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Tool Addicts

The Story Behind the Government's Pending Tablesaw Ruling

comments (55) November 29th, 2011 in blogs

Tom Tom McKenna, Managing Editor
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Benchtop SawStop. Stephen Gass has long disputed claims that a durable, portable benchtop saw cant be made with the SawStop technology inside. This is a prototype for a model he plans to have ready for production next summer.
 - CLICK TO ENLARGE Photo: FWW staff

Editor's note: We are posting this article excerpt to give people more information on the upcoming ruling by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on tablesaw safety so that they may submit comments in time for the government's Dec. 12 deadline. The full article will appear in Fine Woodworking's February issue (#224).

TablesawThe tablesaw is a cornerstone tool in the majority of home and pro shops, and for good reason. Its versatility is unmatched—it rips and crosscuts, it cuts tapers and bevels, and it handles a number of essential joinery jobs, from dadoes to tenons. But the saw has a built-in risk: an exposed blade that spins at around 4,000 rpm.

There’s no license required for using a tablesaw, but with a bit of know-how and attentiveness, and some kind of splitter behind the blade, the tool can be used safely. However, the number of tablesaw accidents is staggering, averaging 36,400 a year (from 2001 to 2008), according to statistics compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Those numbers, combined with the estimated cost of treatment for those injuries reaching into the billions per year, have compelled the CPSC to consider making radical changes to tablesaw safety rules. The most controversial is the possible mandatory inclusion of flesh-sensing technology—like that developed by SawStop—that will halt the blade upon or before contact.

The clock is ticking. On Oct. 5, 2011, after years of research, the CPSC issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR), giving the public 60 days to comment about whether new safety standards are needed and whether they should be mandatory or voluntary. If made mandatory, such a ruling will have huge consequences on makers of tablesaws, especially those whose bread and butter are lightweight benchtop saws common on construction sites. The Power Tool Institute (PTI), a trade association of U.S. portable and stationary power tool manufacturers whose members account for about 85% of all tablesaws sold in the United States, said the cost of compliance with that ruling could eliminate portable tablesaws from the market. A benchtop saw with flesh-sensing, blade-braking technology has not been proven in the marketplace, though SawStop has built a prototype and says that a production model will be ready by next summer.

The ruling would not just affect benchtop saws. It would require entire tablesaw lines, including contractor and cabinet models, to have the technology, raising prices on all saws. To avoid costly changes to the industry, and since SawStop saws already are available for people to choose, the PTI is urging the CPSC to make the standard voluntary.

So how did the CPSC and tablesaw manufacturers come to this crossroads? For the answers, we have to flip the calendar back more than 20 years.

Spotlight on tablesaw injuries

The CPSC had been looking at the incidents of tablesaw injuries since the early 1990s. Alarmed by the numbers, the agency presented injury data to tablesaw manufacturers and Underwriters Laboratory (UL) in 1998, hoping they would update the voluntary safety standards (UL 987) to reduce the number of injuries.

At the time, the voluntary standard stated that all tablesaws should have a guard that consists of a hood that encloses the blade, a spreader, and some type of anti-kickback device, typically pawls. That outdated equipment had been on saws since those standards were written in the early 1970s and clearly it wasn’t working. You don’t have to be a Fine Woodworking editor to know that many woodworkers discarded those old, inconvenient systems, or that European saws had superior safety guards for years that included riving knives.

To respond to the CPSC concerns, the PTI implemented a training program, utilizing primarily videos distributed to shop classes and woodworking seminars about how to use tablesaws safely. 

Enter the inventor

In 1999, Stephen Gass, a patent attorney and amateur woodworker, had an idea that could make tablesaws dramatically safer. Putting his doctorate in physics to work, he designed the SawStop device, which uses sophisticated electronics to sense contact with human flesh and then trigger a brake system that stops and retracts the blade fast enough to prevent an amputation or other catastrophic injury.

In June 2000, at a meeting with the CPSC, UL representatives agreed to look more closely at ways to improve tablesaw safety, according to CPSC documents. Later that summer, Gass and his partners, David Fanning and David Fulmer, unveiled the SawStop technology at IWF in Atlanta, demonstrating it on a hotdog. SawStop won the IWF Challengers Award, which recognizes companies that make significant advances in woodworking technology.

In October, Gass demonstrated a SawStop prototype for Ryobi representatives in Anderson, S.C. He also gave Ryobi a prototype to test. Gass wasn’t interested in selling the technology to just one company. Instead, he was looking for a larger sales opportunity and to change the industry for the better, he said. “We did not want to see it on just one brand of saws,” he said, “and so we were unwilling to give an exclusive license to any one company. It was our feeling that this technology, like air bags or something like that, should be on every saw.”

In 2001, Gass sent the CPSC a prototype of the SawStop. After testing it, the CPSC awarded SawStop the Chairman’s Commendation for product safety.

While negotiations with Ryobi went on, Gass said he pitched his product to other tablesaw manufacturers. To entice as many as he could, he asked for what he considered a low 3% royalty at first, to help offset the additional costs of incorporating the technology. That royalty would increase if more tablesaw makers adopted SawStop (when market share reached 25% the royalty would go to 5%; 75% share would increase the royalty to 8%).

To avoid litigation, manufacturers believed they would have to equip every saw in their lines with the new technology, a process that would require redesigning the saws and retooling the factories where they’re made. And yet Gass’s invention hadn’t yet been proven to work in the real world. It was a tough decision.

In 2002, SawStop and Ryobi came close to a licensing agreement. However, the deal was never closed, and people involved in the negotiations differ as to why. According to witnesses who testified in a recent legal case (Osorio vs. One World Technologies, Inc.), Ryobi chose to work with other members of the PTI on a joint venture to design a flesh-sensing alternative to SawStop, as well as a better guard system. David Peot, former director of advanced technology for Ryobi, testified that such cooperation among PTI members was unprecedented. “The people who belong to the Power Tool Institute are very fierce competitors. Never in my 30, 35 years of working with [them] had I ever been exposed to something where they said ‘let’s get together and develop something.’ ”

After the Ryobi deal fell through and with no responses from other tablesaw makers, Gass and his partners decided to develop their own brand. While they were working with designers on a saw, Gass and his partners petitioned the CPSC in 2003 to do something about the large number of tablesaw accidents that were occurring yearly. They told the CPSC that “current table saws pose an unacceptable risk of severe injury because they are inherently dangerous and lack an adequate safety system to protect users from accidental contact with the blade.”  They asked the CPSC “to require performance standards for a system to reduce or prevent injuries from contact with the blade of a table saw.” In essence they were asking for a mandatory ruling that would require all tablesaws to have some sort of flesh-sensing technology and blade-stopping device.

In 2004, SawStop rolled out its first model, a cabinet saw. Then, in the spring of 2005, an accident on a Lexington, Mass., job site cracked open the floodgates on the tablesaw safety debate and its legal fallout.

Osorio vs. One World Technologies

Carlos Osorio moved to Boston in 2003 from Colombia. Trained as a computer technician in his home country, he was unable to find similar work in the United States. On a recommendation from a friend, he took a job in April 2004 with P.T. Hardwood Flooring in Massachusetts, working as an installer and repairman. The 24-year-old had never been exposed to power tools until that job and was trained on the go.

