Guarding hands against exposed blades
Saws are one of the top contributing agents of amputation cases at work
Workers should never commence work when an operation poses a safety risk. Instead, they should immediately report unsafe working conditions to their supervisors and request for physical protection from machine hazards.
This includes requesting for machine guarding to protect against exposed saw blades.
An incident involving an unguarded saw blade resulted in a worker having his fingers amputated.
The man, who was in his ninth day of work at a woodworking factory, was tasked to cut a plank of plywood into narrow strips using a table saw. The table saw was equipped with a machine guarding that was mounted on a blue swivel arm.
However, the worker did not know the function of the machine guarding and shifted it away, exposing the blade of the circular saw.
While using the machine, he accidentally overextended his right hand, which came into contact with the exposed saw blade.
His index and middle fingers were severed while his ring and little fingers suffered deep cuts.
Employers need to ensure the safety of workers by making sure that machine guarding cannot be easily shifted or removed by workers.Mr Patrick Han, general manager, Workplace Safety and Health Council
Mr Patrick Han, general manager, Workplace Safety and Health Council said: "Employers need to ensure the safety of workers by making sure that machine guarding cannot be easily shifted or removed by workers.
"They should also emphasise the importance of following safety procedures when operating machinery to their workers and take necessary actions against those who do not (do so).
"Both employers and workers should never compromise safety in favour of convenience."
Many workers, especially those who are new and inexperienced, often choose to use a saw without its blade guard for their own convenience.
They feel that the guarding can potentially slow down their cutting or obstruct their view .
However, it is highly dangerous to operate a table saw without a proper guard as it poses a cutting hazard.
Cutting hazards are present in machines used to cut wood, metal or other materials at the point of operation and include circular saws, handsaw blades and rotary knives.
In fact, saws are one of the top contributing agents of amputation cases at work and accounted for 44 of such incidents in the past three years.
To prevent similar incidents from happening, employers should:
- Make sure that the blade guard cannot be easily shifted or removed. It should be locked down if necessary.
- Discipline those who operate a saw without its guard.
- Ensure new workers undergo training for safe work procedures and are competent in machine operating and maintenance.
- Carry out risk assessment of machinery prior to any work involving table saw operations.
Where practical, employers should replace the adjustable guard of a table saw machine with a self-adjusting guard to prevent the operator's hands from coming in contact with the saw blade.
If a manually adjusted guard has to be used, the adjustment of the guard should be carried out by a competent worker.
The adjustments have to be made frequently to ensure that the rotating saw blade is not excessively exposed at all times.
The belt drive and saw blade located underneath the table should also be guarded.
A push-stick of sufficient length should also be provided to workers to guide the pieces of material through the table saw.
The stick will minimise the possibility of their hands coming into contact with the saw blade.
Last year, 125 workers lost hands or fingers while working with machinery or power tools.With these alarming numbers, employers and workers should actively take responsibility for ensuring safety at work.
Under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, employers are required to manage risks at work, while employees must adhere to safe work practices.
This includes ensuring safety measures are taken for any machinery, equipment, article or process used at the workplace.
Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $500,000 for the first offence.
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