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Circular saws (including sliding table dimensioning saws and tilting arbor saws) are useful tools to quickly cut timber, chipboard or MDF. Some circular saws can also cut concrete and masonry.
While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.
Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.
More than 80% of serious harm accidents concerning circular saws involve missing or poorly adjusted guards, or push sticks not being used.
Figure 1: circular saw benches
- Entanglement from contact with blade
- Contact or impact from poor tooling
- Slips, trips & falls
- Contact or impact from unexpected movement (during maintenance, cleaning & repairs)
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Ear protection
- Eye protection
- Dust protection
Task – feed material into blade
Heavy lifting and turning
- Serious harm – amputation of fingers; bone fractures and deep cuts to hands and fingers
- FIX adjustable hood guards to all benches, large enough to cover the blades, to prevent contact with blade and access underneath the machine table.
- REPLACE guards before making trial cuts after tool setting or adjustment.
- KEEP push sticks by each machine (at least 300 mm long and jagged to grip the work piece).
- USE power feeds/automatic feeding devices whenever possible.
- FIT a steel riving knife to every circular saw.
- ENSURE knives are securely mounted, have a smooth surface, slanting leading edge, and curved to the shape of the saw blade.
- USE extension tables and roller stands on the in-feed and out-feed sides to support larger work pieces.
Circular saws should NOT be used for rebating or grooving unless properly guarded. Stopped work should only be done on a vertical spindle moulding machine. Guards should be used with pre-scoring saw blades. Guards may need readjusting after each job to ensure the guard is never more than 12 mm above the work being cut. The distance between the back of the extension table and the blade should be minimum 1.2 metres.
Contact or impact from poor tooling
- KEEP tools safely maintained.
- MARK tools with their maximum rotational speed, and DO NOT exceed.
- DO NOT use unmarked saw blades.
- Any woodworking machines designed, manufactured or supplied after 2001 SHOULD HAVE a braking device fitted.
- RETRO-FIT older machines with a braking device where possible.
- ISOLATE saws to minimise the chance of a person being hit by timber.
Other (non-mechanical) hazards
- Hearing damage or loss
- REDUCE noise levels by isolating machines or enclosing within noise barriers.
- ASSESS noise levels.
- ARRANGE hearing screenings.
- ALWAYS WEAR hearing protection.
A safe noise level over an eight hour day is 85db. A circular saw may exceed this noise intensity.
- Eye irritation or damage
- Breathing problems, lung damage or cancer
- Worsening of existing health problems
- USE dust extraction equipment to minimise dust getting in the operator’s breathing zone.
- ALWAYS USE respiratory protection.
- ALWAYS WEAR eye protection.
Slips, trips and falls
- KEEP up-to-date housekeeping procedures.
- KEEP the area around saws clear of slip and trip hazards.
Task – maintenance, cleaning & adjustments
Contact or impact from unexpected movement
- LOCK-OUT all power supplies before maintenance, cleaning or repairs.
- UNDERTAKE regular maintenance and testing, in accordance with the original manufacturer’s specifications.
Instructions MUST be provided in a language that operators understand.
Figure 2: prevent access to the rotating saw blade. this can be done by using rip and crosscut fences, adjustable hood guards, riving knives and push sticks.
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