Tool hire national delivery icon Cheap National Delivery - £7.50 each way Click and collect iconFREE Click & Collect - 70 National Branches Low tool hire prices iconLow Prices - Hire Online


Safe use of a manually-operated cross cutting saw

Date posted: 1 October 2015

Woodworking machines are potentially dangerous pieces of equipment even in the hands of a skilled operator, and saws are the leading cause of accidents in the woodworking industry. In most cases, however, the accident could have been prevented simply by offering operators adequate training – and ensuring sufficient supervision during use.

Also of utmost importance is the saw's guarding - i.e. a guard that covers as much of the blade as possible, for as long as possible – helping to prevent access to the blade whilst the saw is in use and during the rundown period.

Common applications

The cross cut saw, sometimes referred to as the radial arm saw, is like an upside-down table saw. It is generally used for cross-cutting large boards of solid wood into smaller, more manageable lengths, for squaring off the ends, and for removing flaws such as knots.

Occasionally it is also used for angle cutting, grooving, moulding, sanding and creating compound angles.

Key safety considerations

Here we take a look at the key safety considerations you need to make when using manually-operated cross cutting saws in order to prevent accident injuries.

Ensure you use adequate guards

Horizontal stroking machines must be fitted with a fixed (hood) guard that encloses the upper part of the saw blade and extends down at least as far as the saw spindle.

Down-stroking machines, also known as chop saws, snipper saws or mitre saws, use a downward motion, passing through an arc to cut the wood. They sometimes combine a horizontal movement but this should only be possible when the saw blade is lowered to the maximum cutting depth. Once again, the upper part of the blade needs to feature a fixed guard extending at least to the saw spindle. A self-closing guard prevents access to the cutting part of the blade and, once the unit is lowered, this guard retracts to enable the cut to be made. This guard will be locked securely in the closed position and can be released by a control on the machine's handle.

Wear essential safety gear

Always wear personal protective equipment whilst using the machine to protect you from projectiles, noise, dust and other elements -- including eye, ear and foot protection.

Ensure a returns device is in place

This prevents access to the saw blade when it is in the rest (behind the fence) position. You can achieve this on older models of machines by creating a saw housing into which the saw returns automatically, using either a spring-assisted return or a counter balance device. This return device also helps to reduce the risk of a 'bounce back' whereby the saw unit travels forward from its rest position, although you may also need to use some type of impact absorption material as well.

Fit an efficient brake

If the saw does not go back to a safe rest position, you will need to fit an efficient brake, either DC injection or manual, to stop the saw within 10 seconds. DC braking is best -- even with a safe rest position -- if the saw is in regular or continuous use. Modern saws usually feature self-closing side guards which cover the outside edge of the saw teeth as a minimum, rising and falling when the saw is running. These guards do not offer protection against contact with the saw blade from the front of the machine, however, so you need to fit a nose guard and adjust it as close as you can to the material you are working on. As a rule, aim for within 12mm of your workpiece. Also ensure the saw blade stroke is set to prevent the nose guard extending beyond the front edge of your work table.

Always have workpiece support

Fit a fence tall enough to support the work piece on either side of the cutting line. Usually the fence needs to be modified to enable the nose guard to be lowered when cutting thinner materials. For long workpieces support them using roller supports / extension tables.

Mark out an immediate cutting area

The immediate cutting area needs to extend the full width of the saw movement and, where the table does not meet this, you will require an extension table to be fitted. For safety, consider marking out a coloured prohibition area to show the immediate cutting area of the table, aiming to include 300mm at either side of the saw cut. The operator’s hands must never enter this area. For smaller pieces ensure they are removed using a push-stick. It will not be practical to apply the 300mm rule either side for a chop saw, so instead use the semicircular area as your guide.

Position bowed timber carefully

Some wood you need to cut will be naturally bowed, and this requires careful positioning – placing the rounded edge to the fence to prevent snatching.

Avoid high risk applications

It is possible to use radial arm machines for other applications such as ripping material, but this poses a high safety risk and should not be undertaken unless the machine is properly safeguarded as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. It is better to buy or hire a circular rip saw bench for this purpose. 

Equally, pointing of stakes is another high-risk application requiring an appropriate guide piece fastened to the table. And, if you wish to use the saw for trenching, always use a suitable jig to safely and firmly hold the component in place, as well as chip limitation tooling.

Disconnect before maintenance

Before carrying out any set-up or maintenance procedures on the saw you must first isolate or knock off the electricity supply.

View wood working tools


<< Back to news