7 Circular Saw Safety Mistakes You’re Probably Making
Back when I was younger and had an abundance of spare time, I took a construction class at the local community college. Before being allowed to operate any new power tool, we had a chapter to read, an hour and half lecture, and a quiz to ensure we knew the safety rules. I suppose this was understandable, given that we probably could’ve sued the school if any of us accidentally chopped off a limb.
While for the most part, the quizzes were easy with obvious answers (You should wear eye protection, true or false?) on every quiz there were at least a couple of questions specific to that tool that I wouldn’t have known had I not listened to the lecture. For this post, I attempted to put together the circular saw safety mistakes I see people make the most, in hopes that it might save at least a couple people a trip to the hospital!
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Word You Should Know
In this article, I'm going to talk a lot about "kickback." This is when the saw suddenly moves backwards toward you while you are attempting to saw. This is super dangerous, in that it can fly into you and cause blunt force trauma, or worse, fly into you and cut you with the spinning blade. Many (but not all) of the circular saw safety mistakes below are specifically for avoiding kickback.
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7 Circular Saw Safety Mistakes
1) You're Placing the Saw Upright, Not on It's Side
The instructor in my construction class was quite adamant that he knew multiple people who’d lost toes from this mistake. They’d put the saw down before it had stopped moving, or it somehow got switched on after being placed on the ground. The saw took off, running over their toes. Place the saw on its side, and you’ll avoid this problem entirely.
2) When Carrying the Saw, Your Finger Is on the Trigger
I feel like this one is obvious once you think about it, but not something we ever stop and actually think about. If your finger is on the trigger and you trip and fall, you might press the trigger and start the saw, which would probably have bad consequences. Find another way to carry your saw.
3) You’re Supporting Your Piece on Both Sides
This seems like a good idea. If your piece is supported and clamped on both sides, then nothing will fall to the floor when you’re done cutting. I suppose that logic is technically correct, but you’ll rarely be able to finish cutting without encountering kickback. The two pieces sag toward the middle as you finish the cut, pinching the blade and causing kickback.
4) You’re Standing Directly Behind Your Saw/Cut
If kickback occurs, the saw will fly right into you. Stand a little to the left or right, therefore if kickback occurs, you wont be directly hit by the saw.
5) You're Cutting with Dull Blades
This increases the likelihood of kickback. Enough said.
6) You're Setting the Saw Depth Too Deep
This is bad for a couple reasons: A) The more saw that needs to go through the wood, the harder the saw has to work. The harder the saw has to work, the more likely it is to kickback. Keeping the saw at the appropriate depth therefore reduces kickback. B) The deeper the saw, the more the blade will be exposed. This increases the likelihood that it will come in contact with a human appendage.
The appropriate saw depth is 1/4" more than the piece you're cutting. Any deeper, and you're setting is too deep!
7) You're Wearing Gloves
Yes, wood has splinters, and gloves seem like a good idea. But they increase the risk of your hands getting caught in the saw, so they are a big no-no when operating any power tool.
I hope there was at least one thing on this list you learned about operating a circular saw, and the circular saw safety mistakes people commonly make. If so, make sure to subscribe to my email list; I plan to do a whole sequence of posts for all sorts of power tools, so make sure you don’t miss out!