A Woodworker’s Notebook
Jeff Gorman
Accident Reports

or 'I don't want to worry you, but .............. '

Heavily edited extracts, from rec.woodworking and HMFI reports, gleaned over a number of years

The use of the term 'IP' (Injured Person) identifies the reports from British Factory Inspectors

Typical accidents

Thumbs almost cut off ripping on table saws without using push sticks. Hit a snag, pushed harder and the snag suddenly cleared.

Ripping a small piece of wood on the tablesaw. The waste piece failed to fall sideways. Swept left hand to brush it aside. Blade met thumb.

IP cut three right fingers whilst pushing 460mm x 240mm x 75mm (18in x 9.5in x 3in) wood. Pushstick not used. Adequate guarding provided but not properly adjusted.

Cutting timber using pushstick and also pushing timber with the left hand. IP's left hand touched the blade removing top of thumb.

IP's left hand came into contact with the blade. Top guard and riving knife had been removed by IP for slotting timber. Operator a time-served carpenter.

IP was grooving redwood timber. Suitable guard was not fitted and IP's fingers touched the blade, sustaining lacerations.

Resawing a 2-/2" x 2" x 10" board to prepare 3/8" x 2-1/2" x 10" strips. Crown guard in place. Using a push stick. Using hand to apply pressure to keep the board against the fence. 'Sideways shift' at the end of the cut and hand hit the exposed blade. Half of thumb amputated. Two-thirds of index finger trimmed off lengthwise, remainder amputated surgically.


Ripping some 80mm x 80mm x 1220mm (3 1/2in X 3 1/2in X 4ft) poplar on table saw. Using a plastic push stick with an upright handle in the vertical position. The blade grabbed the push stick and twisted down and to the left of the blade, pulling hand down directly on top of the blade.

Trimming off about 3mm (1/8in) from 25mm (1in) wide 10mm (3/8in) stock. Touched the end of the heavy plastic push stick against the blade. Stick was kicked into the palm of right hand produced a substantial laceration and severed the radial artery's branch to the palm in 2 locations.

Peeled back most of the skin on right hand when the push stick hit the blade.

Working in a hurry. Taking a 1- 1/2 inch dado out of the middle of a 4ft x 2 inch wide board. Not using an insert for the dado head set. At end of a cut 'reaching around the blade' to support unsupported workpiece. The narrow push stick dropped into the middle of the dado stack. The chippers grabbed the stick and pushed it into the palm of his hand. On the recoil the stick went back into the blade. Pushstick pushed into wrist. The poplar stick shattered from the blow. Wrist badly bruised but not broken.

Homemade crosscut sled on a table saw. It's design didn't allow for the original guard. Sawyer lifted it off to make a single rip cut, thinking he wouldn't need the guard for one cut. He ran the piece through using two hard maple push sticks, one pointed at the handle end. On completing the cut he noticed the cutoff dancing by the blade and decided to move it with the pushstick. The stick touched the blade. The blade caught the stick and drove it into his hand. The consequence was eight stitches in the hand.

Hand allowed too near the saw

Ripping 75mm (3in) wide 20mm (3/4in) stuff to 63mm (2-1/2). Using a pushstick on the fence side and guiding the waste side with the other hand. Kept guiding the waste piece with the left hand. As the cut was finished, pushed the waste piece into the uprunning part of the blade. The waste was kicked back. Left fingertip damaged.

Working 'stopped cuts'

Raising a dado blade up through a new insert while holding the insert down with a piece of wood. Was standing with one hand on the front wheel raising the blade. The wood twisted, shot back and brought hand into the blade. Lost the top of middle finger on left hand.

IP attempting to put stopped groove in workpiece. Fed workpiece to rotating cutter by hand to mark position of end stop on false fence. Job kicked owing to knot, was ejected and IP's finger amputated. No jig or holder used.

Working on workpiece requiring 20mm (3/4in) dado cuts. As the job was lowered down over the dado blade it grabbed and shot the workpiece towards the gut. Right hand came down on the blade, almost severing all four fingers.


Didn't push the work through far enough before attempting to pick it up. It caught the back side of the blade and was thrown onto stomach. Stomach bruised.

