Table saws are an essential tool for any well-equipped workshop. There are some projects, such as mortise and tenon, where a table saw is the best tool for the job. All power tools need to be handled with caution and diligence but table saws have some special requirements.
General workshop safety tips:
1) Never wear long, loose fitting sleeves.
Long sleeves can get caught in spinning blades and lead to serious injury. They can also become snagged on boards and damage otherwise careful cutting.
2) Wear appropriate eye protection.
Bits of wood and dust can irritate and damage eyes. If you wear glasses, make sure your safety glasses can be worn over your corrective lenses. If you wear contacts, switch to your glasses when working in your workshop. Sawdust and splinters in the eye are never fun and only further complicate injuries if they become wedged under your contact lens.
3) Wear appropriate hearing protection.
Saws are loud. It is a nature of the beast. Wearing earplugs can prevent permanent hearing loss. There are headphones also available that are designed to block loud noises but can still allow conversations.
4) Avoid working alone.
Accidents will happen. If you have a helper in your workshop, you are not only sharing the joy of working with and teaching someone else but you have someone there in the event you get hurt.
Table saw specific tips:
1) The ideal height is approximately 36 inches unless you are extremely tall.
36 inches is an optimum height for maintaining control and visibility of the work space.
2) Watch out for kick-back.
Newer table saws have a mechanism that can help prevent kick-back. Do not place all your safety expectations on those mechanisms. Keep a firm hold on your boards and work slowly.
3) Watch for pull.
Sometimes towards the end of a cut, the saw will yank the board away from you. Keep a firm hold to ensure a perfect cut stays that way.
4) Do not disable the blade guard.
The blade guard is designed to reduce the risk of injuries. However, this will not prevent all of them. Some of the newer top of the line table saws come with sensors that can detect the difference between a piece of wood being cut and a piece of flesh being sundered. Some sensors are so delicate that they will be set off with food such as hotdogs, spam, meats, etc. Never, ever, disable these invaluable safety devices and use a push board when necessary.
Table saw selecting tips:
1) Size matters. The larger a table saw is, the more work space you will have. Some table saws will fold up when not in use and others are meant to be semi-permanently set up and possibly bolted to your workbench. Take a long look at your work shop and determine what size you can handle. Bigger table saws are better than smaller saws.
2) Expect to pay for quality. Although there is always variation amongst brands of tools, table saws are generally priced according to functions, size and power. The higher end ones are more accurate than the lower end ones. Once you have figured out what size you can handle, think about what your budget is and then explore the reviews and ratings on various brands.
Jig saws and circular saws are wonderful for what they are but they are not always the best tool for the project.
When you need a table saw, nothing else will do.