A radial arm saw is a circular saw mounted on a sliding horizontal arm. It is often used for cutting long pieces of timber to length. It may be fitted with a dado blade to create cuts for dado, rabbet (a recess or groove cut into the edge of a piece of material) or half lap joints. A dado blade is usually one of a pair, mounted on the spindle and separated by spacers to set the width of a groove in timber.

While this guidance has not been updated to reflect current work health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and regulations), it may still contain relevant information and practices to keep workers and others healthy and safe.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCBU. This guidance will be progressively reviewed and either updated, replaced with other guidance, or revoked.

When a radial arm saw is used for cross cutting, the timber remains stationary on the saw’s table, and the blade is pulled through the timber. Some radial arm saws allow the blade to turn parallel to the back fence, using a rip cut.

Figure 1: Radial arm

[edit] Radial arm with labels and red arrows pointing to blade, guarding and handling components


  • Contact with blade
  • Noise
  • Dust
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Unexpected movement (during maintenance, cleaning & adjustments)

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • Ear protection
  • Eye protection
  • Face protection
  • Foot protection
  • Dust protection


Task – Feed and guide timber through the cut


Contact with blade


  • Deep cuts or amputation


  • FIX guarding to enclose the blade as much as possible above the spindle.
  • Fit a peripheral guard to the teeth below the spindle, which will automatically lift to clear timber as the blade cuts through.
  • FEED timber so the saw revolves upwards at the front and towards the timber.
  • FIT a stop or widen the bench to prevent the saw coming out past its edge.
  • USE a push stick for reaching close to the blade.
  • POSITION the saw against a wall or fit with a fence, to prevent reaching.
  • KEEP operator’s handle on the side of timber flow, away from the operator’s body.

A riving knife is attached to the hood guard, and must extend so that it touches the top of the bench.

Other (non-mechanical) hazards




  • Hearing damage or loss


  • REDUCE noise levels by isolating machines or enclosing within noise barriers.
  • ASSESS noise levels.
  • ARRANGE hearing screenings.
  • ALWAYS WEAR hearing protection.

A safe noise level over an eight hour day is 85dB(A). A radial arm saw may exceed the noise intensity.




  • Eye irritation or damage
  • Breathing problems, lung damage or cancer
  • Worsening of existing health problems


  • USE dust extraction equipment to minimise dust getting in the operator’s breathing zone.
  • ALWAYS WEAR eye protection.
  • ALWAYS USE respiratory protection.


Slips, trips and falls


  • Trapping
  • Cuts
  • Bruising


  • KEEP up-to-date housekeeping procedures.
  • KEEP the area around saws clear of slip and trip hazards.

Task – Maintenance, cleaning & repairs


Contact, impact or entanglement from unexpected movement


  • Trapping injuries
  • Cuts
  • Bruising


  • LOCK-OUT power and wait for blade to stop turning before maintenance, cleaning or repairs.
  • KEEP written safety procedures.
  • ARRANGE regular inspections by a competent person.
  • REMOVE or LOCK-OUT machines that fail inspection, and DO NOT USE until repaired or replaced.
  • Carry out a new HAZARD ASSESSMENT following any alterations, and make necessary safety improvements.

Ripping with a radial arm saw

Radial arm saws can be used above the bench for ripping.

Timber MUST be fed so the saw revolves upwards at the front and towards the timber (see Figure 2). If the timber is fed from the other side with the saw revolving down and in the direction of the feed, the teeth will likely “dig-in” or “climb”.

Figure 2: Correct

[edit] Correctly set up saw blade with teeth revolving up a cut object; arrow on blade shows anticlockwise direction

Figure 3: Incorrect

[edit] Incorrectly set up saw blade with teeth revolving down a cut object; arrow on blade shows clockwise direction

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Radial arm saws (PDF 447 KB)