CPSC Pushes SawStop Type Technology

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.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

Todd Fratzel is the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and the President of Front Steps Media, LLC, a web based media company focused on the Home Improvement and Construction Industry.He is also the Principal Engineer for United Construction Corp., located in Newport, NH. In his capacity at United he oversees the Residential and Commercial Building Division along with all Design-Build projects.He is also the editor of several other sites including: Home Construction & Improvement and Today's Green Construction

@tfratzelTodd FratzelTodd Fratzel

All posts by Todd »

10 Comments

  1. Even if the SawStop tech is mandatory on all table saws, there are going to be people that will disable it to avoid having to pay for false positives. Osario removed the safety measures of his saw, so who’s to say that he wouldn’t have done the same to a SawStop-equipped saw.

    Given how much Stephen Gass is pushing for mandatory SawStop use and licensing, the conspiracy theorist in me is thinking whether he played a secret part in convincing Osario to sue Ryobi.

    If Gass really cared about tool users and not $$$, he’d make the SawStop technology available for free to all manufacturers.

    1. Todd Fratzel

      The whole situation stinks to me!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s so refreshing to hear someone put the responsibility where it belongs!

    1. Todd Fratzel

      Unfortunately we live in a time where my opinion and many others is ignored by Lawyers and Lawmakers….hopefully one day we can stop blaming others for our own mistakes.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. [...] Approved Chop Saw!As far as I know no fingers were lost to this beauty. Kinda proves my point that saws don’t hurt people, the people hurt themselves with saws!Do you have a beauty like this? If so let us know about it [...]

  4. [...] with tougher standards on table saws. As I’ve reported several times frivolous lawsuits and serious lobbying by Stephen Gass (owner of SawStop) have somehow convinced the Socialist minded folks at the CPSC that table saws [...]

  5. [...] with tougher standards on table saws. As I’ve reported several times frivolous lawsuits and serious lobbying by Stephen Gass (owner of SawStop) have somehow convinced the Socialist minded folks at the CPSC that table saws [...]

  6. Bennett Waterhouse

    First off, I do not own a saw stop. I was trying to save for one, but on blackfriday I bought a ridgid TS 3650 for 274$. I still want to get a saw stop but with 3 kids and a monthly negative budget, it is and will continue to be impossible for me to purchase a sawstop. (honesty)

    But I am exactly the type of consumer that needs protection.

    Steven Gass attempted to sell his technology to all major powertool companies.

    They ALL DECLINED. There are probably numerous reasons that are given for why they refused to equip even one model of their tools with the greatest table saw safety invention ever.

    He then attempted to lobby the goverment to try to make someone use his invention. The goverment refused to mandate his technology. He knew his invention deserved to be on table saws. so even though he did not want to he started a table saw company.

    The Osorio case then restarted the idea of mandated equilivent safety system.

    The power tool companies declined adopting this invention because it would reduce profits, plane and simple, maybe through higher manufacturing costs, or higher settlements or reduced total sales.

    This is one of those situations where direct capitalism does not work. 1. Supply side, power tool manufacturers, do not want to make less money
    2.the demand side, me and my tight budget, does not want to spend more money.
    3. We can all agree that america would be a safer place if all saws had saw stop.

    That is why goverment should step in. They should mandate this safety feature. otherwise I will never be protected by it.

    1. Todd Fratzel

      Bennett – Thanks for sharing your opinion as that’s what makes our Country so great and allows us to have sites like this to discuss these issues. However, I must say I totally disagree with you. If you look into the statistics further you would be shocked. Since the new Federally approved blade guard requirements have done in effect there are no reported contact injuries. Not a single one. So while I agree that Table Saws are extremely dangerous, I’d argue that the manufacturers took the challenge and created a much cheaper solution that’s REALLY working.

  7. Rob

    The Whirlwind is essentially a flesh-sensing blade guard tied to an electric brake. Many cuts simply cannot be made easily or safely with a blade guard installed, which is why people remove them in the first place. The Whirlwind brake does not stop the blade as quickly as the SawStop brake, so you could still lose a finger if you slip or your had somehow gets pulled into the blade. It’s certainly better than nothing, but unfortunately it’s no SawStop-killer.

    It infuriates me that SawStop lobbies for their technology to be forced on their competitors and that on or around Feb 25, 2014, they opened yet another lawsuit against the rest of the industry.

Leave a comment

Disclosure

Product reviews on this site contain our opinion of a product or service. We will always strive for objectivity and transparency in our reviews. Our goal is to provide readers with honest, objective information based on our own experiences. We never have and never will accept payment in exchange for a positive review. Many of the products that we review are provided to us for free by a manufacturer or retailer. In some cases, we also have advertising or affiliate relationships with manufacturers and retailers of products and services we review. For additional information please visit our additional disclosure policies.