Hear from Brian Chamberlin, WorkSafe’s Inspector and Construction industry education officer about the common mistakes made when using power saws across the industry.

Recently a serious incident occurred where an employee sustained a severe laceration to his upper leg while operating a circular saw, severing his femoral artery. The employee was airlifted to hospital where he passed away the next day.

Having worked as a carpenter, trade teacher, and now as an Inspector, I have seen firsthand the result of circular saw injuries over the years. This unfortunate incident highlights just how dangerous these tools are.

Hand held circular saws are used every day on construction sites by different trades, and unfortunately injuries and near misses associated with these tools happen too often.

In the past year, there have been a total of 84 power saw incidents reported to WorkSafe Victoria, including 71 serious lacerations to parts of the body, including hands, arms, and legs, as well as 11 amputations. Many of these incidents were avoidable.

Often, incidents like these involve young and inexperienced workers. I speak to many new apprentices and work experience students who regularly discuss how they are instructed to use circular saws and other power tools with very little training or supervision. This leads to an increased risk of an incident occurring.

Steps to reduce risk of power tool incidents
If you have an apprentice or new worker onsite – take them through how to:

  • Safely operate a circular saw (and other power tools)
  • Safely secure and cut the materials
  • Choose the right tool for the job
  • Inspect the tool to ensure it is in safe working order

It is also essential to ensure these workers are appropriately supervised until they are competent with the tools they are using.

Safety issues
A common cause of incidents involving circular saws is when the saw kicks-back and the blade comes into contact with the
Kicking-back is a term used to describe when the blade of a circular saw becomes jammed by the material being cut, causing the saw to retract backwards quickly.

To reduce the risk of an incident occurring:

  • Ensure the work area is free of clutter
  • Ensure the work piece is secure
  • Work in a comfortable position
  • Use the right tool for the task
  • Limit other persons within the vicinity of the work area

Safety tips for using power tools

Steps that can be taken to control the risk and ensure a safe work environment when using held power tools such as circular saws include:

  • Undertake a risk assessment of the tasks
  • Identify and control hazards and risks associated with the task, including risks of using hand held power tools in restricted space
  • Ensure operating procedures for hand held power tools are developed and implemented; and all workers are aware of these
  • Ensure all hand held tools are maintained, in accordance with manufactures instructions, and are not modified
  • Ensure workers are inducted, and that appropriate instruction, training and supervision is provided

More information
Listen to inspector Brian Chamberlin’s construction top tip video on reducing the risk of power tool incidents occurring on construction sites.

Contact WorkSafe Advisory service on 1800 136 089

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