Table Saw Safety Tips and Practices

I've put together this collection of table saw safety tips as a quick reference for the budding woodworker with little or no experience with the table saw. Of course, everyone could benefit from boning up on them every now and again.

  1. Keep your work area clean — Nothing should be on the table top except the piece you're working on. The area around the front of the saw should be clear of sawdust, power cords, tools and cut-offs.

  2. Dress appropriately — Safety glasses, hearing protection and proper work boots should be worn when operating the saw.

    Avoid wearing loose clothing, jewelry, and clothing that restricts or confines movement. Long hair should be put in a pony tail or hair net.

  3. Use safety equipment — All table saws come with guards, splitters (or riving knife) and anti-kickback pawls. Make sure they are adjusted properly and use them.

    Use featherboards and push sticks to keep your hands away from the blade. Make sure your stock is past the rear of the blade before releasing it.

  4. Disconnect power — Always unplug the saw before changing the blade or doing maintenance.

  5. When saw is running — Never leave it unattended, adjust the fence, reach across the blade, set up jigs or other tools... always shut it off first.

  6. Pay attention — When you're at the saw, it's not a good time to be distracted by conversations, cellphones or wondering what's for dinner. Concentrate on what you're doing.

  7. Keep yourself in proper balance — Stand with feet spread and in a comfortable working position. Never stand in front of the blade in case of kickback.

  8. Cutting long boards — When cutting long stock, use an outfeed table or have someone to help. Same goes for large sheet goods. Always hold the board by the end and feed it into the blade in a uninterrupted manner. Avoid stopping and going as you feed your stock.

  9. Don't cut wet or green wood — Make sure the wood is well seasoned before trying to cut it on the table saw. Green wood is especially dangerous to cut because of it's high moisture content and unpredictable nature.

  10. Keep your blades clean and sharp — Dull and dirty blades promote kickback. Have your blades professionally sharpened. Sap and other gunk can build up behind the carbide teeth and needs to be cleaned off periodically.

  11. Never cut freehand — Cutting freehand on the table saw is asking for trouble. You might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later it will lead to disaster. Don't do it.

  12. Use a stop block when crosscutting — Never use the fence as a guide when crosscutting unless you use a stop block. The friction of the end grain against the fence could cause your work to cock and be thrown back at you.

  13. Zero clearance inserts — Use of zero clearance table saw inserts prevent small cut-offs from being caught by the blade and thrown back at the operator. Use a proper insert for your dado blade and never operate the saw without an insert.

  14. Check stock for nails etc. — Many of us recycle hardwoods from old furniture and other sources. Always check for nails, staples, screws, rocks and other foreign material before cutting.

  15. Use common sense — This is probably the most important tip of all. If it looks dangerous — it probably is. If it doesn't feel right — don't do it. If you think your procedure through before you do it, the less likelyhood of something going wrong.

Unfortunately, it's human nature to take shortcuts and put safety concerns aside. The good news is we learn from our mistakes, then apply the lessons learned to avoid repeating them. Try to memorize these table saw safety tips and implement them as you learn new skills.

You can get in the habit of putting woodworking safety first by thinking ahead and planning out your strategy, and then, once you have it firmly planted in your mind, make your cut. After a while, it becomes a natural process and is done without really thinking about it.

Put these table saw safety tips into practice and continue learning, for there is always something new to discover.

I appreciate your feedback. If you have any questions or comments about this article, please don't hesitate to contact me and let me know your thoughts.