Safely Running a Paver Saw

Wearing your safety gear is one important part of operating a paver saw safely.

Here is a simple fact: blades spinning in a paver saw spin at roughly 5,000 revolutions per minute. If that saw blade throws a diamond segment, it can come flying out of that saw at 100 mph. Pro ball players have a hard time getting out of the way of a 90 mph fastball coming from 60 feet away; you don’t have a chance dodging a piece of diamond coming from 3 feet away. So please, wear your goggles and any head protection you feel appropriate. I know that for the times we’ve run the carbon blades, whether for masonry or metal, I’ve been thankful I had safety glasses on; I’ve seen more than my share of molten carbon fly off the blade and toward my face. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have a diamond segment come in my direction.

My hope is that the above wasn’t really necessary, and that everyone already knows to protect their vision, and hopefully their hearing, too. The issue I wanted to spend more time writing about is running your paver saw dry or wet. I’ve run both our handheld paver saws and our tub saws wet before, but I’ve never liked how water ends up carrying brick dust into the pores of a brick, because it’s almost impossible to wash all the dust out. This has left us with cut brick that looked lighter than uncut brick.

So instead of cutting wet, I prefer to cut dry. But cutting dry presents a new problem: airborne brick dust. This can pose a long-term health problem for employees, and can cause a short-term problem with clients. For our employees I always insist everyone wear a respirator. The disposable filters will last the better part of a construction season, and the mask itself will last several years. A respirator works far better than any of the cheap dust masks you can get at any hardware store; those usually just reroute the airflow around the outside of the mask, allowing the polluted air in at your cheeks. And a respirator only costs about $20 for the mask, and a few dollars for each pair of filters. For clients, be sure to warn them prior to cutting, to close all windows and doors. Many years ago we gave this warning to a client, then began cutting in their paver patio. Unfortunately, they didn’t think the dust would carry from the backyard to the front; brick dust found it’s way over the house, into the garage, and into the windows of their brand-new Ford Explorer. The wife was crying for hours afterward.

Respirator, earplugs and goggles - essential safety equipment, but is it enough?If you choose to cut dry, be warned: At a landscape association meeting I attended a few years ago, an OSHA rep told us that because a respirator is not passive protection (meaning the employee has to actually do something to protect himself), they don’t count a respirator as a safety measure against the harm dust from a paver saw can cause. They said that if they were to test your jobsite, they would clip a dust meter to an employee’s shirt to measure the amount of brick dust in the air, regardless of whether the employee was wearing a respirator. When I pressed the issue, he suggested setting up the saws so that the employees were upwind of the dust, to reduce the readings of the dust meters.

Also be sure to wear your hand and foot gear. Some paver saws can vibrate the feeling right out of your hands if you're running them for a few consecutive hours. Though I've never used them, anti-vibe gloves are supposed to absorb a good deal of the vibration without transferring it to your hands. And I can't say enough about steel-toed boots. If I had known I was going to build this website a few years ago I would have saved some old boots whose steel toes kept a diamond blade from cutting into my non-steel toes. Keeping your blade clean can help to prevent any unfortunate toe incidents, as a clean blade is less likely to grab the piece you're cutting and wrench the saw from your hands.

Saw Use and Care
Safely Running a Paver Saw
Changing Your Concrete Saw's Filters
Measuring Your Cutoff Saw's RPM
How to Shop for a Used Brick Saw
Winterizing Your Brick Saw
Buying a Cutoff Saw Online
Compression Testing your Saw