Portable Skill Saw Safety Toolbox Talk

November 26, 2022
By N. Nicholas, ASP

Circular saws are the most frequently used wood-cutting tools in the carpentry trade.

Although the circular saw is equipped with an upper and lower guard, the blade becomes exposed when the saw is pushed into the workpiece.

This exposed portion of the blade can lead to severe injuries such as amputations. Safe work practices should always be used when operating these devices.

Portable Skill Saw Safety Toolbox Talk Guidelines

Point of Operation Hazards:

  • Injuries can occur if you misuse the tool. For instance, forcing the tool to cut the material. Forcing the tool can cause it to bind the blade and can cause kickback.
  • Injuries can also occur when two hands are not used to control the saw while in operation. If you have two hands on the saw, there is no risk of injury.
  • Reaching underneath the workpiece and holding the material being cut in your hands can lead to severe injuries.
  • Not using sawhorse or workbench to cut materials.


A kickback is a sudden reaction to a pinched, bound, or misaligned saw blade, causing an uncontrolled saw to lift up and out of the workpiece toward the operator. Kickbacks can occur because:

The blade depth is set incorrectly.

The blade is not maintained correctly.

The material is wet or poor-quality lumber (knots or nails in materials)

Twisting the blade while making cuts

Not using a sawhorse or workbench to support the workpiece correctly

Sawhorse/ Work Bench

A sawhorse is a tool used to provide support for materials being cut. Additionally, the sawhorse serves as the legs for a workbench. This is a vital piece of equipment that can eliminate injuries while cutting materials.  Sawhorse/workbench helps to prevent injuries by:

  • Providing in a stable work area to secure the item being cut.
  • Prevents back injuries due to repetitive bending
  • Allows you to secure the material and keep two hands on the circular saw when the cut is being performed

Before Operating a Circular Saw

  • Ensure you have read and understood the manufacturers operating and safety instructions.  Failing to do so could lead to serious injuries. 
  • Put on your PPE: safety glasses or goggles, or another form of face/eye protection, a dust mask when exposed to nuisance dust, and wear proper hearing protection in noisy locations such as in enclosed areas.
  • Inspect the saw every day and before each use.
  • Check the retracting lower blade guard to make sure it slides freely.
  • Ensure that the blade selected is sharp enough to do the job. Sharp blades work better and are safer.
  • Check the saw for proper blade rotation.
  • While the saw is unplugged, adjust the cutting depth to the thickness of the material. (less than a full tooth of the blade teeth should be visible below the workpiece).
  • Check power and extension cords to ensure they are not damaged. If they are damaged, have the tool repaired by a qualified individual.
  • Keep all cords clear of the cutting area.

Cutting Operations

  • Make straight cuts. Always use a straight edge guide when rip cutting. This helps prevent twisting the blade.
  • Use clean, sharp, and properly set blades. Never make cuts with dull blades.
  • Support the workpiece properly before beginning a cut.
  • Always keep your hand positioned away from the saw blade
  • Do not attempt to turn on the tool when the blade is against material to be cut.
  • Use steady, even pressure when making a cut.
  • Do not cut warped or wet lumber.
  • Hold the saw firmly with both hands and keep your body in a balanced position to resist the forces if kickback should occur
  • Keep the circular saw shoe firmly placed flat on the cutting surface.
  • Wait for the blade to stop completely before lifting the saw from a cut.

Portable Skill Saw Safety Safe Work Practices.

  • Always protective equipment such as dust masks, nonskid safety shoes, hard hats, and hearing protection should be used in some cases to reduce personal injuries.
  • Never wear loose clothing or jewelry and secure long hair.  Loose clothes, jewelry, or long hair can be drawn into the saw and cause personal injuries
  • Never remove guards or lock the guards in place.  Verify that the blade, guard, fence, etc. are adjusted correctly.
  • Ensure that the blade is designed for the type of cutting being done and fits the saw’s arbor precisely.
  • Never use a dull or damaged blade. They should be replaced promptly
  • Maintain a firm grip with both hands on the saw and position your arms to resist kickback forces. Position your body to either side of the blade, but not in line with the blade
  • Always remove battery or unplug the saw before changing the blades. (Unplug/deenergize) saws when they are not in use.
  • Never force the saw while it is cutting. Allow it to cut at its own speed.

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