Ripping very thin chamfer strips on a TS with the blade tilted into a sacrificial fence. A kickback shattered the strip and drove a splinter almost 150mm (6in) into the abdomen.

Mitering some 12mm (7/16in) plywood. After completing a cut pulled it towards him for a closer look. The sharp edge of the 45 degree mitre hit hipbone making a hole in the belt and two layers of denim. Created a superficial wound.

Ripping 6mm (1/4in) plastic into 50mm (2in) strips. A piece kicked back, hitting just below the groin. Punctured the femoral artery

Cutting boards to length. Fence pulled back to prevent the wood binding between the fence and the blade. Offcut shot up, hit glasses, shattered the left lens and threw dust and glass shards into eye.

A small 25mm x 50mm (1in x 2in) piece of a 50mm x 80mm (2in x 4in) kicked back. Wearing glasses. Eye damaged by impact of the lens pushing the cornea into iris of the eye.

Trimming ends. The very small offcut moved into the blade. Becoming aware of risk of ejection, eyes were closed. One of the pieces left a small cut in eyelid, immediately over the lens of the eye.

Nearly severed an index finger while cutting a bevel on a raised panel. Panel kicked back and hit the left index finger knuckle.

Previously cutting some narrow dados and needed to cut a 610mm x 610mm (2ft x 2ft) section of 6mm (1/4in) plywood. Did not have the guard in place and permitted the wood to ride up on the blade. It caught, made a gash across the face of the material, and bounced it off left biceps. Muscle bruised.

Sawing a notch in a pine board at a job site. Not using the miter or auxiliary fence. When he was making the lengthwise cut the bottom of the board kicked out on him and forced his right hand right into the blade of the saw and removed most of his pinky and cut the other 2 fingers down to the first knuckle.

Trimming several pieces to size and failed to remove small trimmings. One of them tapped the blade and was ejected, breaking his spectacles.

Cutting up plywood. Started the saw and began feeding 1/2 sheet of plywood. About 1/2 way into the sheet, 'it lifted up into the air and hit sawyer in the chest at great speed, and bounced back toward the saw. Whereupon it landed on the blade, and flew at the sawyer five times as he gradually fell over backwards'. Sawyer fell on the floor, under the plywood, with badly bruised ribs.

An employee died after his chest was pierced by a small piece of wood which had kicked back from a tablesaw that was being operated by another employee. (OSHA report)

Kickback that nearly removed the outmost phalange (the part of a finger between or beyond knuckles) of a ring finger. No part of the hand touched the blade. A piece of wood, with simple 90 degree edges kicked back. (Cause not stated). The last phalange of the ring finger was nearly detached. The last knuckle was shattered beyond repair.

"I had a kickback in the shop while wearing a ring. It smashed my fingers, including the ring, which it smashed flat on my finger. My finger immediately started swelling and turned black and I could not get the ring off. I had to try to hit it with a hammer to some semblance of roundness and then use soap to get it off. Wasn't an easy thing to do when it felt like my whole hand was smashed".

Ripping a thin piece of oak 6 1/2 feet long, 1x1 inch wide. Once it severed, the 1" x 79" offcut bounced on the taking-off table, which 8 inches below the saw table and landed on the spinning blade, which then launched it straight backwards. Sawyer was standing to the side, using apush stick, and received a foot-long scrape on right arm as the missile sailed past and landed in the yard 20 feet away. Neither guard nor splitter was fitted.

Kickback from using the fence as a length stop. Inappropriate push stick?

Trimming a 6in x 5in piece down to 4x4 inches. Ripped the long side using the fence and pushstick, rotated the piece 90 degrees and proceeded to cut the other side the same way using a push stick. 3/4 of the way through the cut the saw kicked back. Wood hit the tip of the middle finger that was sticking out of the pushstick handle, and then hit the sawyer in the throat above my adams apple. Nailbed lacerated leaving 1/8in of nail. Bone in the tip of middle finger shattered into 7 pieces. Throat bruised.

No riving knife (splitter)?

