hands are vulnerable because they are used to guide pieces into the saw. Most often, injuries are lacerations due to direct contact of fingers and hand with the saw blade. Kickback injuries can also cause serious problems, as can burns.
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 saw change the injury, as well. Differences in the kerf (the width of the cut made by the saw blade), tooth pattern, type, and force of the saw can change the injury.
Anything that contacts the saw blade can be injured. Nerve injuries cause a 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 while operating a table saw.
Large population studies have shown that time off work due to a table saw injury can range from 24-125 days. Medical costs range from $2,906-$40,121, depending on the severity of the injury. Lost wages range from $2,731-$14,220 [Hoxie 2009].
Many table saw injuries are caused by failing to follow safety precautions. Other contributing factors include awkward cuts and untidy working spaces. Distractions and doing the job in a hurry are also dangerous. Finally, alcohol is often a factor with major injuries. Avoid alcohol and drugs while using this equipment.Recommendations for safe use:
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.
Though this technology is good, it does not prevent all types of injury; in fact, it does not help with kickback. If you use blade-stopping technology, be careful not to become complacent. Continue to use the safety recommendations listed above.
Some treatment options include:
Not all 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.