Preventing Injuries When Using Cut-Off Saws

Cut-off saws such as the Husqvarna K970 and Stihl CutQuik® line are commonly used equipment. Because they’re so common, you might not take the time to consider the tremendous potential that these tools have to cause severe injuries. To help remedy this, Desert Diamond Industries has provided the following primer on saw safety. These safety tips may seem like a lot to work, but if they can reduce your chances of being injured or killed on the job, they’re worth it.

Attire

Your attire can provide some basic protection against sparks, saw dust, and metal or plastic shavings. As a result, many workplaces have uniforms for their workers who use these tools extensively. Other businesses allow workers to choose their own attire.

Whatever you wear, it should have a high thread count and be made from natural materials such as cotton or linen (e.g. denim, etc.). In addition, shirts should be tucked in and all jewelry, bandanas, and hair secured to prevent these items from being caught on the blade of the saw. This is because saw blades spin rapidly during cutting; they can grab loose items of clothing and cause serious injury before you have time to react.

Personal Protective Gear

Of course, clothing itself won't provide you sufficient protection when you use cut-off saws. You also need personal protection equipment (PPE) to ensure your safety, including boots, hearing protection, eye protection, hand protection, and protection against respirable silica.

  • Work Boots: You should wear steel-toed boots to protect your feet from your saw's blade. Many models of work boots feature shock-absorbent soles or padding to help prevent leg fatigue caused by standing on hard surfaces all day; you can also add work boot insoles to increase comfort.
  • Hearing Protection: You should wear some type of hearing protection, either ear muffs or earplugs. The noise generated by saws and cutting can damage unprotected ears.
  • Eye Protection: You should wear eye protection, preferably safety goggles, to protect your eyes from flying sparks and debris. High-quality superabrasive diamond blades reduce sparks generated during cutting, but you should still wear eye protection when using these blades.
  • Hand Protection: You should also wear heavy gloves to protect your hands from sparks and debris.
  • Protection against Respirable Silica: OSHA recently passed new rules regarding silica exposure. Construction firms must comply with these new rules by June 2017 and general industry and maritime firms by June 2018. The new silica rule limits your eight-hour average exposure to respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air. This means that you may need to wet-cut most concrete and, in some instances, use respirators to further limit exposure.

Worksite

After you’ve geared up for safety, you should check your worksite to ensure the safe operation of your cut-off saw and saw blade. Pay particular attention to lighting, fire hazards, and other people in your worksite.

  • Lighting: Make sure that your work area is clean and well lit. This helps to eliminate hazards and ensures that you can see properly when handling your saw saw, even after concrete dust starts to obscure your vision.
  • Fire Hazards: Remove fire hazards, such as gasoline cans used to fuel the saw or other flammable chemicals, since sparks from the saw blade can ignite these fuel sources. Using a high-quality superabrasive diamond blade can reduce sparks, providing even greater protection from fire hazards.
  • Other People: Before starting to cut, make sure that no one is in the “line of fire” – that is, the area where a saw blade fragment might fly should the blade fail. Blade failure and segment loss are both serious dangers. Using a high-quality blade with a solid steel core can reduce the risks of blade failure. You should also ensure that people are not in an area where sparks might land.

Saw

You should always inspect a cut-off saw before use, paying particular attention to its throttle trigger lock and blade guard.

  • Trigger Lock: You should ensure that the throttle trigger lock is operational and returns to its originalor “idle” position when pressure is released. This will help prevent accidental operation of the throttle.
  • Blade Guard: You should adjust the saw’s blade guard so that its rear section is flush with the work piece. This will help to deflect sparks and debris away from you.

Blade

You should also inspect your blade. Pay particular attention to the blade’s speed, size, and application. You should also test conventional abrasive blades for damage before using them.

  • Speed: Make sure the saw blade rating is at least as high as the saw motor speed. Using a saw blade above its speed rating can result in the blade disintegrating and causing serious injury. A high-quality blade with a solid steel core can reduce these risks.
  • Size: Make sure the saw blade is the right size for the saw. Also ensure that you use the correct bushing to fit the blade to the saw and that it is tightly mounted.
  • Application: Make sure that the blade is the correct one for the material that you’re cutting.
  • Conventional Abrasive Blades: Examine abrasive blades for flaws both visually and by using a “ring test” before mounting it to the saw. To perform a ring test, gently tap on the blade with a nonmetallic object and listen for the sound it makes. A clear sound indicates an undamaged blade, whereas a dull or dead sound means that the blade is damaged and should not be used.

During Cutting

There are also steps that you can take to increase your safety when you first start the saw and while the motor is running and to decrease the chances of kickback.

  • Starting the Saw: When first starting the saw, make sure that the carburetor’s idle adjustment is properly set so that the saw blade remains stationary while the saw is idling. The easiest way to confirm this is to apply full throttle, release the throttle control, then make sure that the blade stops and remains stationary.
  • While the Motor is Running: Whenever the motor is running, make sure you maintain a safe distance from the cutting blade and never leave the saw unsupervised.
  • Reducing Kickback: Never use the upper quadrant of the blade, sometimes called “the kickback zone”, for cutting. You should also use two hands when cutting, because If the saw does kick back, you'll have a much better chance of maintaining control over it and avoiding injury to yourself and others. You should also properly support the work piece so that the cut stays open when cutting through the material, rather than pinching shut.

After Cutting

Safety considerations should also be paramount at the end of the cutting process and when changing saw blades. Make sure the blade stops moving and that you stop the saw’s motor before touching or changing the blade.

  • Make Sure the Blade Stops Moving: Cut-off saws operate at very high speeds, and their blades will continue to rotate after the motor has stopped. This is known as “blade coasting.” You should maintain control over the saw and let the blade rotate freely until it comes to a complete stop. You should also prevent anyone from touching the blade as it winds down to a stop.
  • Make Sure You Stop the Motor: Before changing the blade, make sure to press the stop button on the saw to stop the motor. This will prevent the saw from turning on accidentally while the blade is being changed. It will also keep the blade from rotating while the motor is idling. Both of these accidents can endanger you and anyone else in the area.
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