Osorio paperwork
Controversial verdict. A Massachusetts jury awarded $1.5 million in damages to a worker injured on a Ryobi tablesaw in 2005. An appeals court recently upheld the ruling.
A year later, on April 19, 2005, Osorio was using a Ryobi BTS 15 benchtop tablesaw to rip a piece of hardwood flooring to size. He testified that he was using the saw on the floor, that both the blade guard and fence were removed, and that he was making a tapered cut freehand. Clearly, he was using the tool improperly. Osorio also testified that he’d never seen a saw on the job that had the guard or
fence in place.

As he fed the workpiece, it jammed and vibrated on the first try. He turned off the saw, cleaned sawdust and chips from the saw’s throat and top, and tried again. Like before, the workpiece started chattering, but instead of turning off the saw, Osorio pushed harder. Before he knew it, the workpiece had kicked back and his left hand had plunged into the blade.

Osorio endured multiple operations to repair his mangled hand and in 2006 his insurers filed a lawsuit on his behalf against The Home Depot, the seller of the saw, and One World Technologies, the parent company of Ryobi, to recover damages. In cases like this, the victim, or plaintiff, gets whatever money is left over after the insurance company gets reimbursed and all legal fees are paid.

When the suit finally reached the courts in February of 2010, the jury ruled in favor of Osorio, awarding $1.5 million in damages from Ryobi—The Home Depot was found not to be liable. Ryobi appealed, but the decision was upheld Oct. 5, 2011, coincidentally the same date the ANPR was issued.

The jury ruled that Osorio was 35% at fault but that the tool he was using was unsafe because it didn’t have a flesh-sensing/blade-stopping device on it—technology that was available when the BTS 15 was made. At this time, there are at least 50 other tablesaw lawsuits pending against various manufacturers. We’ve even seen an ad for a law firm saying, “Injured in a tablesaw accident? You may be entitled to compensation.”

Manufacturers weigh in

So why didn’t companies add SawStop in 2001/2002? The individual manufacturers I contacted were tight-lipped about it all, citing pending litigation. However, the PTI has a lot to say about the topic. Their first argument has to do with the injury statistics presented by the CPSC.

Do the numbers tell the whole story?

The CPSC gets its data from its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which collects patient information from NEISS-associated hospitals for each emergency visit from an injury related to consumer products. From this sample, the total number of product-related injuries is estimated.

According to NEISS data collected from 2001 to 2008, there were an average of 36,400 tablesaw injuries per year. In that same time period, the PTI claims, tablesaw sales had risen while the injury numbers remained relatively stable, meaning the number of injuries is actually declining.

The PTI said 800,000 saws have been sold since 2007 that meet the updated voluntary standard (UL 987), which includes an improved blade-guard design and riving knife. They point out that there have been no studies of that group of saws to determine the impact of the new guard system and any injuries associated with those new saws.

Will SawStop work in a benchtop tool?

During the Osorio trial, witnesses for the defense claimed that SawStop would not work on a small benchtop saw. They cited structural issues with the tool, namely that the saw is too light to withstand the force of stopping the blade and bringing it below the table. Peter Domeny, a defense witness and the former director of safety for Bosch, who also served as a chairman of the PTI’s product liability committee, said adding SawStop would drastically change the size and engineering of a benchtop saw, making it heavier and less mobile.

Benchtop SawStop. Gass has long disputed claims that a durable, portable benchtop saw can't be made with the SawStop technology inside. This is a prototype for a model he plans to have ready for production next summer.
Gass’s own testing at the time, however, indicated to him that the technology was “perfectly viable” in a benchtop saw. He now has a prototype  built, ready for evaluation in the field. He said the production model will be unveiled this summer and estimates the cost of the saw to be under $1,000. A benchtop saw without SawStop runs from about $100 on the low end to $600 for a high-end machine.

At what price, safety?

One of the key arguments during the Osorio trial was the cost of putting the SawStop technology on a tablesaw. Domeny testified that SawStop would add about $150 to the wholesale price of a saw.

That increase may be less painful with a cabinet saw that already retails in the $1,000 to $3,500 range. But raising the price becomes more of an obstacle with less-expensive saws. With the retail price being two to two and a half times the wholesale price, said Domeny, the cost of a saw that used to be $179 (the price of Ryobi’s BTS 15) would jump to more than $500. That’s too much money, said the PTI, for a tool that has a short life span (about six years, said the PTI) due to its exposure to the elements and transport from job site to job site. Gass testified that he thought the actual retail cost of a Ryobi benchtop saw would be lower because of their higher sales volume.

The PTI claims that the cost of the replacement cartridge ($69) and blade ($50 to $100), which gets destroyed when the device fires, is prohibitive. They also say that Gass’ royalty fee “demands” are excessive.

Gass dismissed the arguments about increased manufacturing costs in an online Q&A with FWW editor Asa Christiana. “If tablesaw manufacturers had to pay for the injuries occurring on their products,” he said, “something like SawStop would have been incorporated on every saw long, long ago.”

Is SawStop a monopoly?

Domeny revealed during the Osorio trial that engineers from Bosch had started working on their own flesh-sensing technology and blade-braking system back in 2002. “We were interested in a technology that can prevent the accident using similar principles,” he said, “but not to rely on a contact system, where you have to get injured in the first place before the system mitigates the degree of injury.”

Their system used a “pyrotechnic propellent” to bring the sawblade below the table in a flash but didn’t destroy the blade in the process. Domeny said the cost of a replacement propellent cartridge would be about $15. The project was handed over to the joint venture group of the PTI but was stopped because, the PTI said, “introducing this technology will result in costly patent infringement litigation (estimated to be at least $7–$10 million for each party) with uncertain outcomes.”

The PTI also said Gass has a monopoly on the flesh-sensing patent arena, claiming he owns 70 patents relating to the SawStop technology and that many are too broadly written. Gass admitted owning 70 patents, but he said, “not all relate to the SawStop technology. We also have patents on our guards, mobile bases, trunnion designs, etc., just like every other manufacturer. I would guess that a little more than half our patents relate to the SawStop technology on tablesaws.”

The ball is in CPSC’s court

Now that the CPSC has issued its ANPR, the public has until Dec. 12 to send the organization comments and opinions about whether the flesh-sensing standard should be voluntary (added to UL 987) or mandatory. The CPSC says it will consider the economic impact of the ruling on the industry, and will not recommend one technology over another, though it remains to be seen if manufacturers will be able to meet the standard without violating Gass’s patents.

The PTI has made it clear how they will respond to the ANPR, encouraging the CPSC to “work with the power tool industry and others in the table saw community to promote safety through the voluntary standard process.”

Gass prefers a mandatory standard. Because the voluntary standards are written by manufacturers, he said during the Osorio trial, “it’s a completely perfect example of the fox guarding the henhouse. They write the standards and then they come to court and try to use them as a shield to protect themselves and say, ‘we met the standards.’”

FWW will also send a response to the CPSC, and we’ll post it online. There are too many unresolved questions for us to take sides, but our editors and experts can shed valuable light on the real-world implications of tablesaw safety gear, including the new riving-knife systems. Then, like everyone else, we’ll wait for the ruling.

--Tom McKenna is a senior editor of FWW



posted in: blogs, sawstop, CPSC, Ryobi, osorio, gass, tablesaws, Power Tool Institute, UL

Comments (55)

Dennis66 Dennis66 writes: I too would like a SawStop table saw. I just can't afford it. The machine won't reach market potential until the manufacturer meets competitive pricing.
I have been using my Delta for twenty years, not long compared to some ol salts in the forum. In that time I have made a couple of dumb mistakes. I don't know anyone who doesn't have a story of a piece of wood launching out the back o a saw or making a risky cut. I am always alone when I work, what happens if I pass out or bleed out because my hand is ripped or jointed?
If you make your living from the saw, inevitably you will work while over-tired and stressed. This leads to mistakes that cost flesh. If you are a hobbyist, you are likely to make a mistake simply from lack of experience.

