My router is mounted to the router table and there is a plastic guard on the front of it that hides basically the spindle lock and access to the router bit. Now Before you go all crazy on me I know guards are there for a reason (mostly safety) but is this one necessary or could I keep it off to make changing bits quicker?
What are the risks bit shattering will more than likely go through that plastic and injure me, wood flying out at high speeds might be an issue.
Well, as you know guards are put on to make an attempt to help to keep people safer using tools, sadly in some cases they are so poorly made and/or attached it can actually be dangerous to leave them on.
I will not be the person to tell you to take a guard off, but in some cases they have to be removed for certain cuts. As for leaving them off all the time, I have a hunch you will be able to do what is best for you over time.
It sounds like this is a new router table to you, and the best advice I can give is to start using it for a while, get comfortable with using it, then you will find what works best. Always keep the safety rules and conditions for routers in mind and you should be in good shape.
First, I want to give you a huge "Atta Boy" for asking for some help with this decision.Depending on what your router table setup allows, most woodworkers eventually decide to box the router in to greatly enhance dust and chip removal. This boxing in of the Router would allow you to remove the guard and help to keep you safe during operation. You will of course have to allow access to your router by having a removable door. I used four rare earth magnets and some thin two sided foam strips to keep it air tight.
The removal of this guard is your call alone and you have to be confident in your decisions. You must set yourself up so you are not concentrating on anything else other than the cuts you are making. This may be a good solution to address your concerns.
As far as bits shattering, I have never experienced any such failure of a router bit in all of my years woodworking. These bits are extremely well designed and exceptionally tough to meet safety standards. With that said, you get exactly what you pay for when it comes to router bits. The bits made here in North America or Italy are usually made utilizing very high grade Carbide and the welding process to the main body is exceptionally strong. One accident or incident of a bit shattering during normal use would be a disastrous event for any manufacturer. Stick to the main suppliers of high quality bits such as Freud, Whiteside, Blue Tornado etc and I think you can be confident they will serve you well. Always wear your safety gear without exception and make sure you are not pushing a router bit beyond it's capabilities. Keep your bits clean and sharpen them often to get the maximum use/lifetime they afford.
You got this.