I've read all of the comments and didn't see any mention of a small parts cutoff sled. Along with everything else that has been said, and you seem to have most of it covered already, I think a small parts cutoff sled would give you even more peace of mind. You can maintain a lot of control using hold-downs mounted on the sled.
Something to think about.
I am definitely moving the power switch.
I think you're on the right track with the power switch move, I've always had mine on the left side and it's always worked perfectly for me.
I did not think you were accusing me of anything. :) The cut off was at the front of the blade. It was a small piece, so detached from the work piece (small) after pushing into the blade probably only 2" at most.
It may be possible if your work piece is still lifting the blade guard that a small cut off can get shot out under the lifted guard. On a side note I had an incident where after cutting off a small piece I pulled my work piece away from the blade and out to the side, This was not a good thing to do as the blade guard dropped off the edge of the work piece and the falling guard struck the cut off piece and propelled it into the blade, although by now the blade guard was safely down the cut off bounced around wildly inside the guard and caused a little gouge out of my zero clearance insert :( I learned that from now on I will push the work piece forward and then back, and never out to the side after a cut :D
I have to agree with others here that cut off sleds are a great way to accurately and safely cut small pieces. I am into making wooden puzzles and puzzle boxes. This has me always cutting small components, and I always use sleds. I am slowly getting quite the collection and now have 3 different sleds for specific cuts. I also use clamps and my fingers are always well away from the blade.
Phil I too am fairly new to table saws, and it's good to have a respect for them and to learn to use them wisely. Glad to see that you were not seriously hurt, and that you are smart enough to ask others on how to avoid it in the future. Table saws are fantastic woodworking tools when operated safely!!!
it is actually a very common thing to have some thing kick back,
I have a few holes in the garage door I could take a picture of and post if any one wants to see, if one is using the miter gage and the fence as a stop your going to get one some time, (very dangerous set up use a block attached to the fence and use that as a gage with enough space so the cut block can not wedge against the blade,
cutting thin strips seem to be the next most dangerous, and if it set against the blade an the fence it can pick up speed very fast and dangerous, (thus hole in the door), I think the thin strips can bow when cut and thus force them selfs against the blade thus pinching and kick back,
keep your hands out of the way use push sticks and blocks, I hook my right hand little finger over the fence when pushing items through if it is wide enough not to use a push stick, and not so wide as the fence is far away from the blade, if the board is caught or kicks back, my hand stays in a safe location.
do not stand directly behind the blade, (even the carbide teeth can break).
and learn not to move your hands regardless how startled you are by some thing, some one walking into the shop when some thing is running and touching you on the shoulder can be very dangerous, (and if they do horse play not a good idea),
use common sense, push sticks and blocks and know where your hands are, and the paths they will take, keep them at a safe distance from the blade at all times, much better to lose a piece of lumber than a body parts, wear eye protection, and keep loose clothing our of the way and long hair put up.
I recently purchased a new TS and have a whole slew of jigs/fixtures that I want/need to make. My old TS was a contractors style and it had unorthodox miter slots which weren't usable with sliding jigs.
I would highly recommend Jim Tolpin's book "Table Saw Magic" for jig/fixture plans and TS use instruction. He covers just about any task that the TS can do and has jigs/fixtures for most, if not all, of them.