I support the movement to incorporate flesh sensing technology in all table saws. Even at the increased expense, it is cheaper than the deductible and copay at the emergency room and subsequent operations.
My next saw will have that technology. I just hope my jigs and accessories will work with it.
Posted: 12:48 pm on December 9th

Dennis66 Dennis66 writes:
Posted: 12:35 pm on December 9th

Andersrl Andersrl writes: Bottom line. I like my fingers the way they are. So, there's a SawStop table saw in my shop!
Posted: 7:01 pm on December 31st

RodSheridan RodSheridan writes: Unfortunately the Power Tool Institute and FWW are once again demonstrating a lack of leadership in machinery safety issues.

Why are our North American machines so far behind the European machines with regards to easy to use safety equipment such as riving knives, blade guards, blade braking, sliding tables etc?

The issue is that in Europe, the power tool producers aren't writing their own legislation, they're having to follow government mandated safety requirements.

That's what produces good safety, legislation that specifies certain requirements and outcomes, not leaving the tool manufacturer to follow a voluntary standard they developed in the first place.

FWW, you should be embarrassed to not be taking leadership position in saw safety, and a good place to start would be stop showing unsafe saw operations in your magazine and on your website.

Regards, Rod

Posted: 4:08 pm on December 28th

NikonD80 NikonD80 writes: 2dtenor writes: NikonD80: "To use an analogy; You don't blame the car manufacturer when someone is killed in a road traffic accident despite the fact that cars today are made to achieve speeds well in excess of the most liberal of speed limits." Actually, Ford was held responsible when Pintos were being sold with gas tanks that exploded on impact. SUV manufacturers have been held responsible in rollover accidents. Firestone was held responsible for defective tires. Etc.

2dtenor - you've just proved the point I was trying to make. Theses are ALL design and/or manufacturing faults. You don't blame the car manufacturer if someone is driving recklessly. If I drive at 80 in a 30 zone, that's my fault not the car maker's.
Posted: 12:16 pm on December 19th

RustBeltRoots RustBeltRoots writes: As an emergency physician, I have lost count of the number of injuries I have seen from table saws. In the summer months, patients come into my emergency department with their mangled hands after some table saw misadventure at a rate of 2-3/week. Table saws are by far and away the most dangerous tools out there (snowblowers are second and nail guns a distant third). As to William05's point about regulating all tools with exposed blades, the numbers don't make intervention on other tools compelling. For instance, in my 10 years as an emergency physician, I have seen only 2 or 3 router injuries. When so many people are injuring themselves on the same tool, we should stop asking ourselves why are so many people so stupid and ask instead whether there is something intrinsic to the design of the tool that makes it so dangerous.

The fingers most often mauled are the index and middle fingers, typically of the dominant hand. These injuries suck: If you keep your fingers, they will probably not work the same way again. If you are lucky enough to keep your fingers, there's a fair chance that you will lose your profession.

It seems to me that any design fix that could minimize such a frequent and devastating injury should be mandated on all new saws.
Posted: 8:57 am on December 19th

1lpvinyl 1lpvinyl writes: Having worked in the auto repair industry for over 35 years I know something about Government's passion for legislating. Give a legislator or cabinet secretary the opportunity to publicize some one else's faults and the results are white heat in the hearing room.In the glare of the lights and flashing cameras the intent of the process can get lost in the drama around it. One question always remains: Should the government compel an industry to provide a solution or should the consumer? Not all tablesaw injuries come from flesh contact with a spinning blade. Kick back can be very serious The riving knife goes a long way to lessening the danger. But look how long it took American saw makers to add this brilliantly simple device. Were it not for consumers and the media the cost/benefit experts would still be saying the riving knife is too expensive. I predict the Government will require flesh sensing technology and give the industry a timetable to achieve it. Manufacturers will scramble to market their solutions and consumers will be left to sort out the good from the bad for years to come. Cost will either escalate or makers will look for other parts of the saw to "reconfigure". And despite all of the warning labels,pages and pages of safety instructions and technology users will continue to hurt themselves. No law maker will ever be able to prevent careless or willful misconduct. You can't fix stupid.
Posted: 11:18 am on December 18th

jamiechandler jamiechandler writes: "Had this lawsuit been in Canada, the employer would've had to pay."

Actually, we have had lawsuits where employees are not just at fault. I don't know if you are aware of the incident that happened a couple of years ago on December 25 Christmas day where 5 construction workers, whom were illegal from the middle east were on a construction platform and fell to there death due to exceeding the weight limit on a swing stage scaffold, all but one died, and the one who lived is paralyzed. I don't know if anyone was found guilty or if it's still in the courts, however, everyone has been charged from the site supervisor, the construction company, the owner of the swing stage company and the makers of the swing stage company. When doing my ministry of labor safety courses they told me that it's all uphill when it comes to accidents in construction.

I don't care if tablesaws have flesh-sensing technology or not, however, if they think I am throwing my old Delta table saw, or my ridgid portable table saw, and expect me to replace it with a new one, all I ask is for some compensation. In regards to the taper cut, you don't see tool companies in instruction manuals advising on the proper way to make a table cut, or offering for sale a jig to make a taper cut with some sort of clamp down. Why not make the argument that had he used a festool track saw with the festool workstation, this could have been prevented as well? And in regards to all the other table saw safety accessories out there, the riving knife is the only one useful. How can anti-kickback fingers be useful when they work against you as you push? How do you do a dado cut with them or with the saw guard on?

I wonder how many accidents a year happen with ladders, are we going to ban them and make everyone invest in scaffolds? How many accidents a year happen with cars? Should we adopt the computer driven batmobile idea because people make mistakes?

Posted: 8:53 am on December 17th

crookedcorkoak crookedcorkoak writes: Will my old table saw be against the law to use if they pas this new law about Saw-Stop?
Posted: 9:43 pm on December 16th

woodyP woodyP writes: I was disappointed to see Tom Silva in the most recent This Old House episode use the very technique that caused the Osorio injury as he made a taper cut for some door trim on a table saw by hand with no fence. He did have a splitter. If education is a key tool to prevent injuries, we need to promote safe practices on shows that many do it yourselfers are watching and learning from.
Posted: 10:28 am on December 15th

user-3187934 user-3187934 writes: Tom McKenna says, at the beginning of his article: "....with a bit of know-how and attentiveness, and some kind of splitter behind the blade, the tool can be used safely."

If that was so obvious, there'd be no debate at all.
Posted: 12:22 am on December 13th

2dtenor 2dtenor writes: NikonD80: "To use an analogy; You don't blame the car manufacturer when someone is killed in a road traffic accident despite the fact that cars today are made to achieve speeds well in excess of the most liberal of speed limits." Actually, Ford was held responsible when Pintos were being sold with gas tanks that exploded on impact. SUV manufacturers have been held responsible in rollover accidents. Firestone was held responsible for defective tires. Etc.

DrBob4390: "It has all escallated as a result of McDonalds being held responsible for serving HOT Coffee! As it has always been 'Stupid is as Stupid does'!!!" Stella Liebeck received 3rd degree burns on 6% of her body as a result of the incident to which you refer. She was not driving; her grandson was driving and had pulled over in the McDonalds' parking lot while Ms. Liebeck tried to add cream and sugar to the coffee. Ms. Liebeck was hospitalized for 8 days as a result of this incident.

