Landscape Safety Series, Operating the Cut-Off Saw Safely

  • Fluegel, Lance;
  • Rein, Bradley K.


  • Cut-off saws are high-speed cutting tools and very dangerous to operate; therefore, it is very important that you read and fully understand the contents of the owner's manual before using.
  • Never lend or allow anyone to use your saw until you are certain they can operate it safely. Lend them the operator's manual too.
  • Never allow children to operate the saw. Be sure they are mature physically and mentally before allowing them to do so.
  • Allow no bystanders, especially children and pets, in the working area.
  • Cut-off saws are heavy. You must be certain that your physical and mental condition is satisfactory to operate the machine. Never attempt to operate the saw under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or when fatigued. Read the accompanying unit Preventing Back Injuries prior to using the saw.
  • Operating cut-off saws and other similar power tools over a long period of time exposes the operator to Whitefinger disease. This condition produces numerous burning sensations and interferes with the ability to feel and regulate temperature. Get medical advice at once if you experience these symptoms.
  • Personal protective equipment is essential (see Figure 1). Protect your legs and lower body with sturdy long pants, your arms and upper body with a sturdy long-sleeved shirt, your feet with steel-toed safety shoes, your hands with non-slip gloves, your head with a hard hat or bump cap (depending upon conditions), your eyes with non-fogging vented goggles or face screen, your ears with ear plugs or muffs and a respirator for breathing protection in dusty conditions. WARNING: Never c t any material containing asbestos without using a respirator specifically approved for that purpose.
  • Some materials throw off dangerous sparks when cut. You should wear non-flammable clothing free of fuel, oil, or grease under these conditions.
  • Check the saw for broken, loose, or damaged parts. Repair or replace before using.
  • Use only cutting wheels approved by the manufacturer. Unapproved, cracked, or warped wheels may shatter or break, exposing the operator to serious injury or death.
  • Adjust the wheel guard to deflect sparks, dust, and material away from the operator and flammable materials.
  • Be sure the wheel does not turn while the engine is idling. Adjust the carburetor if necessary.
  • Fuel the engine in a well-ventilated outdoor area. Engine must be shut off and cool. Do not smoke while fueling and wipe off spilled fuel immediately.

  • Start the saw on firm ground or other solid surface in an open area. Never attempt to drop-start the engine.
  • Clear the working area. Avoid operating the saw if the terrain is wet and/or frozen.
  • Hold the saw firmly with both hands when the engine is running.
  • Begin cutting at full throttle and continue at full throttle until the cut is finished.
  • Avoid standing in a direct line with the cutting wheel.
  • Use only downward pressure on the saw, as lateral pressure may cause the blade to break and shatter.
  • Do not change the direction of the cut once started, as this can also cause the blade to break and shatter.
  • Do not use abrasive-type wheels for rough grinding.
  • Do not cut above shoulder height.
  • Shut off the engine and remove the spark plug wire before adjusting or working on the saw.
  • Carry the saw with engine stopped, muffler away from your body, while protecting the cutting wheel from striking the ground or other objects.

  • Remove the cutting wheel when transporting the saw.
  • Secure the saw to prevent fuel spillage and damage to the unit.
  • Store the saw, with cutting wheel removed, safely away from children.

Publication #: 8831-C

This document is apart of a series from the Cooperative Extension, of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture, Tucson, AZ 85719. Publication date: May 1989.

Lance Fluegel, Safety Coordinator, and Bradley Rein, Engineering Specialist, the University of Arizona College of Agriculture, Tuscon, AZ 85719.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More