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nadequate or Missing Guards on the Front and Rear of Trimsaws in Sawmills Can Injure or Kill

June 1998

A recent sawmill fatality emphasizes the need to re-examine trimsaw guards to make certain they protect workers from ejected material.

A 1"x 6" board, measuring ten feet in length, was ejected from an unguarded trim saw. The board traveled approximately 45 feet before striking and killing a worker at the far end of the feed table.

The intent of the Washington Administrative Codes (WACs) is to ensure that guards are used to protect employees from materials being ejected from the trimsaws. However, it appears that three WACs are being misinterpreted, since these WACs are being applied only to prevent operators and other employees from entering the saws during operation. Boards or other material picked up and thrown by these saws, turning at very high speeds, could strike a victim with enough force to kill. The guarding requirements are designed to protect workers on either side of the trimsaw. These guards must be in place on both sides (the front and rear of the trimsaw), regardless of the direction the saws are turning.

WAC 296-78 Safety Standards for Sawmills and Woodworking Operations specifically addresses this situation.

Under WAC 296-78-600 Trimmer and slasher saws, there are 3 subsections that must be complied with to properly guard these machines:

  • 78-600 (1) Trimmer of (and) slasher saws shall be guarded in front by a flat or round steel framework with a rigid metal screen or light iron bars attached thereto, or by wood baffles of not less than two inch wood material securely bolted to the frame.
  • 78-600 (2) Front guards for a series of saws shall be set as close to the top of the feed table as is practical when considering the type of machine in use and the material being cut. The end saws of a series shall be guarded or fenced off.
  • 78-600 (3) The rear of a series of saws shall have a stationary or swinging guard of not less than two inch wood material or equivalent the full width of the saws and as much wider as is necessary to protect persons at the rear of the trimmer.


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