McDonalds acknowledged that it required all franchises to serve coffee at approximately 180-190 degrees. It is too hot to consume at that temperature. Many restaurants serve coffee at a substantially lower temperature. Most people who mention this case as the poster child for frivolous lawsuits do not actually know anythinig about the facts of the case.
Posted: 3:32 pm on December 11th

Morongo Morongo writes: Quote THW: "...the standard proposed by the a performance standard; it is NOT a requirement to use the SawStop technology...the only way to meet the standard at the moment would be to use the SawStop..."

I think you have the above right, but don't minimize the language in patent claims, anyone as smart as Gass knows exactly what he's doing in that regard.

By now, Gass has the field covered with the shear number of claims in the 70 patents already granted, if not with additional claims in patents currently pending. That doesn't leave much 'wiggle room' for new proprietary manufacturer's versions to implement the standard.

So yes, if the CPSC finds in favor of a mandatory standard, it gives Gass/SawStop a blank check backed by government mandated regulation.

The fallout from a CPSC regulation of the PTI (given there is only one option for compliance) will result in higher prices leading to fewer sales and culminating in a reduced workforce in the industry (in many cases, the factory workforce is offshore, but the sales, transportation and domestic-support is stateside).

But yes, I agree regulation has it's place and definitely is necessary to keep any segment of civilization from going on a 'high speed runaway' to the detriment of everyone else.

We just have to keep in mind that the object of a patent is to create a temporary monopoly for the inventor. Currently 'temporary' means twenty years, not necessarily based on any working 'embodiment' of the invention but on 'claims' of any possible embodiments that 'might' be forthcoming in the future, even if they haven't been thought of yet.

When a patent is granted, it's claims are granted regardless of how general they are and that is what a judge is constrained to use when determining infringement, the language in the claims. It's not so easy to come up with a 'new way' once a patent is granted, even if it seems unique, the previous patent's claims probably have it covered.

If regulation does become mandatory, I can think of one legal 'way out' without licensing anything and that might even serve to create a new segment of the industry without costing any jobs or involving any patent suits, but we won't cross that bridge until we come to it.

Posted: 11:20 pm on December 10th

THW THW writes: Some of the frothing going on here against Gass and this proposed regulation doesn't relate to the facts. First, the standard proposed by the CPSC (and argued for by Gass) is a performance standard; it is NOT a requirement to use the SawStop technology. It may be that the only way to meet the standard at the moment would be to use the SawStop technology, but think about all of the different ways that seat belts worked before settling out on the nearly universal three-point system.

Several posts suggest that SawStop can be and therefore will be bypassed. The bypass is so that you can use the saw to cut very wet PT wood or some other conductive material, but you have to turn a key to bypass the circuitry each time you turn the saw on. It defaults to protection each time you turn the saw off. You can use the saw circuitry without setting off the brake to test whether you need to use the bypass. You can remove the key so that the bypass function is disabled, as for instance in a high school shop where any wood being cut would be dry.

Some also seem to think that the technology will make people careless about running their hands and fingers into a spinning saw blade, which seems a pretty strange reading of human psychology. Watch the video of Gass running his own actual finger, not a hotdog, into a SawStop blade: he KNOWS the thing works, but puts his finger in ice water beforehand to numb it and clearly has a hard moment as he moves his hand into the blade. In my experience, carelessness results from being tired or distracted or ignorant, but not from looking at something that looks more frightening than it is.

Some of those ranting against regulation should travel more. I have traveled in countries where there is no effective regulation, where I've seen lawnmowers with fully exposed blades driven directly by the engine and table saws that are little more than an electric motor, a belt, and a table with a slot in it. The idea that large corporations should be free to sell us the lowest common denominator tool, that employers should be free to supply tools and training that endanger employees seems to me at least as irrational as any concern about the so-called nanny state. I am as skeptical as the next person about the influence of corporate lobbying on our government (or corporate advertisers on our magazine), but at least we have a voice in the government too, and I'm sorry that some of those opposed to these regulations seem willing to align themselves politically with those who would leave our safety entirely to the profit interests of large corporations.
Posted: 9:01 am on December 10th

oldfart58 oldfart58 writes: goodguy is right on all counts. I'm not one to talk about the nanny state or any of that other hubris from the ultra radical right wingers, but this is the kind of thing that feeds that paranoia.

Personally, I don't like the Sawstop machines. I participated in a demonstration at a local shopping mall woodworker store, and I find them far too fussy, intended to attract the overpaid yuppie market, not woodworkers. It is hardly surprising then, that they are being marketed by wealthy creeps that rent our Congressmen.
Posted: 8:19 pm on December 9th

goodguy goodguy writes: Though this is an excellent and factual account of the story, it conveniently omits the back-room negotiations and payola Gass's associates use.

Gass is a lawyer; a lawyer with powerful connections and knowledge of how to finance lobbying. That makes him formidable. Anyone who has researched his connections and the marketing ploys he used will quickly see how he manipulated this issue for his own benefit.

Though there is nothing wrong with a person choosing to use Gass's over-priced invention, it is WRONG for congress to force people to use it.

Further, it is WRONG for any lobbyist to influence law making.

WE THE PEOPLE see how corporate corruption has eviscerated our constitution, stripped rights and suppressed innovation in other industries. Whenever one invention is given federal preference over another two negative results occur:

1- Only those with money and connections succeed.

2- Corrupt law makers become more powerful and therefore more corrupt.

There are other safety devices that are just as effective, are less expensive and can be retro-fitted onto existing table-saws. Why do we not hear more about them?

Because all of our trade-news sources accept advertising money from Gass.
They also accept advertising money from other manufacturers, which is why no magazine, including the otherwise venerable FW, has the balls to come down on one side or another.

Bottom line: If YOU want a SawStop, you are free to buy one.

But NO ONE, especially a corrupt, money-controlled congress should be able to force us to buy it, or anything else.

We should remain free in every area of consumer choice. If you hide your head in the sand now and remain passive, other consumer choices will also reflect this systemic political corruption. Before long, your food, water and air will be poisoned... oops. too late. Already happened.
Posted: 4:57 am on December 9th

William05 William05 writes: If requiring this type of safety equipment on table saws are intended to make the job site safer then it completely fails short of its intent.

Using a table saw equipped with this type of safety equipment will probably reduce the accidents on table saws, but what about the other types of power tools found on the job site.

Miter boxes, circular hand saws, portable jointers, routers, and router tables. All of these power tools utilize exposed cutting tool. Many of which operate at much greater rates of speed than a blade on a table saw.

Once a worker becomes over confident about the safety that this type of equipment provides, he being human, will begin to forget that this equipment's security does not extend to the other power tools on the job site. Precautions and learned safety proceeds that have helped to protect so many workers for generations will soon start to fade.

Hand placement on a table saw in relationship to the blade with this safety equipment becomes less relevant, at least that is what will start to become the new perception. Workers to save time (which on the job site is more earned money) will start pushing the limits making cuts that were once considered too risky. In time this behavior will become the new norm rather than an unacceptable method.

Once these new perceptions of safety becomes common place in work habits, then the worker is at greater risk than ever before with regards to the other power tools available to him on the job site.

The argument is that this safety equipment is to compliment the safety procedures already in place on the work site. However human beings are creatures of learned habit. When one no longer has a sense of fear, then one starts to lose his sense of respect. When a child touches a hot oven door he becomes fearful of that event. From that experience he develops a sincere sense of respect. Eliminating fear also eliminates common sense.

