Safe Use of Cut Saws

Originally published on July 19, 2016

Construction workers often need to use cut saws to cut pipe, concrete, brick or block. Kickback – when the saw jumps back toward the operator – is the primary cause of serious injury when using a cut saw. Because cut saws are very dangerous, operators must have the proper instruction and training, and be regularly assessed to make sure they know how to safely operate the saw.

You should be in good physical shape and well rested if you are going to use a cut saw. Fatigue can cause you to lose control of the saw. Before you use the saw, familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions, and never use an abrasive blade on objects for which it was not intended.

When using the saw, hold it firmly with both hands, maintain good balance and footing at all times and avoid using the saw in awkward positions. It is important to position the saw in such a way that you are not bending over or standing directly behind the blade, especially when the guard is pulled back towards the top of the blade. Never overreach or hold the saw above the line of the shoulder.

A kickback can be caused by using the upper part of the cutting blade, or if the wheel is pinched at the front. It can also happen when a cut is interrupted, or when putting the blade back into a cut that has already been started. Material that sags or moves during a cut could bind the wheel or cause a kickback. Make sure that the object you are cutting is fully supported, secured so it cannot roll or slip and does not vibrate. Wet cutting not only helps keep the abrasive cool and reduce dust, but in a pinch situation, the water can act as a lubricant and reduce the energy of reactive forces. The saw’s guard should be designed to prevent cutting with the front and upper quadrant of the blade. You should never pull the guard beyond the limit stop.

A blade lock in can be caused when the work piece shifts, pinching the blade. Make sure that the work piece is clamped so that this can’t happen. You can also cause a lock in if you try to cut too deeply too quickly, or try to cut on a radius. These can lock the blade or cause the diamond segment to pop off. It would be safer to make a shallow guide cut, then come back for a deeper cut.

General safety tips for using a cut saw include the following:

  • Inspect the saw for damage before use, and make sure the guard is in place and secure. Do not use a wheel that has been dropped.
  • Wear the proper personal protective equipment – i.e. eye/face protection, non-slip gloves, ear protection, hard hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants (but they should not be loose fitting), and a respirator when dusty conditions exist.
  • Fuel the saw outdoors in a well-ventilated area while the engine is cool.
  • Establish a safe work zone to ensure that no one is exposed to any risks because they are too close to the saw while it’s in use.
  • When finished using the saw, turn off the engine and let the wheel stop rotating before carrying the saw or setting it down.
  • When carrying the saw, be sure the hot muffler is on the side away from your body.
  • Store the saw in a cool, dry place. Abrasives are heat and moisture sensitive.

Cut saws are valuable tools in construction, but they can also be dangerous. Safety is one of the most important issues you need to consider before picking up a saw.

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