Table Saw Safety Rules – The Process
The following is how I teach students to accurately and safely use the table saw. There are so many situations that we
simply can not cover in this article. All of these rules will apply in most situations. The key is to learn good common
since. If you follow these steps and make them a part of the sawing process, then the “skill” of using a table saw will
always be accurate and safer for the user.
1. Wear protective personal safety gear; remember your eyes, ears and lungs. Make sure all loose clothing
is secured and away from any action that could pull it in – never wear gloves at the table saw. Always stay
2. Always use the guards. There are only a few operations that can’t be done with the guard in place. If a standard
guard can’t be used, make sure that other safety devices are being used. Always cover the blade and use the
splitter. If the operation causes the splitter is be removed, try to utilize a feather board that can help minimize
kicking potentials. Make sure the guards are always in working order.
3. Make sure that the area around the table saw is ample enough to accommodate large pieces of stock. Traffic
should be routed away from the kickback zone and visitors in your shop should be made aware of kickback
potentials. Keep the area free of dust and cut offs.
4. The blade should be set so that it is no higher than ¼” above the stock thickness. This will minimize the
amount of exposed blade.
5. Always use a sharp blade that has been well maintained. A dull or incorrect blade can increase the chance of
kickback. It can also require more cutting force. This force could throw an operator off balance.
6. Check the alignment of the splitter, fence and miter gauge slot to the blade. All settings should be parallel with
the blade. If you notice that the back of the blade is cutting the wood, chances are that either the fence or miter
gauge track is not parallel to the blade.
7. Never attempt freehand cuts on the table saw and always make sure the stock is flat on the table.
8. Before sawing, always inspect the stock. Make sure there are no nails or metal of any kind that can come in
contact with the blade or catch somewhere. Also be aware of knots, twist, cup, and so on. Wet lumber will cut
differently than dry lumber.
9. Be aware of your position. Do not stand in line with the saw blade or work piece. Always face the fence. Do not
stand to the right of the fence. Never reach to the back of the saw to retrieve stock while the blade is still
running – even with the guard in place. Keep a steady balance.
10. Make any adjustments to the machine and operational set up with the power off. Never remove the throat plate
with the blade running.
11. Always allow the blade to come to full speed before making any cuts. Hold the material firmly and feed into the
blade at a moderate speed – never force the cut. Listen to the cut and adjust. If the motor starts to slow down and
drag, you are feeding the stock too fast.
12. Make sure that all moving parts are free and clear. Maintain a regular maintenance schedule and read the
important user information in the owner’s manual.
13. Be aware of hand safety. Keep your hands clear of the blade area. Always maintain the 3" rule. Avoid awkward
operations and hand positions where a sudden slip could occur causing your hands to contact the blade.
14. Always use push sticks, feather boards, or any other safety device when cutting small, thin, narrow or short
stock, or as a way to gain control.
15. Never try to pick up, or push away small cut off pieces that are lying next to the blade. If they are in the way,
first shut off the machine then let the blade come to a complete stop before removing any such piece.
16. Do not attempt to saw long or wide boards unsupported where spring or weight could cause the board to lift,
bind or shift position. Always ask for help when cutting large or heavy material. Direct your assistant to follow
17. Make a good sliding cross cut tray. All through cross cutting operations are much safer when using a cross cut
tray. The miter gauge should be used on a very limited basis.
18. Never use the miter gauge and the fence together where it will create a bind or kickback.
19. Make sure that the guard is positioned so that blade will not touch it. Allow at least 1/4” clearance between the
blade and any plastic or metal shield guard. Be aware that if the blade is to be tilted that the guard and splitter
20. Have several throat plates handy. Always use the throat plate with the least amount of blade clearance. A table
saw should under no circumstance be run without a throat plate insert in place.
21. Give the work your undivided attention. Never rush the job. Make sure you shut the machine off when you are
finished. Never leave a table saw running unattended.
22. Serious injury can result from kickbacks which occur when a work piece binds on the saw blade or binds
between the saw blade and rip fence or other fixed objects. This binding can cause the work piece to lift up and
be thrown toward the operator, and is always caused by the back or top of the blade.
23. Listed below are the conditions that can cause kickback and should be thoroughly familiar to the operator.
A. Confining the cut-off piece when crosscutting or ripping.
B. Releasing the work piece before completing the operation or not pushing the work piece all the way
past the blade.
C. Not using the splitter when ripping or not maintaining alignment of the splitter with the saw blade.
D. Using a dull blade.
E. Not maintaining alignment of the rip fence. The fence should never angle toward the blade.
F. Never apply feed force in ripping to the cut-off or free section of the work piece. Always push the section
between the fence and the blade – use a push stick on small stock.
G. Ripping wood that is not flat, twisted or does not have a straight edge.
24. Know your saw. Read the owner’s manual and understand it before operating the saw. All saws are different;
make sure you understand the one you are using. Make sure you follow a regular maintenance schedule.
Always unplug the saw before doing any maintenance or adjustments.
25. The saw on/off switch does not turn the saw off, it just de-energizes the motor. An accidental brush of the switch
with your knee can have terrible consequences if the motor should start at the wrong time.