The safety equipment in question will undoubtedly make table saws safer, even when being misused. However and far more damaging, is the fact that it will also help to foster a lower regard for good safety habits and power tool common sense. All of which will foster far less fear and respect for all power tools in general.

As these new learned safety habits become more common place in the work place then they will undoubtedly be the making of future law suits for the other power tools previously mentioned above. One only needs to consider the human factor and how it affects drivers that own a four wheel drive vehicle. Once that driver develops their driving skills on that vehicle then that driver now expects that all vehicles perform the same way. The safety equipment in question may stop a table saw blade when the operator is not using their best judgment, but what happens when he’s now using a miter saw and expects the same results.

Companies that make this equipment will reap the profits while the workers using this equipment will become more bankrupt in simple power tool common sense.

Posted: 9:19 pm on December 7th

PPS PPS writes: It would be interesting to know how many of those 36K Table saw Accidents were the result of contact with the blade.
Posted: 3:35 pm on December 7th

Richinsd52 Richinsd52 writes: I completely agree that table saws as well as many household goods can and should be made as safe as is possible. I am however so sick and tired of the idea that people are compete idiots that cannot take responsibility for their own actions and that the government should foce safety measure down our throats. I'm 58 years old and to hear people talk today, I should have never survived childhood. I rode my bike without a helmet. I didn't wear knee pads. Good grief there was no one around to tell me to put my seat belt on. It was cruel to raise a child with such disregard for personal safety. Today some politician somewhere is lookng for the next issue on which to hang his hat and build a career. What the heck, we're all making so much money we can afford whatever the mess up.
Posted: 11:26 pm on December 6th

powderjones powderjones writes: My guess is that insurers will be making the call on this - as soon a FST proven in the field (and it will be) insurance companies will begin requiring their professional clientele to use the available technology.
Posted: 10:53 pm on December 6th

NikonD80 NikonD80 writes: I've been reading all this with great interest.
People do seem to be blurring two separate issues here. There's the issue of the court case and the other issue of should the new tech be mandatory.
The Court Case
Personally, I believe that there was a grave miscarriage of justice when the court awarded the money to Carlos Osorio. Nobody but the harshest of critics can have anything but sympathy for the injuries suffered but these injuries are not the fault of the Saw manufacturer. The device WAS being used in an unsafe manner and had been (in effect) partially dismantled.
I understand that it is possible to turn off the Sawstop breaking device. If this is true then how long before Sawstop are sued for allowing its safety device to be able to be deactivated? I see this as a logical extension of the arguments used against Ryobi.
To use an analogy; You don't blame the car manufacturer when someone is killed in a road traffic accident despite the fact that cars today are made to achieve speeds well in excess of the most liberal of speed limits.
Mandatory Safety
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards themselves). This might seem a little pompous but it strikes right at the heart of the argument – in this case; Self Regulation (For Self Regulation read ‘Voluntary Standards’). Self Regulation never really works (look at the UK press hacking scandal). It’s all too easy for the regulators to rewrite the book if they need to. It would be much easier and cheaper not to require dust masks, protective clothing, safety wear and training and I suppose we could force the use of that old equipment that needs to be replaced but the law is there to protect workers from this kind of thing. Once upon a time, workers were forced to carry on in conditions that today would be considered Dickensian then the laws brought in standards and mandatory safety requirements. These things didn’t come in out of a feeling of charity.
I believe it is the fact that these requirements became mandatory that lead to improvements as companies tried to achieve the same level of safety at a better price. The expensive innovations filter down through the budgetary levels and so become incorporated into the less expensive kit. If you want to know what sort of budget car you’ll be driving in 5 years time, take a look at a high end car today. In years to come, the Sawstop technology we have now will be looked on as incredibly crude but these things have to start somewhere. This tech will get both cheaper and easier to work with as time progresses. The debate shouldn’t be about should this tech be mandatory but rather how best to implement change over the coming years.

Posted: 8:33 am on December 6th

james3one james3one writes: Safer saw? Great, sign me up.

But here's my question: Who's next?

Who else do we sue for not including technology that isn't available yet(contractor saw-stop wasn't a reality)???? Do we really want to set a precedent of making companies liable for what might be? Can I sue the car company when I have a wreck? Never mind that I removed my brakes and chose not to slow down. They should have included some other devise to keep me safe.

Would like to wish Gass the best with his invention but suggest that there is a better way to do it. This is little more than ambulance chasing.
Posted: 8:13 am on December 6th

JimKoren JimKoren writes: As I read the comments of those before me, I find flaws in most arguments against safer saws but very few flaws in the arguments for safer saws.

I just purchased a Sawstop. Why? Because i know that some day i'll do something stupid and I don't want to have regrets.
Posted: 1:24 am on December 6th

tjnediting tjnediting writes: Let me first start by saying that I have been using a tablesaw safely for the last 35 years, and that I am not an idiot. But several years ago, while tired AND in a rush, I did more than just cut a corner to save some time - I ran one of my fingers through a 3/4" dado blade. Yes, I did an idiotic thing.

Now, the interesting part is that when I heard of the Osario lawsuit, I was outraged. I knew that I had caused my own accident and never in a million years would think to blame anyone else. I also knew that Osario and his employer were 100% responsible for his accident... But here's the kicker - I also know, that if my best friend in high school had had an airbag in his car back in 1979, he would still be with us today.

Do people need to be responsible for their actions? Absolutely. Do employers need to be responsible to properly train and supervise their employees? Definitely. Does the government need to mandate safety updates in our lives as technology moves forward? Unquestionably. Did my finger cost you money? you betcha!

I urge you all to not get sucked into the emotionality of this subject. With a clear head, I'm confident that nearly all of you will ultimately agree that flesh sensing safety features on table saws, just like seat belts and airbags and so many other things throughout our history, is a no brainer. Does it need to be Sawstop technology? Who knows what may be developed as a result of all of this? I for one would favor a system that doesn't destroy my blade and cost $65 for a new cartridge each time. But then again, how many times would I actually have to pay that? Once in thirty five years? I think I can afford it. And if it would cost you more than that, then you really shouldn't be using a table saw in the first place.

Footnote: For those of you out there who just can't stand the "infringement on your freedoms", I say disable your airbags, cut out your seatbelts, and I have a great used table saw I'd like to sell you...
Posted: 10:24 pm on December 5th

Dane_J Dane_J writes: I suspect the real motivation is not what it may seem... Gass and his partners are counting on a huge payday, by convincing the government that their patented technology is mandated to be used in all tablesaws.

If their motivation is really to make all tablesaws 'completely safe', then they should release the patent to the public domain. If the patent was released to the public domain I *might* believe that the motivation is really making tablesaws safer not just a huge, make that gigantic, payday.

I do not dispute the fact that the technology could save countless dollars in injuries.

Bottom line ... I can not support mandating a patented technology especially when the 'poster-child' is an incompetent that elected to remove the manufacturer installed safety devices and ignore warning signs of improper use(chattering and binding) by continuing to force the operation.

Posted: 10:17 pm on December 5th

dfr dfr writes: G'day,

In my view, any rule should include the possibility
of retro-fitting existing saws. Otherwise, the cost
to the woodworking industry will be astronomical
given that any saw without the technology will be
obsolete. In fact, to avoid legal issues, I will
add my existing expensive saw to the landfill or recycle it
with a metal recycler before selling it.

Posted: 6:21 pm on December 5th

OffBalance OffBalance writes: In May, I accidentally amputated my finger.

