Tablesaw Safety Goes Under the Microscope–Again
According to a USA Today article, tablesaw safety in the United States is getting another look from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and saw manufacturers may get a call to testify as to why the problem has not been addressed sufficiently.
The CPSC says there are about 10 finger amputations a day, and that is in home shops alone. That’s too many, says CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “The safety of table saws needs to be improved,” she says, “All options are on the table for CPSC at this time.”
|More on the Great Tablesaw Safety Debate
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Already U.S. tablesaw manufacturers are complying with a UL requirement of equipping all saws with a riving knife, as European saws have been for years. A riving knife is designed to prevent kickback, which often results in hand and finger injuries. But there also is a push to incorporate “flesh-sensing technology” into the saws. This technology, pioneered by Stephen Gass, senses the presence of a body part and stops the blade before it can do harm. The technology, combined with the antikickback benefits of a riving knife, make for a safer tool, says Gass.
Gass had tried to sell his idea, called the SawStop, to a number of saw manufacturers, but in the end his efforts were rejected for a number of reasons (cost and the possible admission of liability were two major ones, according to an article published on finewoodworking.com).
Gass and his colleagues, David Fanning and David Fulmer, went on to start their own saw company, which now offers three tablesaws under the SawStop brand: two cabinet saws and a contractor saw. But Gass also has been actively pushing the CPSC to require better safety standards for the industry, many of which were brought to light last year, when a jury awarded $1.5 million to a man injured in a tablesaw accident.
I called a few major saw manufacturers, who declined to comment on the situation. But some representatives who did not want to be identified say that including flesh-sensing and blade-halting technology will have a profound effect on the woodworking tool industry and will increase the price of any tablesaw. Gass agrees. “It would require the redesign of every table saw in the market,” he says. “This will require a significant investment on the part of the power tool manufacturers and it will increase the cost of the lowest price table saws.”
Gass says a more expensive saw is a far better option than paying for and living with a devastating injury. “I think the end result is that woodworking becomes a safer endeavor, which will lead more people to engage in it,” he says. “Everybody benefits.”
PROPOSAL TO CPSC
Does the CPSC's closer look at tablesaw safety spell doom for Steve Gass' airtight patent protections on SawStop-style braking technology?