Saw bench risks include several injury possibilities. Cuts, amputations, lifting injuries, trips and falls, hearing loss. This post will deal with lacerations and amputations.
When I left the teaching position and took up carpentry, my first mother-in-law was not happy. Her prophesy (and perhaps her wish) was that I would cut off my hand or at least a finger in short order. I suppose she would have liked it better if I had decided on the law or medicine as my calling. She wouldn’t have liked me any better though……but I digress.
Saw Bench Risks – It happened to me
Her prognostication nearly happened sometime in 1988 when I mitered the end of my left index finger with a 14” Makita miter saw. In 1999 I clipped the other side of the same finger with a 10” Makita table saw. It was not Makita’s fault. It was mine. Both times I was just in a hurry and thinking production instead of safety. The net result of the two injuries was a very normal looking index finger. Side by side comparison with my right index finger shows my left to be slightly shorter but otherwise, mirror images.
Many cuts and lacerations do not have such a happy ending. The other day I heard, for the first time, the story of Freddy Forty-Five. It seems that Freddy was using a circular saw and speed square to 45 the end of a board. Evidently, Freddy’s mind was also not on safety because he somehow held the square in a manner that allowed him to run the saw over his hand as well as the board. As the story goes, thereafter, if a forty-five-degree angle needed checking, Freddy would just hold his hand alongside to check the miter for trueness.
Multifamily construction usually employs a production table also referred to as a “cut table” to produce multiples of the same header size, and to build t-posts, corner posts, and other framing members. The “cut man” runs the table, mans whatever type of saw that is employed and directs his helpers.
Saw Bench Risks – Some people never learn
A “cut man” at a Greenville, NC project back in 1972 had the habit of placing his hand under the base of the circular saw while his helpers positioned lumber for cutting. Somehow, a piece of wood jammed the blade guard and when he next cradled the saw off went his fingers. A helper dove under the table retrieved the severed pieces, wrapped them in a handkerchief and handed them to me. I helped the cut man into the company ambulance, an old Country Squire station wagon and headed to the hospital.
We hadn’t gone a mile and he tossed the handkerchief, finger pieces and all, out the window. I was shocked and yelled at the cut man asking him why in the world he would do that as I slowed to turn around. He told me that there was no need to go back because there were no ends to those fingers anyway. It seems that he had done that before and this occurrence just shortened his fingers by another knuckle or so.
Saw Bench Risks – Some people just don’t listen
One more story, in 2001 I fired a carpenter who simply refused, despite my safety instructions and termination warnings, to take the time to set up a proper work table or saw bench. He would perch a 15” miter saw on any available surface. I let him go when I found him for the second time with the saw set on an empty cardboard box and him balanced on one leg while trying to hold up a piece of baseboard with the other in a preparation to cut. A few months later I ran into a plumber that the carpenter and I both new. He told me something had happened to the carpenter but he wasn’t supposed to tell me. After some coaxing, he shared that the guy’s saw support had collapsed while making a cut. The saw removed most of his hand. I wasn’t surprised.
I’m sharing these stories as illustrations and reminders of what can happen and how quickly. One moment there you are, fully fingered, the next moment, digit-deficient.
Carpenters deal with more cutting instruments than any of the other building trades. Circular saws, jig saws, saber saws, table saws, radial arm saws, joiners, grinders, and other power cutters amputate and mangle. Hand tools, pneumatic nailers, nails, and screws can draw blood as well.
Daily safety reminders for cuts and lacerations are in order on any carpentry job. Be careful and make sure your co-workers are as well. Don’t let saw bench risks turn into saw bench injuries.