Every year, hospitals see injuries caused by woodworking tools in the emergency room. This includes professionals and hobbyists, students and homeowners. The types of injuries vary, as there are more ways to make mistakes in a woodshop than there are ways to plan ahead for them – precisely why they’re called accidents!
In 2011, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database published statistics concerning injuries related to woodshop machinery. The information was submitted by a number of local hospitals and projected to determine a likely overall average of injuries across the country. Therefore, the numbers may be a little low with the consideration of how many people don’t go to the emergency room for a wound that isn’t life threatening. The numbers certainly don’t include the “near miss” accidents that nearly every woodworker has seen. They do include injuries not related to use of machinery, such as a hurt back from trying to move a piece.
Table Saw: estimated 39,750 annual injuries
In most modern woodshops, the table saw is the centerpiece of the room and the most used tool. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the table saw causes more injuries than other woodshop equipment. The NEISS study shows a total of 855 table saw injuries in their sample count, which equates to a prediction of 78,980 total table saw accidents across the country.
Jointers, Planers, and Other Machinery: estimated 10,930 annual injuries
Jointers and planers, along with shapers and sanders, were classified as “other” for the sake of the NEISS study. They accounted for 195 injuries, or a projected 21,859 total injuries.
Miter Saw: estimated 6,800 annual injuries
The miter saw, in today’s shop, has for the most part replaced the radial arm saw. With 127 total accidents, the miter saw proves it may not be as safe as it appears. Accidents can occur if it isn’t set up securely on a table or bench. Further, it is designed only to make one specific type of through crosscut with a full sized board. When people try to cut too small of a piece, they place their fingers too close to the blade, or occasionally people try to make a short rip cut which is seemingly simple but the saw does not properly support the board and even with a steady hand it can move slightly, causing a kickback.
Band Saw: estimated 3,550 annual injuries
The sample study only shows a total of eleven band saw injuries, which is not enough statistically to formulate a reasonable prediction as to the number of overall injuries there have been with the band saw. However, the direct data indicates it to be about one per cent of the number of table saw accidents. A few factors could play into these numbers. First, not many hobby woodshops use a band saw, and the ones that do don’t use it as often as the table saw, generally speaking.
Radial Arm Saw: estimated 350 annual injuries
The radial arm saw was at one time the primary tool of the average woodshop, as it is a versatile tool capable of a lot of different tasks. Unfortunately, it has limits in how wide of a board it can handle and can be difficult to set up for rip cuts, so its popularity has given way to the table saw as a primary shop machine. The NEISS figures show only 4 total radial arm saw accidents, a low number, probably because radial arm saws aren’t widely used today.
The Take Away
The numbers show that accidents happen. WWGOA’s goal for you is that you’re never included in these statistics.
Miter Saw Safety Tips
Band Saw Safety Tips
Table Saw Safety Tips
Table Saw Safety for Beginner Woodworking
Table Saw Safety
Band Saw, Router Table and Table Saw Safety
12 Tips for Using a Router Safely
Survey of Injuries Involving Stationary Saws (PDF)