But not on a tablesaw - it was a sports-related accident. The resulting ambulance, emergency room visit, 4 hour reattachment surgery by a specialist and following physical therapy totaled about $40,000. Fortunately, my health insurance covered this, and my finger is doing very well, considering. The health insurance company I'm sure will eventually feed the cost back to my employer in premiums, and I suppose my 400 colleagues and I will in turn end up paying about $100 each as a result, although our employee portion of the premiums did not rise for next year (as an aside, last year one of my colleagues had a sick infant and incurred about $1.5 million in hospital bills. None of us were upset when we learned the reason for our premium increase).

I accept certain responsibility for my accident and do not intend to sue the bicycle manufacturer (unless my insurance company requires me), or petition the government to require bicycles to be made without spokes. It largely wasn't their fault. Like most almost all accidents, a number of factors came into play simultaneously causing a "perfect storm" of conditions leading to an unexpected outcome.

As the result of my injury, however, I do intend to be more careful while using my portable table saw around the house. And I will make sure my teenage kids use it properly too. We have always, even before my accident, had a "Ten Finger" rule where we show each other our hands before and after using power equipment so that we are mindful of safety. I also intend to attend a "SawStop" demonstration at a local woodworking store to see the technology in action. But I doubt I'll cough up the $$$ to buy a cabinet saw with SawStop, or even the $$ to buy a portable saw with SawStop, until my current saw is no longer serviceable.

I don't feel that the government should require saw manufacturers to increase the cost and complexity of saws by mandating a specific technology, although I expect saw manufactures to compete for my future business using safety as a selling point. I am annoyed by the fact that companies have to be so pestered by liability suits that they cannot implement safety features for fear of being sued for not having the features on all their saws. I'm not sure whose fault that is - perhaps consumers who expect their lives to be totally safe at all times, and need someone to blame when it is not, or perhaps the the insurance companies who need to minimize their risk exposure.

As far as the Osario case goes, I do not believe the manufacturer was guilty of creating a defective product, although I have not read the case transcript.

I'm not surprised the table saw situation has come to this point. I believe the proper way for the government to solve this is not to mandate added equipment, but to provide some way to encourage manufacturers to add safety equipment without fear of additional liability on the equipment without it. Companies should also provide high-quality safety training and online videos to all customers for free. The 30 pages of warnings in the manual are not really a real solution.

A final thought - in general, humans are very poor at assessing actual risks. Let's not let fear cloud our judgement. Here are some other CPSC statistics for everyone to consider (remember, these are from a population of 312,719,000):

36,400 table saw injuries per year
0 table saw deaths last year

13,478 chop saw injuries
10,497 axe and hatchet injuries
181,500 toy injuries per year to children under 15
17 toy-related deaths per year
732,424 bicycle injuries last year (not due to cars)
2 confirmed bicycle deaths last year (not due to cars)
127,957 ATV injuries last year
61,196 Treadmill injuries last year
16,984 injuries due to fires in homes and apartments
174,023 Gun related injuries
14,737 Air-gun injuries

According to NHTSA for 2009:
30,797 traffic deaths (the lowest year since info started being tracked in 1975)
12,744 of those traffic deaths related to alcohol
1,517,000 traffic injuries
630 bicyclists killed by cars
51,000 bicyclists injured by cars
4092 pedestrians killed by cars
59,000 pedestrians injured by cars
309 lives saved by child car seats/restraints
12,713 lives saved by seat belts
2381 lives saved by air bags
1483 lives saved by motorcycle helmets
623 estimated lives saved by the drinking age being 21
732 more lives could have been saved if everyone wore their helmet while riding motorcycles
3688 more lives could have been saved if everyone wore their seatbelts while in a car.

Posted: 2:04 pm on December 5th

Cadabra Cadabra writes: Dear Domainguy: Notwithstanding my respect for our military and your prior service, I completely disagree with your short-sighted approach on this topic. While its easy to be mildly amused by some of the examples you choose to poke the gov't. with, this topic has nothing at all to do with legislating intellect or forcing people to make choices on tablesaws that they feel abrogates their "independence".

Frankly, it is about taking those aspect out of play! Safety is not something that should be left to the ignorant or to those companies or individuals who don't want to afford it.

And you are flat wrong about the ability of our gov't. to get things right. I worked for 40 years in the Mil/Aerospace industry at the leading edge of some of our countries large, complex, advanced weapon systems with some of the best and brightest folks in the Army, Navy, USAF and Marines and with their civilian counterparts in gov't. I know how completely competent, capable and professional they are. Servicemen like you have benefited in untold ways from our government's superior capabilities.

The time is long overdue that citizens stop throwing rocks (easy to do; many examples to chuckle about) and start doing some critical thinking. Start taking some long-term responsible decisions on issues like this one.

Following the path of your nattering negativism, 100 years from now, another 5 generations of American woodworkers will look at this issue and say......."Gosh, what a bunch of bozos they were to let unsafe saws continue for all these years while they debated their right to make bad decisions. And what's worse, they already had the low cost technology to easily overcome it"

My appeal to folks like you is this........Rise above it. Take the long view of safety, and please contribute to making a positive solution to an age old problem. If you can't contribute, please just get out of the way of those who can.
Posted: 9:12 am on December 5th

lwj2 lwj2 writes: I write this not only as a woodworker but as a retired X-ray tech.

HCB has a point, to an extent I agree. The employer did not maintain a safe work environment and was, at charitable best, deficient in safety training. He should be held liable for that and, in my opinion, under a court order to comply or face imprisonment for public endangerment. Sod a fine, hard labour has a quality all it's own.

The employer's insurance firm is also liable, for failure to check for compliance in training and operation.

As to Ryobi, I'm undecided. Yes, they released a product when they could have made it safer. No, because they were in (to my knowledge) compliance with current regulations/requirements. A firm should not be held liable for acts of utter stupidity by others who purchase it's goods.

Frankly, I'm of the opinion that the employer should suffer the major burden for failure to comply with training and safety requirements, however, I also think that burden should consist of medical expenses and lost salary. Any disability arising from the incident should be the responsibility of the employer's insurance firm.

I note that there are taper jigs available for tablesaws -- I own one. The employer either did not make them available to his employees or did not enforce the requirement to use them.

As to extra costs, dragging up a decade-old memory, the cost of a hand series and a wrist series in the hospital at which I was employed [in Roanoke VA] would have been (approximately 2001 dollars) $175 and $250 respectively. This does not include interpretation fees by a radiologist, nor any emergency room fees.
Posted: 11:35 am on December 4th

hcb hcb writes: I believe the suit should have stopped with the employer, but the insurance company saw bigger money up the line.
That said, this technology is a big step forward; and I am appalled by the cynicism and circle-the-wagons mentality of the PTI and the individual companies who have resisted this change. Their shunning of Gass an his patents is a classic case of not-invented-here arrogance and head-in-the-sand thinking. History -particularly the history of technology - is full of examples of huge change coming from outside the establishment. The change agent has often been burned at the stake or imprisoned or shot, but the change happens anyway. The cost-experience curve will bring the prices down. And when it comes to patent protections in history just consider Apple, Singer Sewing Machines, Bell Telephone and even the lowly gelatine capsule as just four ubiquitous examples of great ideas with bulletproof patents that changed the culture.
Posted: 8:50 am on December 4th

almostretired almostretired writes: I've used a tablesaw almost daily for over twenty five years and still have all my fingers. I know two people who are missing fingers and one was caused by a wood splitter, the other by an ice auger (ice fishing).Both of these men blame themselves for being careless, they don't blame the equipment. If the government is allowed to mandate sawstop technology, where will it stop? Routers might be next. Can you imagine manuvering a plunge router half again as bulky and heavy over an expensive piece of hardwood?What about tools designed to get into confined spaces? Let's mandate safety devices to defeat their entire purpose.What is wrong with personal responsibility? If you want a saw with sawstop, buy it. It should not be forced on those who don't want it.
Posted: 7:55 am on December 4th

guybuilder guybuilder writes: Saws were available without the stop safety device and one with it. People had a chocie and made it. If a user is inexperienced and rarely use a saw, the individual should recognize their limitations and buy a saw with the safety device, but nothing replaces proper use and training. Don't make everyone pay for something that isn't necessary.
Posted: 10:11 pm on December 3rd

domainguy domainguy writes: Dear Cadabra,

Name two Federal programs that are at their five year projected budget or have actually done what the writers said was their intent. Follow the money. This is another attempt to give more money to ambulance chasers.

