Table saws are known as one of the most dangerous tools you can use. Every year, 30,000 injuries are reported as a result of a table saw. While these numbers are staggering, most of these occurrences are because people didn't understand the safety precautions necessary for using this power saw. We walk through one very important consideration: where to stand when operating a table saw.
The best place to stand when you are using a table saw is to the left of the blade in a position that is natural and comfortable for you. If you stand to the left, you’ll automatically position the blade between you and the fence.
Standing in this location also reduces the chances of being hit if a piece of material catches on the blade and gets thrown. The left of the blade is the most protected spot relative to your table saw.
If you are right-handed, you might find it awkward to feed the wood through from the left. Stand in the most natural place to feed the wood, which is to the left anyway. But, always stand in the best natural spot to feed the wood.
Don’t use your left hand to feed the wood if you are right-handed. Instead, whenever you use your table saw, use a push stick to feed the last bit through.
You won’t be any safer if force yourself to stand somewhere that feels uncomfortable or awkward. The same principle applies when trying to use your left hand if you are right-handed. You could accidentally force the wood away from the fence and start the kickback cycle when you use your left hand.
The power of your saw is what causes the majority of kickback: cheaper table saws don't have as much power, so don't pose quite as much of a risk. Powerful table saws with strong motors, or hybrid table saws made for a variety of circumstances, provide stronger kickback.
However, even high quality table saws pose the same risk of kickback. No matter how much power the saw has, the kickback can be very dangerous.
Tables saws have a good deal of horsepower, which gives them the strength to hurl wood in any direction. This is actually what makes them the preferred choice over a circular saw or a bandsaw for these types of cuts. But, it is also what makes them much more dangerous.
When the saw blade catches on the material it’s cutting, it causes the piece to launch back toward the operator side of the saw. This is known as a kickback.
A kickback can cause serious injuries, which is why you want to stand in the most protected spot.
Although the left of the blade is the most protected spot, you could still get hit by a kickback there. There is no way to predict which way a piece of material will fly when it gets caught on the saw blade.
Plus, it could ricochet off of the fence, or any other items in the area, such as a miter gauge, wood pieces, or push sticks.
While standing to the left of the blade is the safest spot, you could still get hit by a kickback. The best way to avoid a kickback is to prevent it. Keep firm control of your material at all time.
For starters, don't use a table saw for certain types of material. Cutting these materials can increase your risk.
Use a spotter to help you feed large pieces. Use the safety equipment that came with your table saw and good quality push sticks.
Where you stand is important for table saw safety, however, you can’t fully protect yourself by standing in the right spot. No position is completely safe from a kickback.
While the safest spot to stand is to the left of the blade, it’s not completely protected. A board could still hit the table saw fence, ricochet and hit you. To prevent kickback injuries, you also need to follow good safety practices:
Good luck using your saw, and stay safe!