Horizontal Bandsaw Safety

Updated April 17, 2017

A horizontal band saw uses continuous, flexible steel blades with teeth on one edge. This type of saw cuts materials ranging from wood, plastic, aluminium, steel and even meats. Band saws are known for their ability to manoeuvre through thick materials and still produce a curved or patterned cut. Operators hand-feed materials against the blade to maintain the desired cut.

Potential Safety Hazards

Contact with sharp blades is the most common cause of injury when using a horizontal band saw. Flying debris can cause injuries to the skin and eyes. Noise can be excessive, especially for those who work often with the saw. Dust is also a potential hazard, depending on the type of materials being cut or the allergies of the person using the machine.

Horizontal band saw users, whether on the job or for personal use, can take safety precautions to reduce the risk of injury.

Personal Safety Equipment and Clothing Issues

Band saws present two different clothing issues.

First, the operator should be careful of what NOT to wear. Take off jewellery from neck, arms, ears, or fingers; Tie back long hair and don't wear hair decorations hanging loosely. Shirts or other clothing should not have sleeves or any parts loose enough to catch in the saw operating parts or the blade.

There are protective equipment items a band saw operator SHOULD wear. Always wear safety goggles to keep debris from flying into the eyes. Ear plugs will help reduce excessive noise that could cause hearing problems. A face mask will help keep toxic dust or other particles out of the lungs.

Preparation and Inspection of Saw

Before using a horizontal band saw, prepare the saw for maximum safety. Fasten the saw securely fastened to non-tip and non-slip surface. Use the proper blades for the job at hand. And, install or retain the machine guarding and protective covers to prevent tangles in the saw parts or cuts from the sharp blades.

Inspect the saw before each use. The blades should have the tension correctly. Loose or broken parts of the saw and machine guarding should be corrected or replaced.

Safe Saw Operation

Do not touch the blade while machine is turned on, even if the blade is not moving. Hold cutting material flat on the saw surface, with your hands braced against the table. Place hands to the side of the blade, not directly in line with the sharp edges.

Adjustments to blades or materials should not be made when the saw is running.

Materials should not be removed from the machine until it is completely stopped.

Additonal Safety Tips

Read the specific saw's operating and safety manual. If using a horizontal band saw on the job, obtain the proper OSHA training for saws, power tools, and cutting machines.

Follow these additional safety tips: Keep floor clear of clutter and spills to prevent falling into the saw. Stop the blade if backing the workpiece out is necessary. Never walk away and leave a band saw running. Use a push stick rather than hands when the end of the piece is nearing the blade.

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About the Author

Larry Davis has worked in the safety and environmental field since 1975, writing for "Chevron Review" and other professional magazines. He wrote monthly columns for "Heavy Equipment News" and has written safety programs and training materials. He holds two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree in safety and earned his doctorate in safety engineering, studying under professors from the University of Iowa and Texas A&M University.