Consumer Product Safety Commission Looking To Cut Table Saw Injuries
A recent article from USA Today points to a concerning trend from the Consumer Product Safety Commission with regard to Table Saw Safety. It appears that lobbying efforts by Stephen Gass, the inventor of the technology used in SawStop, is helping push the consideration of tough new rules that may ultimately require all table saws to use flesh detecting technology.
Before I go off and rant away at how I (and many of my colleagues) feel about this matter I want to make a few points that I feel are very important.
- Safety Is Extremely Important To Me – There’s nothing I take more serious than tool safety. I have zero tolerance for unsafe work habits that endanger myself or co-workers. I’m a huge advocate of working safely and adhering to manufacturers recommendations.
- I think the technology that SawStop uses is amazing and something that I hope one day will become far more affordable.
- I’m convinced that the power tool industry will continue to develop and promote safer tools with advances in design and technology.
It’s Time For The Government To Step Back
First off please understand that this is an editorial piece in which I’m going to express my own personal thoughts on this subject. I surely welcome comments and experiences from readers on this hot topic.
I’m extremely worried, aggravated and annoyed that this topic has made it to the table with CPSC. Last year’s frivolous table saw lawsuit in Massachusetts made me sick to my stomach. It’s amazing to me that lawyers and our Government want to single out the Table Saw and try to force expensive technology onto users in order to stop accidents that are caused by poor judgment.
Yes it’s true that each year thousands of injuries occur from table saws including an estimated 10 amputations per day (ref)! It’s also true that many in the industry consider the table saw to be the single most dangerous shop tool.
It’s also true that most all table saw users have had their dad, grandfather, co-worker or best friend warn them repeatedly of the dangers the table saw possesses. In fact my own father amputated his thumb (later re-attached) with a table saw. However dangerous the table saw is, it’s really no different than the other 100 power tools in my shop that could kill or wound you or I.
The Dangers of Lobbying
Those of you who do not know the story of SawStop and Stephen Gass should take a moment to learn about it. Mr. Gass is a patent attorney who turned into an inventor and created SawStop. SawStop is an amazing safety device that relies on capacitence to detect human flesh near a saws blade. Once the flesh is detected the saw releases a solid block of aluminum which is forced into the blade. Within 1/200th of a second the blade comes to a stop and is also dropped down below the saws table. The result is a blade stopping and moving away from your finger so fast that the resulting injury is hardly worthy of a band-aide.
So yes Mr. Gass has created an amazing technology that surely is worth it’s cost. What I don’t like is how he’s going about pushing for it’s mandatory use. You see last year Mr. Gass was called as an expert witness in the Osorio case. His testimony was surely paramount to the final award that was ruled against One World Technologies, Inc. Now we hear that Mr. Gass is lobbying in Washington with the folks from CPSC to have this new technology become mandatory on table saws.
I surely hope Mr. Gass’s attempts are blocked and stopped. I surely hope that our industry does more to stop this movement. I am very hopeful that tool manufacturers will continue to further develop cost effective safety devices which make sense. And lastly I hope everyone is educated on what is driving this recent movement at the CPSC.
This Won’t End Nicely
So why is this so bad? Well for starters there currently is no serious competition for this technology. SawStop is the only commercially available product and it’s only available on that one manufactures saw. So first you’d have to buy SawStop (assuming no other companies pony up the massive fees for the patented technology). Then, if you trigger the SawStop (whether it’s your finger or a false-positive), you need to replace the blade and brake. It’s likely that all table saws will increase in cost by well over $100 and you’ll be spending that much each time you set it off.
Lastly I think this new technology will end up causing an increase in other table saw accidents. So sure it will stop amputations but it’s likely to cause a sense of carelessness with table saws. Users will no longer fear the beast and start being risk takers. SawStop will certainly not end accidents caused by pinched wood, jammed blades, eye injuries, tangled loose clothing and an endless list of stupid accidents.
Further Inventions Will Save The Table Saw
It’s my hope and expectation that further inventions throughout the industry will save our beloved Table Saw. I recently read an article about Whirlwind flesh detecting technology. Unlike SawStop the Whirlwind detects a finger at the blade guard and stops the blade before the finger has time to get to the blade. Also, unlike SawStop the Whirlwind doesn’t destroy the blade and you can start working again immediately.
Continued developments like this are what the industry needs. We don’t need lawmakers, lawyers and lobbyist who don’t use Table Saws for a living telling us what to do. If you agree please share this story with your friends and co-workers so we can stop this nonsense.