9 Common Circular Saw Safety Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The circular saw is one of the most dangerous power tools. Find out about the most common circular saw safety mistakes and how to avoid them.

Using a circular saw can be a little intimidating, but if used properly one can take advantage of the many benefits the tool offers. A circular saw is an excellent tool, ideal for cutting through all sorts of different materials such as wood, steel, or tiles. It is the most commonly used power saw in the workshop and the go-to tool for cutting large pieces of wood into manageable sizes.

A circular saw is definitely one of the most useful tools around the shop due to its versatility and wide range of applications. It is a great tool for both professionals and DIYers. Yet, the circular saw is one of the most commonly abused and mishandled tools.

Circular saw safety

It is very important and absolutely essential to understand how a circular saw works and how it should be operated. The inappropriate and improper use of a circular saw is usually the main reason for the injuries caused. Prevention is the number one factor in reducing any injuries associated with the saw and it is very important to take all the necessary safety precautions when working with the tool.

In this article, I am going to cover the most common circular saw safety mistakes, injuries that may occur, and how to prevent them. I am also going to provide tips to help you learn how to use a circular saw more efficiently and safely.

Circular Saw Safety Tips
Circular Saw fixed in a track

Keep in mind that guides and videos on the internet may not demonstrate or follow all the necessary safety procedures. It is important you know how to operate a circular saw safely. If you don’t feel confident in a particular procedure or process, then do not do it. 

Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!

Any power tool can be dangerous, including a circular saw. Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.

Percentage of injuries caused by power saws

Studies show that machinery and power saws are responsible for up to 30% of all reported injuries. A lot of the injuries are caused by improper handling and manipulation of the power tools. That mainly involves DIYers and non-professionals.

According to a study in Brazil, power saws are accountable for the majority of upper limb injuries, accounting for 81.7% of the cases. Most of the injuries are caused by masonry saws (68,2%), grinders (16,5%), and wood circular saws (10,6%).

Power saw related upper limb injuries

Most common cause of power saw injuries

The most common power saw injuries are caused by kickback (47,1%), followed by material slippage (13,5%), disk breakage (9,6%), and contact during cutting (9,6%).

Most Common Power Saw Injury Cause Percentage of Injury Cause
Kickback from the saw 47,1%
Cutting material slippage 13,5%
Disk breakage 9,6%
Contact during cutting 9,6%
Attention distraction during cutting 7,7%
Clothing caught in the saw 3,8%
Machine cleaning 2,9%
Contact after turning off the saw 2,9%
Other 2,9%

The table above displays the most common cause of power saw injuries

What is circular saw kickback?

A kickback is a situation that occurs usually when the blade gets pinched by the material or the material gets stuck between the blade and the rip fence. A sudden reaction of the spinning blade causes an uncontrolled displacement of the material toward the operator, which may result in severe injuries.

Many of the circular saw mistakes listed below are mainly focused on avoiding kickback.

Most common upper limb injuries caused by a power saw

The most common upper limb injuries caused by a power saw are located on the hand and fingers, specifically, the thumb is the most frequently injured part of the hand.

Most Common Upper Limb Injury Caused by Power Saw Percentage of Injury
Thumb and fingers 65,4%
Hand 16,3%
Forearm 10,6%
Wrist 7,7%

The table above displays the most common upper limb injuries caused by a power saw

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Get familiar with your circular saw

Before starting any work with a circular saw, you should get familiar with the tool and its features. Take into account that individual saw models are different. Read the instructions of your specific saw model first and make sure you understand how the tool works, including all its components.

The picture below gives an idea of the different parts of a circular saw.

Description of a circular saw and its components
Circular saw parts

These are 2 of the most important parts of a circular saw you need to know of:

1. Retracting Blade Guard – the retracting lower blade guard is the most important safety feature of a circular saw. It covers the saw and prevents the operator from coming into direct contact with the blade.
When cutting a piece of wood and pushing the saw forward the blade guard retracts automatically. Once finished with the cut the blade guard comes back into position and covers the blade again. Check the blade guard is working properly before/after each cut with the circular saw.

2. Depth Adjustment Knob – the depth adjustment knob is used to set the desired depth of cut by moving the base plate of the circular saw. After making any adjustments to the depth of the cut, always make sure that the adjustment knob is tightened.

9 Common circular saw safety mistakes and how to avoid them

The inappropriate use of a circular saw, such as improper operating procedures, inappropriate or risky operations, improper handling, or improper use is usually the main reason for the injuries caused. These include, for example, insufficient protective equipment, inappropriate clothing, hasty work, carelessness, insufficient material support, cutting materials not intended for the tool/blade, or removing safety devices for a better view.

Prevention and awareness of the correct use of a circular saw are the number one factor in reducing any injuries associated with the tool.

These are the most common circular saw safety mistakes. Many of these mistakes are specifically for avoiding kickback and blade contact. Understand what they are and see how they can be avoided.

1. Getting in the cutting path

This is the worst safety mistake while working with a circular saw. Keep any of the body parts off the cut path. Do not put your hands, arms, feet, or legs in front of or behind the circular saw. Secure the material being cut with clamps and hold the circular saw with both hands while cutting, whenever possible.

2. Standing behind the circular saw

Stand to the side of the cut path (left or right) and do not stand directly behind the circular saw. If kickback occurs, the circular saw might jump in your direction. This way, the saw will not hit you.

3. Removing the saw from the cut before the blade stops rotating

Don’t remove the circular saw while the blade is still rotating. Wait until the blade stops spinning and then manipulate the saw. Pulling out the saw too early might cause a kickback.