If I feel that my Powermatic 66 is unsafe, I sure as hell do not want some Fed telling me what to buy. Again, these are the same people telling us we can't drill for oil unless it is a mile deep. These are the same people who aren't going to let Americans build a pipeline from Canada, but probably will allow the Chinese to do it. These also are the same people telling us the above while bailing out failed car companies and supporting purchase of $40+k cars that self immolate and have proven to be non-starters with Americans.

I have seen our Federal Government in action, and sorry, but no matter what wonderful things you think they have brought to us, the U.S., as Paul Harvey used to say, I see billions of dollars wasted so Congressmen and Senators can get rich off of information that if you and I used them would not be spending Christmas with anyone but felons.

Sorry, but we cannot legislate against stupid. Look at our high schools turning out people who have a high opinion of themselves but could be tell you what it would cost in taxes to buy a $10k car with a 7.5% tax or how much it would cost to put a $2 a square foot carpet in a 10 foot by 10 foot room.

I can determine when to buy a better, safer machine. Feds, go back to protecting our shores, delivering snail mail, and actually writing laws that you have read. You have absolutely no right telling me how to cut wood for my grandson's toy chest!


1968 U.S. Marine graduate of Viet Nam
Posted: 8:44 pm on December 3rd

Cadabra Cadabra writes: The boatload of smart thinkers on this topic left the dock and Blueheron910 was still asleep on the shore!

If anyone thinks that wimpy rules for the construction industry will be taken seriously, let alone implemented, or that employers are going to invest in breakthrough technology that effectively deals with this risk, they need to stop using whatever mind-altering drugs they are on!

C'mon folks! A broadly worded safety standard that cannot be "gamed" yet is not a straight-jacket for saw manufacturers is all that's needed. Let them meet the requirement any way they choose, but make the requirement an unambiguous and effective deterrent to the amputations and maimings that are still commonplace today. is very much like airbags and seat belts, and safety glass, and on, and on, and on..........

That's the wake up call for Blueheron910.

Posted: 3:47 pm on December 3rd

Cadabra Cadabra writes: I think Mark Ferraro's admonitions to FW are appropriate. FW should not stray far from its mission in woodwork. If it chooses to take a position, it should merely be on the side of advancing the state of the art (new technology, new techniques, new materials, better skils, etc.) and certainly on the side of the safety and well being of practitioners. Say it, publish it and move on!

Please keep your nose out of the moral/ethical aspects of public litigation, government laws and business interests unless you are willing to put your neck on the line for a legislated industry standard that is the result of an overwhelming amount of user participation, support and interest. Neither of those are in play at present.

Unfortunately it seems that Americans have developed a disdain, if not some actual hatred, for government leadership, oversight and guidance. Too bad, because so much is to be gained by everyone when it is done well.

Each year over 30,000 maimed woodworkers become converts. A number of millions of 'resistors' take their graves, and a newly-minted crop (hundreds of thousands)of young woodworkers add their support to a quantum leap forward in safety technology. Duh..........wake up!

It is simply a matter of time.
Posted: 3:26 pm on December 3rd

Blueheron910 Blueheron910 writes: I am not in favor of a law that requires table saw manufacturers to install finger saving technology on their saws. In my opinion, from what I've read, the user of the table saw was 100% responsible for the accident.

The insurance company's law team went after Ryobi and Home Depot because they were easy targets with deep pockets. It was all about the money and reimbursing Osario's insurers. The lawyers would not have won the case if Saw Stop's technology didn't exist. The lawsuit used Saw Stop as an example simply because it helped their argument.

However, I think employers need to take more responsibility for worker safety by buying better and safer equipment and providing better training. I believe that if Osario's employer had done this, it might have prevented an accident. If a new law has to be made, it should be a law requiring employers in the construction industry to give this sort of training on a regular basis.
Posted: 2:10 pm on December 3rd

RussQ RussQ writes: To add to my previous post, the sawstop technology is a wonderful thing. If a person can afford it, they can buy it. However, it should not be mandated like seatbelts. What about all the other dangerous tools like a lathe grabbing your shirt and pulling you into it? Or a tablesaw, or a jointer? The list is almost endless. Its about personal responsibilty and personal accountability. I am sorry for those injured by power tools, but be honest, you were using them in an unsafe manner(no guards, guides, and/or tired or angry). Maybe you should not step out of the house; oh wait, you could still be electrocuted or fall down the stairs. Then you can sue the electrician who wired your house, the power company the carpenter, the contractor who built the house and God for letting it happen. You cannot protect an idiot from himself, he's too creative.
And finally, you cannot prevent an accident, which by definition, is not preventable.
Posted: 1:29 pm on December 3rd

RussQ RussQ writes: If anyone has been injured on a non-sawstop table saw, it was their fault, or the fault of their instructor/employer, 100%. I have been outraged by the Osario decision because it held the individual almost totally not responsible and the employer totally not responsible. Where has personal accountability gone in the legal system. A woman buys a cup of coffee at a takeout, puts it between her legs and drives away resulting in the spilling of the coffee and burning of her body. Did the coffee maker hold a gun to her head and tell her to put the hot coffee between her legs and drive? No. Why are they responsible for her stupidity? Why is the saw manufacturer responsible for others stupidity and negligence? You cannot protect idiots from themselves, they're too creative. I can hardly wait until one hurts himself on a sawstop and sues them!
Posted: 1:12 pm on December 3rd

Northerner26 Northerner26 writes: There is a lot of good points from most everyone here and i agree with what wbillmc said about how dangerous cigarettes are and the only thing the govt did was put a warning label on them, and the same thing should be done with SawStop.
Why isn't there blade stopping technology on Bic shavers to keep them from nicking me and spewing blood everywhere!

The Osorio lawsuit is the dumbest damn thing i ever heard of, well, i take that back; that stupid old hag that put the hot coffee in a Styrofoam cup between her legs and sued McDonalds when the cup collapsed and burned her is the biggest stupid ass thing ever.
But anyone using a saw with all the safety equipment removed is a moron and deserves nothing but instead won millions for his ignorance!

SawStop technology is one amazing invention but should be a persons choice to own it and not mandatory.
Posted: 12:47 pm on December 3rd

skillernkr skillernkr writes: I am not in favor of government mandates. I have a Bosch 4000 and have had zero problems with it, and as said earlier, except for cross cuts, the safety devices stay attached. Job site safety is everyone's responsibility. Learning how to use a tool properly is everyone's responsibility. Supervisors need to be aware of their worker's capabilities and step in if they see something unsafe. If a worker is unsure of how to use a tool, ask for assistance or get some training on your own time!

Insurance companies sue everyone when their clients do stupid things and hurt themselves. Of course insurance companies want to keep your premiums by having all their clients live in a padded room with zero risk of injury.

