Working Safely With a Mitre Saw

There are some general rules that apply to the use of all power tools, and these include any type of power driven equipment. There are however even more specific rules, that particularly apply to the uses of powerful mitre saws.

Now when I say rules, that is probably not the best word to use. I prefer to call them sensible and practical steps that will avoid you, or anyone else nearby, suffering a serious or even a minor injury.

​One of the most popular tools is of course the Compound Mitre Saw. Now as versatile as these tools are, if not used in the right way, they can offer a risk of serious injury.

​I have worked in the construction industry for years, and over that period, I have seen quite literally hundreds of accidents happen. These have ranged from simple cuts and bruises, strains, minor breaks and all they way through to loss of eyes, limbs and yes I have sadly seen two deaths.

One was from electrocution on a new building site and the other was from a major fall. The sad thing is that with just a little care, every single one of them could have easily been prevented.

​Accidents just don't happen - they are caused.

General Safety Advice When Working With Mitre Saws and Power Tools

The Working Area

  • Although not always easy, try and keep the actual working area clean, and free from clutter. If at all possible make sure it is as well lit as you possibly can.
  • The easier it is to see, then the less risk there is of, danger being hid by dark areas. Never use any power tool where there are gas cylinders stored. A single spark from a power tool can easily start a fire.
  • Never use power tools when there are children around, and my own advice is to keep children away from any work area. They can find danger even where you didn't know it even existed.

Electrical Safety with Mitre Saws

​Probably this is more important that anything else. Trust me, I have seen some clowns in my time, doing some really stupid things and paying the price for their stupidity.

​If your saw comes with a three pronged cord, then it should only ever be plugged into a properly fitted and grounded outlet. I have seen people cut these off and just attach a different fitting for convenience.

Most mitre saws are corded and use what is termed a "G - 3 pin British." This has passed the BS 1363 standard and is the only plug that should be used. The saw will come fitted with the right plug. If it gets damaged just be sure any replacement is the same.

If you have a cordless mitre saw then store any battery packs on their own. Keep them away from any type of metal objects like screws and nails.

  • Never leave your mitres saw or any power tool out in the rain or in wet conditions
  • Never carry a saw by the cord and I have seen many people do this

Avoid using long extension cords and also if using an extension cord in a reel, always fully unwind the cord before using.

Specific Mitre Saw Safety Tips

​There are of course some safety issues that apply mainly to mitre saws, and I have covered these below. Check out the video below which is 15 minutes in length, but honestly it is 15 minutes well spent.

These saws use really powerful motors and sharp fast spinning blades. (They spin at around 140 mph) They can cut through wood like a knife through butter, and can make short work of metals like aluminium and steel. Can you imagine what they could do to a misplaced finger or thumb?

​In addition to watching this, you should of course read in full the manual that comes with your new saw. If you have bought a second hand one, then go online and you will be able to download these manuals for free.These saws are not designed to cut through steel rods, bars or studs as that will cause sparks, and over power the motor.

Stability of your Mitre Saw

​More than anything else, stability, or the lack of it, is one of the biggest causes of accidents that I have seen. These are supposed to be bolted down to a bench, or clamped to a stand. They are not meant to be used as is when they come out of the box. I know it is not always practical to have it permanently set up, but if you are going to be using it, then it is really important to have it made very stable.

Using the Mitre Saw Table Guard

​Almost all mitre saws will come with a table guard. There is a strong temptation, especially by contractors, to try and remove this. That guard is there for good reasons and should never be tampered with. You should check it to make sure that it is working properly and is not making the blade bind.

Support For Long Pieces of Wood

Again I have seen a number of accidents from people cutting long pieces of wood. If not properly supported by a stand, or a supporting table or table props, then they can easily fly upwards when the saw makes its cut. That can be very dangerous. It is always best to have and use a mitre saw stand and you can read about those by clicking here.

Tripping over Cut-Offs

This is one of the most common causes of accidents in the workshop and out on construction sites. It is all too easy to get distracted with cutting wood. This is especially true if you are doing a lot of it at one time. When this happens we tend to let the smaller cut-offs just drop on to the floor.

The problem with that it that you can forget about them, and then they can be tripped over. It is so easy to sprain an ankle like this and I have seen it happen many times. These days I keep a bucket nearby and just drop any small pieces of wood into that.

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Protect Your Hands from the Mitre Saw Blade

​Always keep your hands as far away from the blade as you can. Yes I know that this sounds really obvious, but for some reason some users think that they need to get close to the blade to line up the cut better. At all times, and before you hit the on switch, pause and check where your holding hand is placed.

Make sure it is as far away from the blade as possible. On small work pieces always use a clamp and never your hand or fingers!Watch out for loose clothes especially around the cuffs. These can very quickly get snagged by a spinning blade and will quickly draw your hand into contact with that spinning blade.Never ever be tempted to reach under a coasting blade as it slows down.

The Mitre Saw Guard

​Yes believe it or not, I have seen men remove the guard so as they can see the cut better, or get more depth. To be honest this is in my opinion, utter insanity. The guard is there for YOUR safety and should never be removed. Honestly there are no excuses for ever doing this.

Personal Safety When Using a Mitre Saw

​There are four areas of personal safety which I think are important when using your saw. Generally these are referred to in the construction industry as personal protective equipment (PPE)

1. Goggles or Safety Glasses

If you saw, drill, plane or do any type of woodwork, there is always the possibility of some small particle getting into your eye. Safety glasses these days are affordable, comfortable and will just help keep your eyes safe. Sight is so very important and it takes a couple of seconds to pop these on.

Let's face it for £2 would you not just simply own a pair of these?

2. Ear Protection

I used to hate wearing ear protection as I found it annoying. I ignored the warnings and the various proven tests that had been made. I know that mitre saws are not that noisy, but if used for long periods of time, then they can impact on hearing.

Again ear protection is cheap and effective and only takes seconds to prevent any damage to your ears. I wear it always now and wish I had many years ago.

3. Dust Mask

These saws usually come with bags which people either tend not to use and even throw away. Sawdust can easily get into your eyes and ears, but more importantly into your lungs. For the person who does the odd bit of DIY, the risk is small, but for a regular person who works with wood, the risk can be high.

By wearing a mask, using the bag or even having a proper dust extraction system, you can make this risk very small indeed. You can pick these up really cheaply in any DIY store.

4. Safety Clothing

​There is no need to go crazy here, but please watch out for the basics. Any machine with moving parts can easily trap loose pieces of clothing. Typically these will be around the wrist or cuff areas. Make sure that shirts are well buttoned before commencing work.

​I hope you have found the Health and Safety tips for working with a mitre saw helpful and more importantly that they will help keep you safe and well.

The Saw Guy