Improving Table Saw Safety
When looking at construction site safety, few things are as important as addressing concerns with table top saws. These saws are used for a wide range of different jobs, and they can be extremely dangerous. The fact that a sharp blade is spinning at thousands of RPMs so close to the operator’s finger makes it clear that table saw safety should always be a top priority.
There are many different things that can be done to improve the safety of this essential tool, but few things can compare with the effectiveness of the SawStop system. This is a type of table saw that has an advanced safety mechanism built right in that can almost instantly stop the saw blade in the event that someone’s finger comes in contact with it.
What does the SawStop Do?
The SawStop table saw functions just like any other table saw most of the time. You can turn it on, and cut through wood to make very straight cuts quickly and easily. In fact, other than the branding, most people might not even notice that it is any different than a traditional saw.
If someone accidently has their finger come in contact with the blade, however, they will immediately see that this saw is unlike any other. When the finger touches the saw blade, it will nearly instantly stop the blade and prevent injury.
You can see the system in action in the following video, which shows a hotdog being moved into the path of the blade. Remarkably, you can’t really even see where the blade hit the hotdog:
SawStop Hot Dog Demo
Imagine now that this was your finger. Without this advanced tabletop saw safety system, the finger would undoubtedly experience devastating injury, and may even get cut off completely. There are thousands of injuries like this each year, which can be life changing for the victim.
How does it Work?
This is clearly quite impressive, but you are likely wondering about how this table saw safety system actually works. The saw actually sends a very small electrical current through the blade and into a sensor that monitors for the current at all times.
If your finger touches the blade at all, it will break the electrical current, which triggers the sensor to release a powerful spring loaded aluminum break that stops the blade from spinning, and pulls it back into the table. This happens so quickly that even though your finger touched the blade, you will typically come away with only a very minor scratch, if anything at all.
In fact, the entire process happens in less than 1/5000th of a second. This is faster than an air bag in your vehicle. Watch this quite video, which explains the entire process and shows it in action:
SawStop Safety System
Replacing the Cartridge
In the event that the SawStop system is used, the operator will have to replace the cartridge before they can get back to work. This will allow the system to be ‘rearmed’ so that if someone else touches the spinning blade, they too will be protected.
Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to replace it so there is virtually on downtime on the job. Compared to the amount of downtime that is caused when someone actually gets a severe injury on a table saw, you will certainly be saving a lot of time and money.
The following video was provided by the SawStop company, and shows exactly how to replace an old cartridge with a new one. You’ll quickly see that it is very simple.
Brake Cartridge Replacement
Many Great Benefits
When most people see this system in action they immediately see just how helpful it could be in their facility. If you’re not in the market for a new table saw, however, you may not think it is necessary to make this type of investment now.
The fact is, however, that when you look at all the great benefits you’ll get from having this saw in your facility, you’ll quickly realize that you will almost certainly be saving money in the long run. The following are just a few of the many great improvements you’ll get with this saw:
- Fewer Serious Injuries – Of course, the first, and most important, benefit this system provides is the improved table saw safety. As any facility owner or safety manager knows, it is only a matter of time before someone in the facility is severely injured on these machines, so it makes sense to stop it before it happens.
- Improved Employee Morale – An investment like this sends a clear message to the employees that you care about their safety. Unlike many other safety systems that facilities use, employees will be able to immediately see the effectiveness of this system and will appreciate having it there to protect them.
- Perks with Safety Organizations – If your facility is audited by OSHA or other organizations, they will like the fact that you have this type of table saw safety system in place. It will show that you take safety seriously, which is always a good thing.
- High Quality Saw – No matter how safe a saw is, if it doesn’t cut the wood properly, it is useless. The SawStop table saw is one of the nicest saws on the market today. Even removing the added safety benefits completely, this is a great saw that will cut cleanly and quickly.
SawStop is not enough
There is no doubt that the SawStop system represents an amazing jump in the way individuals and companies look at table saw safety. The system is extremely effective, which is great, but it can also give companies and employees too much of a sense of security.
They may assume that the system will keep them safe no matter what, which can cause them to become careless in other areas of table saw safety. This is a big mistake, and should be avoided at all costs. In addition to using the SawStop system, you should also make sure the following table saw safety tasks are performed to help keep everyone protected:
- Keeping Distance – You always want to make sure people who are not directly operating the saw are not getting too close as this could cause them to get hurt. Many facilities use floor marking tape (which you can find here) to alert people that they need to stay away. Placing a square of this tape all the way around the saw can be very effective.
- Sawdust Collection – The sawdust that is generated by a table saw can cause a variety of hazards at the workplace. It can cause breathing problems, for example. In addition, it can create a fire hazard since it is so flammable. With this in mind, it is always important to collect the sawdust as soon as possible and remove it from the area.
- Sharp Blades – While this system will stop the blade from spinning if someone touches it, the blade is actually still sharp when it is not in motion. Keeping people who work with the blade safe is very important. When changing the blade, for example, it may be a good idea to wear safety gloves to avoid cuts.
As with all areas of safety on the job site, it is important to review all potential hazards and do everything you can to minimize or eliminate them. The SawStop system can be a big part of this, and if you address other concerns, your jobsite will be safer for everyone in the area.