Most table saw injuries are commonly due to or at least related to kickback. Here’s what you can do to avoid injuring yourself during the use of a table saw.
Tools you can use
Wood can suddenly get propelled towards the operator of the table saw at a high-speed rate, which is what kickback is all about. Imagine the trauma a strongly flung, flying piece of wood can cause to the torso, chest, or head. You won’t even have time to take your hand off the wood as it gets pulled through the saw blade.
Shaped like a surfboard fin, a riving knife is a thin piece of metal that comes with a table saw. The device locks in place behind the saw, with its curvature facing the cutting element. The riving knife serves to keep the wood from getting caught in the back of the saw if the material gets pushed away from the fence.
A splitter is a low-profile alternative to a riving knife. Added to a zero-clearance throat plate, the device is simply a nub that sticks up and functions in the same manner as a riving knife by ensuring the wood stays in place across the blade.
A jig called a crosscut sled keeps the operator’s hands from the blade while serving to move the fence to the front of the cutting element rather than to the side of it.
What to use instead of your hands
Using your bare hands to feed the stock along as it moves across the blade can be quite dangerous. When kickback happens and the workpiece flies out of the way, your hands could get pulled against the spinning blade, which is bad news indeed. That is aside from the wood getting flung out toward the wall or hitting you. Choose your own disaster.
A push stick works better than your hands in moving the workpiece through the blade. Many woodworkers are just too lazy to use a push stick but it could spell the difference between safety and danger in the workshop. You can buy a push stick but there are those who opt to make their own.
Whatever safety equipment comes with the table saw is provided for a reason: to ensure operator safety. Use the supplied riving knife and blade guard to prevent certain injury during table saw use.
Should the saw not come with a riving knife, you will have to make a point of installing one prior to the use of the machine equipment.
Your table saw provides power that you have to respect. If you choose to ignore that, the consequences of getting the material caught on the blade and flung fiercely towards you could have very dire results indeed.