Table Saw Safety

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.

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:
  • Follow all the safety instructions provided for your table saw
  • Read the owner’s manual
  • Do not override safety guards; they are there for your protection. Specifically, make sure the following are in place:
    • Riving knife
    • Blade guard
    • Anti-kickback pawls
  • Take your time and plan ahead
  • Keep your workspace clean
  • If a planned cut seems awkward or unsafe, find a better way to perform it
    • Consider using a jig or an assistant, depending on the job
  • Consult trusted websites online, where professionals demonstrate how to make unique cuts
  • Never look away from your work
  • Never use your hands to clear the scraps from a sawing worktable; instead, use a push stick
  • Do not wear loose clothing, gloves, or jewelry; avoid long sleeves, neckties, and hoodie strings
  • Keep your finger off the trigger when carrying a portable saw
  • Do not use the saw to perform a task for which it was not designed
  • Use the correct blade for the application and set it for the correct depth to minimize the amount of exposed blade and reduce the potential for binding
  • Use sharp blades because dull blades cause binding, stalling, and possible kickback
  • Avoid cutting nails, screws, and staples
  • Use a rip fence whenever possible
  • When starting, let the saw reach full speed before cutting and support the work firmly so it does not shift
  • If the saw stalls, switch off the power and unplug the tool before trying to restart it
  • When working with metal, secure the metal materials with clamps or in a vise to keep it from moving
  • Check for proper blade guard operation before each cut
  • When starting or stopping the saw, make sure the work is not touching the blade
  • Lower a table saw blade below the tabletop when finished
  • Keep a clear head, concentrate, take your time, and DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL before using a table saw!
  • Take extra time and care when supervising students and adolescents (e.g., shop class)

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:

  • Stitches or bandages for cuts
  • Skin grafts for larger skin injuries
  • Casts for broken bones
  • Surgery to repair tendons, blood vessels, nerves, and bones
  • Amputation (removal) or replantation (reattachment) of the finger, hand, or arm

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.