Shop Accident Statistics and Woodworking Safety

Shop Accident Statistics & Woodworking Safety

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.

Related Topics:

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

Sources:

Survey of Injuries Involving Stationary Saws (PDF)

Discussion
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9 Responses to “Shop Accident Statistics and Woodworking Safety”
  1. Tom Bailey

    I would like to differ with your statement: “accidents happen.” Accidents are CAUSED. There is always an explanation. It could be carelessness, lack of maintenance, poor attention, working when tired, wrong tool for the job, dull tool, the list goes on and on. There most often is a series of events that leads to accidents, rarely a single event or cause. Root cause analysis is the most successful discipline used to determine the cause of an undesired event (accident) it is seldom easy to apply. However if one wants to prevent recurrence of an accident or prevent the first occurrence, putting some time into learning how to perform root cause analysis WILL save fingers, lives, law suits, and a lifetime of regrets.

    Reply
    • George Vondriska

      Good point. Small changes in behavior can often result in avoiding accidents.

      Reply
    • Brad

      IMO, the usage of the term “accident” should be replaced by using the term, “incident”. Referring to these incidents as, “accidents” immediately infers that there is nothing and nobody responsible when in fact, there almost always is. We live in a society that is way too eager to pass off an incident to the unexplainable and unavoidable category so we can get back to a politically correct playing field. Perhaps accidents do just happen and are unavoidable but they are FAR less common than the avoidable incidents which are incorrectly categorized as “accidents”.

      Love the videos George…please keep them coming.

      Reply
    • Andrew Schubert

      There IS always a reason. I lost a finger and part of my hand recently, and was following all safety protocols. However, looking at the machine, I concluded the guide bar walked when it should not have. The result of having an older, cheaper saw..and not double checking the tightness of the bar when I clamped it down. It was at max tightness, but not tight enough. I was pulled into it from the backside. I used a push stick, and coming out the back I wrapped a hand around to make sure the cut piece didn’t fly off somewhere. When it jerked the wood back into the saw, my natural instinct was to grip the wood…I didn’t think about it, it was just instinct. I was very lucky. No more cheap saws, preventive maintenance checks, and chain mail gloves with good eye protection from now on!

      Reply
  2. Maynard Gross

    What is the difference between “estimated annual injuries” and “projected injuries”?

    Reply
      • Maynard Gross

        Thank you. But I’m puzzled by that the “estimated” and “projected” quote different numbers in the article. I suppose the actual numbers aren’t really important – only to point out that certain tools are more dangerous than others. Of course, the number of injuries may not reflect time of tool usage.

        Reply