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Safety watch: Landscape worker dies after concrete saw kicks back
Jill Odom | October 5, 2017
worker using sthil saw on concrete

Photo: Pixabay

The accident: A 39-year-old landscaping construction worker was in the process of removing an in-ground swimming pool in Michigan with a concrete saw when he lost control of the tool and it cut his throat. Police say the saw kicked back unexpectedly. Another coworker on site was present when the accident occurred and tried to call for help, but the worker died at the scene.

The bottom line: Kickback can occur whenever the blade stops suddenly by binding up, jamming or hitting a foreign object. Saw blades build up tremendous kinetic energy during cutting and when they stop suddenly the energy must go somewhere, causing the blade to strike the operator or causing the operator to drop the saw on their legs or feet.

There are two main ways to reduce saw kickback: prevent the blade from stopping suddenly and reduce your chances of being struck if the saw does stop. There are four elements that you can control to reduce the chances of kickback.

Saw:

  • Do not use a saw that is too heavy for you to control.
  • Do not try to remove or pull back the blade guard.
  • Do not cut with the upper front quadrant of the saw’s blade.
  • Operate the saw at the manufacturer’s recommended speed.
  • Set the blade at no greater than 1/8″ to 1/4″ more than the thickness of the material to avoid contacting foreign items while cutting.

Blade: 

  • Keep your blade sharp. Dull blades are more likely to bind up in cuts.
  • Keep your blade clean. Blades sticky with sap or other materials increase the chance of binding.
  • Avoid using tooth blades as these increase the risk of kickback.
  • Never allow the blade to overheat.
  • Make sure your blade is the right size for the saw.

Operator:

  • Wear all the appropriate personal protective equipment while cutting.
  • Make sure you are trained in proper cutting techniques, safety, and how to hold the saw.
  • Maintain your balance and footing at all times. Avoid overreaching and sawing in awkward positions.
  • Don’t stand directly behind the saw. This reduces the chances of being struck if it does kick back.
  • Avoid long-term, repetitive cutting. Cutting while tired will cause you to stand closer to the saw and increase your risk of being struck.

Technique:

  • Be careful.
  • Allow the saw to reach full speed before starting the cut.
  • Don’t lean into the cut. Leaning in places you closer to the saw and makes it more likely to be struck if the saw kicks back.
  • Don’t make off-center or crooked cuts. Only cut in straight lines.
  • Take your finger off the trigger or power switch if the blade binds up, the saw stalls or the power is interrupted.

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