Trimming about 12mm (1/2in) from the face of a blank. While feeding the blank through the blade, the operator realized that the scrap was going to fall through the gap between the saw and the insert and believed that the offcut would be caught and ejected. While re-positioning himself to the right, the blank moved onto the back of the blade. The blank kicked back, hit his forearm, caused a minor cut and bruising to the skin of his ribs and hit the back wall of the basement.

Saw kickback starting to happen. Reached across the blade to push the wood back against the fence. Kickback pulled hand with wood through the blade.

Cutting a thin piece and it started to ride up on the blade, decided to reach over the blade and hold down the back. Reached 'through' the blade, cut the tip off from the last knuckle up. Also damaged the ring and index finger. 'They're just numb now'. No guard in place.

'Cross cutting a 13 x 30 piece of 3/4 ply. I had thought that it was a little narrow to cross cut but pushing aside that one shred of common sense I cut it anyway. I turned the right side piece just a hair as I was just finishing the cut. The blade grabbed it, spun it around on the top of the saw like a top and shot it out and hit me in the gut with more than a little force. Pain inside when eating and drinking. Feeling as if someone had taken a broom handle to my stomach. No guard or splitter. Rushing project'.

Hand carried forwards after a kickback

Cutting dados (housings) in a plywood case side trying to cut the dado near the bottom of the case while indexing the top of the piece on a long rip fence. Board kicked back. Hand drawn into the dado cutter. Broke middle finger and tore apart that and 2 others on left hand.

Making a 3/4-inch wide dado cut on a piece of wood. Push pad and push stick available but not used. His left hand held the wood down while he pushed forward with the right hand. When his left hand was over the blade, the wood kicked back. Cut his left hand from the tip of the ring finger (shattered the bone), across the middle (broken bones, nerve and tendon damage) and index (tendon damage) fingers and amputated the thumb tip.

No taking-off table

Cutting a 1220 x 2440mm (4ft x 8ft) plywood sheet. On a table saw. The table was about 355mm x 460mm (14inx 18in). Working alone. No outfeed device. As the cut progressed the far end of the sheet dropped. Pushed workpiece back down onto the table. Hand was over the blade.

IP cutting narrow strips. Cut completed using pushstick. Reached to the back of the saw without pushstick to pick up pieces. Caught thumb on powered up-coming teeth. Laceration and skin graft. Attention distracted. Poor riving knife badly adjusted.

IP, having sawn timber, changed hands with pushstick, reached past side fence to pick up cut timber and caught thumb on back edge of saw causing deep cut to right thumb. Top guard and riving knife said to be properly adjusted at the time of the accident. Poor lighting noted at the machine.

Deep Cutting

Re-sawing 4/4 mahogany in half intending to make two cuts and eventually separate them with the bandsaw. As the wood started to clear the back of the blade, the sawyer applied downward pressure behind the blade, intending to prevent it from riding up and kicking back. As soon as he touched the workpiece it kicked back taking 3 fingers back through the blade. The board shot out of the work area about 40 feet.

Machine incorrectly set up.

Practicing 'finger joints' using a dado blade without the insert, 25mm (1in) gap each side of the blade. Removing the 'fingers' just cut. Tried to cut them with the dado head. Workpiece about 200mm (8in) long. The blade catches the end of the wood, the wood tips over and hand hit the side of the blade. No serious injury.

IP was using a pushstick and guiding a length of wood. The wood hit the un-aligned riving knife and was thrown back. The IP's fingers were either crushed or caught in the blade. The top of his middle finger had to be amputated.

Old 10" table saw. The insert didn't fit flush with the table. Feeding a piece of small stock, hand holding against the mitre square. The edge of the stock caught on the insert and raised it. The insert flipped up and fell back into the blade. Insert ejected upwards.

IP was using a pushstick and guiding a length of wood. The wood hit the unaligned riving knife and was thrown back. The IP's fingers were either crushed or caught in the blade. The top of his middle finger had to be amputated.

Fence should have been to the left of the blade.

Sawing a piece of cypress, 25mm (1in) thick about 1020mm (40in) long, 125mm (5in) wide and I was ripping it at about 60deg. Blade set to a right tilt, fence on the right. No riving knife. Near the end of the board, it started to rise up. 'I watched it twist to the left, deforming the blade and bending my Biesmier fence a good half inch. I gave it a good shove, and all returned to normal as the board fliped end over end before landing on the shop floor'. 'It was alread binding and slowed almost to a complete stop'. Had removed riving knife 'a few days ago to do some dado work and just hadn't gotten them back on'.