4. Taking off the blade guard

Removing, taking off, or pinning back the blade guard is not a good idea. The blade guard is there to protect the saw blade as well as prevent the blade from getting into contact with anything. Make sure the blade guard returns to its initial position before laying down the saw.

5. Improperly supporting and attaching the cut piece

The cut piece must be correctly clamped and supported to avoid kickback. Use a workbench, clamps, or a sawhorse. Make sure the piece is placed on a surface where nothing will be hit, it is well supported from beneath and the excess wood is free to fall down, avoiding unintentional binding.

6. Cutting with dull blades

Dull blades increase the chance of causing kickback. Use sharp blades to avoid various physical hazards. Using a sharp blade will let the saw pass through the material with ease. While cutting the circular saw must cut through the material easily and should not be forced hard.

7. Placing the circular saw upright, not on its back

Putting the circular saw down before the blade stops rotating might make the saw take off and start “running”. That may cause various physical injuries as well as damaging other things or damaging the circular saw itself. Flipping the circular saw over or laying it down on its side will avoid this problem. Always check the blade guard returns to its initial position.

Wrong positioning of a circular saw
Right positioning of a circular saw

8. Keeping the finger on the trigger when carrying the circular saw

Keep your finger off the trigger. There is a chance you might start the circular saw accidentally. You might trip and fall, step on the saw cord or the cord gets caught when moving the saw.

9. Setting the cut depth of the circular saw too deep

The circular saw blade shouldn’t extend too far. Use the depth adjustment knob and set the depth of the saw blade to approximately 6mm (1/4’’) below the material. Any deeper is too deep. Setting the blade depth just right not only reduces the chances of hitting something else but also places less effort on the saw.

Depth of a circular saw blade is too deep
Depth of a circular saw blade is just right

Circular saw safety equipment

While using and operating a circular saw it is necessary to wear the right clothing and proper safety equipment. It is important not to underestimate the importance of work clothes and additional safety features. They can significantly prevent or minimize the risk of injury while working.

Always remember to wear all the necessary personal protective equipment. This is the most important safety equipment you should wear while working with a circular saw:

  1. Always wear safety glasses or goggles, a dust mask or an approved respirator, adequate hearing protection, or a full-face shield if necessary.
  2. Always wear the right clothing for the job. Do not wear loose-fitting clothing or any kind of jewelry. Loose clothing may get caught in the rotating parts of the circular saw. Tie down your hair.

Also, using woodworking jigs can increase safety when using a circular saw. Jigs are designed to guide and stabilize the wood being cut, which can help prevent kickback, binding, or other dangerous situations that can occur. Jigs can also help ensure that cuts are made at the correct angle, depth, and width, which can reduce the likelihood of mistakes that can lead to injury.

Here are some examples of woodworking jigs for a circular saw.

Circular saw safety tips

Now you are much more familiar with a circular saw. You know what are the most common mistakes while operating a circular saw as well as what is the necessary safety equipment you need to wear.

Here are a few extra circular saw tips to get you working like a pro and will make working with the saw even more secure:

  1. Check the blade guard often. The blade guard is one of the most important safety features of a circular saw. After finishing cutting make sure the blade guard returns to its initial position.
  2. Disconnect the power cord before making any adjustments to the circular saw.
  3. Keep the circular saw clean, and free of sawdust and chips.
  4. Use both hands to operate the circular saw, whenever possible.
  5. Use the right blade for the material being cut.
  6. Don’t use gloves. Wearing gloves increases the likelihood of being caught by the circular saw.
  7. Make sure the material cut is correctly secured.
  8. Circular saws are designed to be used with the right hand. Using it with the left hand requires extra caution.
  9. Make sure the power cord is long enough to work comfortably. If not use an extension cord.

What Should you do Before Using a Circular Saw

Before you start using your circular saw, here’s a simple checklist you should keep in mind:

  • Look at the Blade: It’s essential to ensure your blade isn’t damaged or dull. Working with a sharp blade doesn’t just make your job easier, but it also produces finer, more accurate cuts. A blade in top condition reduces the chance of splintering and makes for a smoother finish.
  • Safety First: Checking that all safety covers and features are in tip-top shape is crucial. These built-in features are there for a reason: to protect you. Ensuring they’re functioning means you’re setting up a safer workspace for yourself.
  • Hold Your Wood Tight: Using clamps or a solid workbench ensures that your material doesn’t move unexpectedly. A stationary piece gives you more control, ensuring straight cuts and lessening the chances of mistakes.
  • Adjust the Blade: Setting your blade to the right depth helps in achieving precise cuts. It ensures the blade slices through your material efficiently, reducing wear on the tool and giving you a clean edge.
  • Wear Safety Stuff: Wearing safety glasses keeps your eyes safe from unexpected splinters or sawdust. Ear protection isn’t just for comfort; prolonged exposure to loud noises can harm your hearing over time.

Working with a circular saw may be intimidating and it takes a lot of practice to master it. Being familiar with the tool does not mean being reckless. There are many pitfalls and dangers when working with a circular saw and it is essential to observe all safety precautions to avoid any possible injury.

Always use caution!

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Common Circular Saw Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Circular Saw Safety Tips.

Woodworking jigs for a Circular Saw

Looking to upgrade your circular saw with an addon? Check out these woodworking jigs for a circular saw.

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About the author, Lukas
About the author, Lukas

Meet the creator of AllFlavor Workshop! As a passionate DIYer and woodworking enthusiast, Lukas is always looking for ways to make things himself rather than buying them off the shelf. With a keen eye for design and a knack for working with wood, Lukas enjoys sharing his craft with others and helping them discover the joy of building. Whether you're an experienced woodworker or a novice looking to try your hand at a new hobby, you're sure to find plenty of inspiration and tips on AllFlavor Workshop.