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Circular saw safety

Just a few ideas to think about when you’re on the job site using a circular saw or watching someone else in your team using one.

None of us like to correct or point out a potential problem to other volunteers. One way you can make the work site safer is by either offering to help hold or support the work piece or attending to one of the potential problems below without saying a word.

For instance, pick up scraps around the cutting table. Remember if you or a fellow Care-a-Vanner is going to use a power tool they have never used before someone with experience should train them in the do’s and don’ts and assist them until they handle the tool safely.

Below are some of the Do’s and Don’ts to keep an eye out for:

  • Clothing
    • Watch out for loose fitting clothing, jewelry that dangles, long loose hair, loose gloves. These can all get caught in the saw, the cord or cause the volunteer cutting to lose control.
    • Is the volunteer wearing eye protection? This is a must. It only takes one speck of sawdust or a flying chip to cause a trip to the emergency room.
    • Note that I mention gloves as hazard when using a circular saw, this is because they can get caught by the saw blade and actually pull your hand into the blade.
  • Cutting area
    • Make sure you are not stepping over and/or on multiple scraps lying on the ground or leaning on the table. If you see this, it’s a good idea to silently pick it up and stack it in a pile.
    • Is the cutting surface stable and not rocking?
    • Good advice from Don Harte, HFH International safety officer, is to find an empty box, usually there are plenty around the job site, and place it next to the work (saw) table for scraps. This also helps with cleanup at the end of the day.
  • Power tool (circular saw)
    • Is it in good working order; major issues can be the cord, which can be cut, or the plug end loose.
    • Is the lower blade guard stuck open or the blade depth adjustment not working so you can’t adjust the blade depth to the material you are cutting.
    • Regarding extension cords keep in mind that OSHA requires that all the extension cords be GFCI protected. In my experience not all affiliates around the country will have GFCI protected cords, so our responsibility as Care-A-Vanners is to remind them that OSHA requires this level of safety.
  • Cutting
    • Check to see where the cord is going to end up when you are finishing your cut, not where you start cutting.
    • Often times the cord will become caught underfoot or on the piece you are cutting.
    • Don’t stand behind the saw because you will be in the direct path of any kick back.
    • When cutting only reach to the extent you are comfortable and balanced.
    • Move positions or move the wood you are cutting if you cannot reach the entire length of the cut. Don’t stretch yourself over the work piece just to finish the cut. You will be off balance to control the saw and can actually cause saw horses to collapse and fall with the saw running.
    • Use the large part of the saw shoe to balance on the work surface not the small side by the blade.
    • Don’t lift the saw off the material your cutting until the saw blade completely stops. The saw can catch and either nick the work badly or kick back at you.

I have mentioned a few of the most frequent circular saw use safety problems I’ve seen on the job sites. There are many more ‘do’s and don’ts’ that apply to use of circular saws.

For additional safety information, check out the internet for ’power tool safety’, or ‘circular saw safety’.

Have a safe build,
Frank Peccia,
Keizer, Oregon