Poor machine design?

Cutting 3/16 from drawer fronts which give a waste piece about 1/16. 'The narrow piece dropps into the slot next to the blade, especially when the guard is down and they get jammed in there. So, many times I just don't use the guard. Yesterday, I was trimming some long pieces which tipped off the rear of the saw table and when the front tipped up, I grabbed them to remove the piece. Well, I got a litttle careless and the tip of my thumb hit the blade. Just a nick, but painful. Could have been much worse'.

Making box joints using a cheap sawbench with wide gap in insert and cheap wobble dado cutter. Using push stick with left hand to keep the piece against the fence, started to push the piece through the blade. Workpiece slipped into the insert gap. Wood ejected. While trying to dodge the piece, hand went into the cutter.

Using extension table with depressions in it. Was cutting a sheet of 3mm (1/8in) plywood when the wood got caught in a depression. Plywood kicked back and tore all the skin off the top of the arm.

Spring steel hold-downs fitted to tablesaw fence. One contacted blade ‘and I got to spend the rest of the night digging the shrapnel from my body’.

Cutting a dado by running multiple passes with a standard blade. When the end of the dado was approached, grabbed the work piece behind the blade. Fence slipped throwing the work piece. Right hand contacted the blade, three fingertips amputated to the first joint.

Scrap of wood fell under the table. It ended up leaning against the turning blade. Operator reached under the table and lost most of four fingers.

Letter to a British magazine

Using a 'workshop size' table saw. Riving knife slotted at lower end for fixing. Ripping when it ran slightly out of line with the fence. Moved the timber back a small amount to re-align it. This pulled the riving knife onto the blade. Knife thrown from the machine, hit the sawyer in the face, went through his cheek and down into his neck.

Letter to a British Magazine

aking an awkward cut in difficult timber when the offcut missed the take-off table, dropped and pushed the riving knife sideways. The crown guard contacted the top of the blade. Contact between saw blade and guard pulled the riving knife forward and the guard broke off at the back, dropped onto the saw blade and was ejected at great speed. Operator was out of the line of fire and using a push stick. Crown guard's thickness at the point of fracture was about 1.5mm.

Unsafe Jig

Trimming an edge of some small plastic boxes on a 5hp table saw. the box slipped in the jig. The box exploded. 3mm (1/8in) kerf in the end of middle finger, 1.5mm (1/16in) deep.

Unsafe jig and loose table insert.

Using a tenoning jig on a contractor saw. today Making a batch of mullions 22mm (7/8in) wide. Pushed downwards to seat the end of the workpiece against the table. End contacted the insert instead of the table as intended. The insert flipped and the blade gouged the right-hand side of the blade aperture. About 30 slivers of metal in the left hand and a couple in his forehead.

Offcut fell between saw and insert

Ripping oak boards and a sliver shot down the insert causing the board to lift up. Left hand shot under the board cutting 4 fingers, one badly. Guard apparently not in place.

Ripping the rough edge from a piece of red oak, and the long and thin triangular offcut got wedged between the blade insert and the blade. The blade proceeded to shred part of the edge of the blade insert, showering the sawyer with little slivers of aluminum. Injuries left the sawyer with white scars running up one arm.

Reaching for a cross-cut sled that was falling off the back of the saw (no taking-off table). Touched the blade with his little finger. Cut the finger from the second joint through the first, shattering the two bones.

Defect in Material

Cutting the end off a piece of birch 760mm (30in x 12in), not using a mitre fence. Possible internal defects in the board. ‘While feeding the piece, I felt it hang slightly’ but pushed harder and the fence moved. 5HP motor on sawbench. Board kick backed and hit him on the head of the penis.

Three inch diameter, seemingly firm knot ejected. Worker required stitches in his lip and lost a tooth.

Hit squarely on the right lens of a pair of goggles by a loose knot that was sitting at the top of a board, just left of the cut line. The guard was not in place.

Working old barn oak. The blade dislodged a tiny piece of a nail that had broken off in the wood. It embeded itself in the sawyer's chin.


