SafeWork SA Inspectors recently attended two separate incidents where workers were seriously injured whilst using manual horizontal panel saws.

The first incident occurred while a worker was cutting thin veneer edge strip on a panel saw. The saw blade guard had been removed as it was seen as a distraction whilst cutting the thin veneer edge strip. The worker accessed the exposed saw blade and sustained serious lacerations to two fingers.

The second incident involved the cutting of cleats from off-cut pieces of timber on a panel saw. The worker was standing next to the saw blade when it is believed that the off-cut section was pulled into the saw blade whilst the sliding feed table was returned for the next cut. The worker’s hand got pulled over the saw blade and they sustained partial amputation of two fingers.

With both incidents, the workers were cutting small items on the horizontal panel saw and worked over the saw blade which inadvertently brought them closer to the saw blade. Both workers reported to be experienced and competent trades people.

Horizontal panel saw
Example of a manual horizontal panel saw

Minimising the risk

SafeWork SA reminds persons with management and control of plant at a workplace of their duty to ensure that the risks to health and safety associated with the plant are managed.

To reduce the occurrence of incidents and injuries when operating a panel saw;

  • undertake a risk assessment of all tasks involving the use of a panel saw by identifying hazards, assessing risks, and identifying suitable controls to eliminate or minimise the risks to health and safety
  • determine whether the panel saw is fit for purpose, especially when the task involves the cutting of smaller items, as other types of plant may be more appropriate and safer to use
  • follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines regarding safe use
  • ensure that available safety measures, such as the riving knife and saw blade guard, are in place and correctly set up prior to use
  • develop and implement a safe system of work for the operation of the panel saw and ensure that workers receive the required information, training and instruction
  • ensure that the panel saw is inspected and maintained as per the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • provide adequate supervision to ensure tasks are being undertaken in a safe manner and in accordance with the purpose and design of the panel saw.

Further information

Please refer to the Code of Practice – Managing the Risks of Plant in the Workplace.