Safety alert issued after employee dies from circular saw injury

Tuesday, 31 March, 2020 - 16:00
Policy & legislation

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert following an incident in which an employee sustained a serious laceration to their upper leg, while operating a handheld circular saw, severing their femoral artery.

The worker was airlifted to hospital however he passed away the next day.

The alert said that a common cause of incidents involving handheld circular saws is when the saw kicks-back and the blade comes into contact with the operator.

Kicking-back is an industry term used to describe when the blade of a circular saw becomes jammed by the material being cut, causing the saw to retract backwards quickly.

The risk of kick-back can increase when a circular saw guards become clogged with dust or debris, preventing them from operating effectively.

If there is an incident, the severity of an injury can be impacted depending on:

  • if the handheld power tool is used in a restricted space
  • how the operator holds the tool, where they stand and how the materials are secured


The alert recommended a number of ways to control risks, and when work involves handheld power tools, employers and self-employed persons must:

  • undertake a risk assessment of all tasks by identifying hazards, assessing risks, and identifying suitable controls to eliminate or reduce risk
  • ensure all handheld tools are maintained in accordance with manufactures instructions, and are not modified


And when work involves handheld power tools, employers must:

  • ensure employees are inducted on how to safely use power tools and that instruction, training and supervision is provided
  • ensure safe operating procedures for handheld power tools are developed and implemented and all workers are aware of these


To reduce the risk of kick-back occurring the operator should ensure that:

  • the correct circular saw cutting blade for the material being cut is selected
  • the circular saw cutting blade is sharp, clean and undamaged
  • the blade guard is in place and functioning as required by the manufacturer
  • the item to be cut is securely clamped, and on a stable mounting device such as a bench or sawhorse
  • all nails and screws are removed from the material being cut
  • the operator has stable footing and that the cutting operation is done in a safe manner
  • saw cutting depth is set as shallow as possible to suit material being cut


When using the saw, the operator should:

  • stand to the side, to avoid the saw if it kicks back
  • use two hands to operate the saw – one hand on the trigger switch and the other on the handle
  • do not remove hands from position until the saw blade has stopped rotating
  • allow the saw to reach full power before starting to cut, and allow it to cut steadily
  • do not twist the saw, change the direction or alignment of the saw blade