Carpenter fell from a 2nd floor scaffold onto a running table saw, lost most of his hand.

Helper wrongly steered the workpiece

'A friend decided to help me feed the plywood across the blade. Next thing I know, a sheet of plywood is flying back at me, I've got this big bruise on my hip and a half moon cut into an expensive piece of plywood. I also had a "friend" that was wide eyed, pale and speechless'.

Taking off

Workpiece kicked back, and 'cut the daylights out' of three fingers for him as it was jerked out of his hands.

From Greg Millen

Although a hand held circular saw, this one may interest you for your safety page. It was relayed to me by a builder in Atlanta, Georgia USA. "Whilst cutting rafter ends the carpenter put a strap around the trigger to lock it on and allow him to reach further out, holding the saw with one hand. He slipped off the ladder and the saw, still running, landed on his chest."

Unsafe floor

The electrical supply to the machine was via an electrical conduit chased into the floor at the feed side of the machine. The conduit had become raised and the IP tripped over the conduit whilst cutting timber, causing him to stumble and his fingers came into contact with the blade sustaining injury.

IP had just finished cutting timber and had switched off the power to the saw. He turned away to reach for his steel rule hanging nearby. Slipped and overbalanced, put right hand on the saw bench to steady himself. Right index finger came into contact with saw blade which had not come to rest. Polished floor somewhat slippery.

While switching On or Off

Cutting wood in a ripping operation. No guard or riving knife fitted. Accident occurred when finished cutting and switching the machine off with the right hand. IP looking at stop button, left hand came into contact with the rotating blade. Suffered severe lacerations to middle and index finger tips of left hand.

While switching On or Off

Saw winding down after it has been turned off. Stepping to the left of the saw and was going to reach down and pick up the scrap piece and give it to persons to his left and rear. Hand went down to the saw table so that both thumb and fingers were about 3" away and parallel to the blade (fingers front, thumb back, inside of hand down). Distracted. Turned wrist, turned hand over (inside if hand up) and got first three fingers in the winding down saw blade. Almost amputated the index finger at the first joint.

Saw switched off

Setting up a dado cut, had the saw unplugged. Turning the blade by hand. Managed to hook finger into the blade tooth, and the momentum of the blade turning drove it home.

Sawing plastic

Making zero clearance saw insert from 'sheet of clear plastic-like material used in offices under chairs with castors'. Screwed it in place with the blade lowered. As the blade was raised the insert shattered and dagger-shaped fragment hit sawyer less than an inch above his eye.

Damaged blade

'I had a tooth let go on me once and it stuck in the wall behind me. It didn't break at the brazing; it broke off at mid-tooth. My guess is that I did some harm to it while changing the blade'.


Sawyer needed a short length of monofilament fishing line from his shop. Unable to find his utility knife to cut it with, he spotted his tablesaw. He wrapped the line around both hands and eased the line into the spinning blade, assuming it would chew the line apart. The line caught in a blade gullet and wrapped around the arbor, pulling both hands into the blade. He lost parts of 3 fingers, and also suffered serious cuts from the line as it was pulled tight around his hands.


Operator replacing the blade, forgot to wipe it clear of oil. On switch-on a strip of oil was formed about two inches wide from the top of his head down the center of his face and (fortunately) across his glasses.

And finally, a comment

'The pain of the cut is the least of it. There's the hours and hours sitting around the hospital, the surgery to reattach body parts, more hours to follow -up appointments, the worry about whether or not infection will cause complete amputation, the pin sticking out of your finger that's guaranteed to snag everything in sight and set your teeth on edge and your hair on fire if you touch it to anything, the stitches that got buried as the cut healed and now have to be dug out, the hours and hours lost in the shop because you cant do it well with one hand and it takes 5 times longer for even the most simple task. There are major hassles in not being able to type, dial a phone, spread mayo for your favorite sandwich or keep your keys in their habitual right pants pocket. Now, I'm going to heal, and will eventually get back to about 99 percent of normal. But I really regret the loss of time to my favorite activity, and, that projects are now going to be late'.

For a more extensive list look atwww.woodworking.org/AccidentSurvey/search.htm.

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