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Handheld circular saws are one of the most common tools on any sized construction site today. They are used for straight cuts, either across or against the grain. Although powerful and handy, these saws can be dangerous. Before any operation with a handheld saw, the tool should be inspected, with the cord, guards and blade being checked, and the saw blade being cleaned of any sawdust or debris. It is also important to make sure the blade is the right type for the material being cut. Before cutting, double-check the material you plan to cut to be sure there are no nails or knots that might disengage the blade or cause it to kick back. While cutting, be aware of both your feet and your hands, as well as other coworkers who may be nearby.
Chop Saws are a light weight circular saw mounted on a pivoting arm. The saw moves up and down and is great for specific cuts, especially square cuts. However, you must always inspect a chop saw before using it. For a chop saw to be safe, the blade must be securely fastened, and the protective guard must be in place and working properly. Most chop saws have a fence to help you hold the material in place and a safety trigger which releases the blade for use. You must always wear the proper eye protection when using a chop saw as flying debris, like sawdust, can easily get into your eyes. It is also important to use a sharp blade when making a cut.
A miter saw is similar to a chop saw, except you can move the pivoting arm and blade, which allows you to make angled cuts. The blade of a miter saw is pulled towards you, lowered over the material to be cut, and then pushed back as the blade passes through the material. Just like a chop saw, a miter saw will have a protective guard covering the blade. It is important that this guard never be removed. Since the blade moves both up and down as well as back and forth, it is very important to watch your hands as you make a cut.
Radial Saws are similar to both a chop saw and a miter saw, but they offer more options for making cuts. A radial saw will move forward and backwards on sliders and can also be tilted to get an angled cut. A radial saw can also use different cutting medians such as shapers and drum sanders. With a radial saw, the operator moves the saw across the material being cut by pulling it towards themselves as well as pushing it away. With a radial saw, there should be both a protective guard over the blade and kick back fingers on both sides of the blade to help prevent scattering debris when doing a rip cut. A radial saw will also have a return device, with the front end higher than the rear of the saw. This allows the cutting head to return to its normal position after making a cut. Just like other saws, personal protective equipment should always be worn during operation.
Prevention & Response
Whenever you get ready to use a power tool, especially a saw, there are several steps you can take to make the process as safe as possible. For starters, you should always inspect the tool before turning it on. You should know what type of material you will be using and how the saw might react to that specific medium. Wearing the proper PPE will also help protect you, as well as knowing where the shut-off is, so you can stop the blade immediately if you need to. If the saw is new to you, working with a supervisor to do a few practice cuts will help you understand the motions of the saw and how it operates.