When the term “table saw accident” comes to mind, most people think about lacerations, amputations, and other types of blade-contact injuries.
Kickback is when the blade catches and propels wood workpieces or cut-offs in unexpected ways. Table saw kickback can injure and even kill you.
Always read your table saw’s user manual. Learn and understand how kickback can happen, and the steps that can be taken to prevent it.
I was searching OSHA’s accident database today, as part of research into a different topic, and came upon a report for a table saw kickback incident. Further searching turned up additional accident reports, including fatalities.
Please be careful!
And again, always read, understand, and adhere to proper safety guidelines, which are often detailed in tool user manuals.
The image above is of the SawStop PCS cabinet table saw with standard safety accessories in place – blade guard, riving knife, anti-kickback pawls.
WARNING: Following are graphical descriptions of fatal and non-fatal injuries.
At 3:38 p.m. on June 25, 2020, an employee was working for a commercial photographer and photography studio. The firm also provided marketing services and built interior sets. The employee was working as a carpenter. He was using a table to cut some waste wood. He was struck in the carotid artery by an unknown object that was kicked back by the saw. Emergency medical workers transported him to the hospital. He was admitted for emergency surgery to his carotid artery, but he died.
At 1:00 p.m. on October 16, 2018, an employee was speaking to another employee working on a door on the “surgery” table in the customs department. At the same time, another employee was operating a table saw approximately 10 feet away, with the operator/back end of the saw facing the employee.
The operator was performing rabbeting on a piece of molding when a the circular saw blade caught the end of the piece of wood, catapulting it behind the operator into the employee’s chest. The employee sustained a penetrating injury to the chest including injuries to the heart and right lung leading to exsanguination. The employee was hospitalized and later died.
At 1:00 p.m. on May 30, 2019, an employee was cutting a board on a table saw whe n the board kicked back, striking the employee in the abdomen and perforated his intestine. The employee was taken to the hospital, where he died while being operated on.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. on December 19, 2012, Employee #1 was cutting a piec e of wood on a table saw without the safety guard in place. Employee #1 was impaled by a piece of wood that entered thru his abdomen and he was killed.
At about 11:00 a.m. on February 10, 2004, Employee #1 was cutting a small piece of 0.75-in. plywood board on a table saw, which was not guarded. The plywood board kicked back, striking Employee #1 in his abdomen. Employee #1 had medical complications and died on February 10, 2004.
There are very many injuries that don’t result in fatalities. For instance:
At 3:00 p.m. on August 9, 2018, an employee was using a table saw to cut a piece of Brazilian Tiger Wood (five inches by three quarters of an inch). As the employee cut through the wood, it kicked out of the saw and punctured the employee’s stomach. The employee was hospitalized due to the injury.
At 2:30 p.m. on January 25, 2021, Employee #1, employed by a construction company, was using a table saw to rip a wood board at a commercial building site. The employee was pushing the board with his left hand. When he reached to turn the power switch off with his right hand, the board kicked back, and his left hand was pulled into the blade. One finger was amputated by the saw, and two other fingers lacerated. The employee was transported to the hospital and admitted for treatment. A physician treated the amputation and needed to surgically amputate the two severely lacerated fingers.
At 2:15 p.m. on January 14, 2020, Employee #1 was working as a cabinet maker, cutting ? in medium density fiberboard (MDF) wood with the use of an Altendorf F45 table sliding saw for the purpose of making cabinet doors.
Employee #1 was assigned to begin working on a new project that consisted of him cutting the large panels of MDF down to a smaller size (18 in by 18 in) for the cabinet doors. Employee #1 began cutting the wood down to size using the sliding table saw. Employee #1 placed the wood against the rip fence and began to push the wood through the blade using his right hand to cut off an approximately 2 in piece, and as the wood was being cut, Employee #1 used his left hand to grab the scrap piece of wood that was falling off.
As he held the wood, the saw kicked back and pulled the wood that he was holding and his hand into the blade, causing severe lacerations to his left hand leading to his left index finger eventually being amputated. Employee #1 had been treated and released from the hospital pending appointment with a surgeon on January 16, 2020, in which he was informed that they would be amputating the tip of his index finger due to the damage that was done.
Several casual factors were identified during the course of the investigation. The employer did not ensure that Employee #1 was properly trained and instructed on the safe operation of the sliding table saw to ensure that the blade of the saw above the table and material was properly guarded at all times no matter the size of the wood piece that’s being cut. Ensuring that the hood was being used on every cut to guard the blade would have prevented the employees hand from being exposed to the saw blade in the event of a binding situation.
If you’re looking to better understand kickback, James Hamilton (Stumpy Nubs) put together a couple of very informative videos over the years.