The government should not be involved with every aspect of our lives. Guidelines and standards are OK. Mandatory rules and laws are not conducive to a free society; by nature they restrict it. Let us be free to decide which innovations and tools to use.
Posted: 12:47 pm on December 3rd

Lanier Lanier writes: In answer to MarkFerraro's question, "Why are injured users of these products entitled to medical care subsidized by my tax dollars?" It is for the same reason that motorcycle riders who don't wear helmets (not to mention bike & motorcycle riders, as well as car drivers who do stupid things, ladder & lawnmower users who do stupid things, and so on) get medical care that is subsidized by your and my tax and insurance dollars.

I paid up and bought a SawStop contractor saw outfitted with the Professional fence and cast iron wings. That was a personal decision, based on my assessment of the risks involved with a table saw and my ability to pay the price of the SawStop. It cost over three times the current cost of my first table saw, a similarly equiped hybrid model. The SawStop is more solidly built, but is inferior to the much less expensive saw in dust collection. I feel I paid a big premium for the safety feature, which Stephen Gass says can be added to a saw for $100.

Is the technology foolproof? There will always be a more clever fool who can negate the safety features. A few months after I bought the SawStop the brake mechanism developed an electronic fault, though it did fail safe. I called SawStop and they sent a new cartridge promptly. Would some woodworkers have simply bypassed the safety system and kept working until the new cartridge arrived? Should we then penalize them by not covering their injuries with medical insurance?

I predict that if this standard is put in place that the demand and cost of used table saws without it will jump. Should we then not subsidize the medical costs of those who buy those saws and subsequently become injured?

These are all very interesting aspects to this issue. The answers are not easy.
Posted: 12:42 pm on December 3rd

WyomingWood WyomingWood writes: What it all boils down to, Osorio was injured because the safety equipment on the saw he was using was removed (bypassed). The SawStop safety equipment can also be bypassed. So the SawStop is no safer than any other saw that has its safety equipment bypassed. All that will happen if SawStop technology is mandated is that Stephen Gass will get very rich, and consumers will get poorer, as usual. If Stephen Gass was really as concerned about everyones safety as he says he is, he'd give the technology away for free.
Posted: 12:00 pm on December 3rd

wbillmc wbillmc writes: There is a far more deadly device out there that the government has spent billions and the product manufactures have spent 100s of billions on injury lawsuit - cigarettes/tobacco! After all of this the government decided that the best solution was to inform, educate and warn the public. Every one of these products has to carry a warning label.

Table saws (and routers, ...) should come with big warning labels etched into their surfaces - "Do not use this tool unless you have been properly trained and are using proper safety techniques!".

If the government insist that it has time to focus on these lesser issues, then it should be to give the industry a time table to come up with their own safety solutions that meet reasonable guidelines. There should never be a discussion that suggest that the "SawStop" technology is the only/right solution. I do not support any solution that is so destructive and expensive, because it will be disabled 99% of the time after the first lose of blades and monies.

I wonder how many members of this Congressional committee have invested in SawStop. Yes I think our government has lost focus on its purpose and largely corrupt, but my arguments stand independent of that.
Posted: 11:22 am on December 3rd

pippy11 pippy11 writes: "Fine have made a deal with the devil and you will suffer for you cowardice". Simply for questioning the need or motivation for regulation?


Another example of the overwrought proponents of sawstop.

I consider myself a pro-government liberal in favor of "most" safety regulations-- I think the sawstop may be my next big purchase. But comments like these are just nuts. And it makes me think twice about the hardsell of the sawstop.

(Also the all caps comments linking sawstop with a rightwing critique of the President "another Obamacard mandate" are over the top"-- but what can you expect...)
Posted: 10:10 am on December 3rd

MarkFerraro MarkFerraro writes: I wonder how many of your readers that are "small government" fanatics have removed the safety features from their cars? Seat belts? Government mandate. Air bags? Government mandate. Padded dashboards and energy absorbing/flexing steering wheels? Government mandate. Safety glass? Government mandate.

Fine Woodworking has to get out of the nonsense business and get back into woodworking. Your argument is that cheap, dangerous table saws are essential to woodworking. That is baloney and you know it. The only conclusion I can arrive at is that you are more afraid of losing advertising dollars than you are speaking out for truth. You have made a deal with the devil and you will suffer for your cowardice.

Today's cheap contractor saws available in big box stores are not much better than the practice of bolting a circular saw to a milk crate and using that as a contractor saw. To claim that companies have a God given right to sell dangerous tools and that Americans have a constitutional right to buy them is horse hockey. For such fierce beliefs, why do these companies enjoy tax deductions? Why are injured users of these products entitled to medical care subsidized by my tax dollars.

Your argument so far is to socialize losses but privatize profits. You support such activity with an eye on your advertising budget, not what is the ultimate goal of fine woodworking.

The sales figures for European and SawStop power tools gives us some hints as to the demand for safer, better performing tools. If given a choice, most employees would like to have a safer machine to use. Unfortunately, they don't always have the option to make that decision. Should employees be forced to use inferior tools? Hobbyists - I have no problem if you want to cut off your fingers or hand or be speared by a kickback. But employees? That just isn't right.
Posted: 9:34 am on December 3rd

RicSmith RicSmith writes: I think it's time for the government to get out of business. READ THE CONSTITUTION! Nowhere does it say the government is responsible for product safety. What ever happened to PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY??? I have nothing against SawStop technology. But it's not the government's job to tell the private citizen what what he has to buy. Sounds like another Obamacare mandate!
Posted: 8:56 am on December 3rd

pippy11 pippy11 writes: I use tablesaw alot. Am always aware of safety. Have and ALWAYS use splitter/riving knife (except when using crosscut sled). But I realize that being tired etc can lead to accidents among the most careful. Am thinking of buying a sawstop.

But don't like the patent; governmental regulation strategy of sawstop. Don't like the proselytizing and aggressive tone of the sawstop proponents. And I know after a couple of false trips due to wet wood or whatever, and the loss of a $100 forrest blade and $65 sawstop brake, that I am less likely to use the sawstop.

Any comments on the whirlwind?

From video it stops blade without losing a brake and without destroying a blade. It can be mounted on any tool. But is it another safety contraption that will not be used? Where does this fit in with the impending new regulations. Does it work? Looks like ripping might be difficult.... but
maybe not?

Posted: 8:53 am on December 3rd

Ian81 Ian81 writes: Amen Finefurnituremaster.
Posted: 8:47 am on December 3rd

scooteruk scooteruk writes: Well at least we know who butters Mr. McKenna's toast in the morning.Is FWW a wholly owned subsidiary of PTI? Don't bother going to the PTI site to read there 'rationale' for opposing the 'mandatory' option-it all in McKenna's article.

What is most disappointing about FWW's/PTI's position is that it is the same lame lobby ploy used by pharma companies: If you are going to regulate us and cut into our profits, we are going to leave the market and then you'll be sorry! The PTI controls 85% of the market! Do you think they do it because they are dedicated stewards of woodworking? No! They are in the business of maximizing their profits at all costs. Do you really think they will walk away from this market? No, they won't. Business decisions, not woodworking/personal responsibility factors drove every decision made by Ryobi and the others. They will adjust as the market demands and any CPSC ruling will get factored in. I also note the FWW/PTI keep talking about the increase of cost...what would it be? Who would it price out? Saw Stop is currently thriving by making and charging for this technology. Someone is obviously willing to pay for it-the technology must make good personal and business sense to a number of people.
FWW has turned into little more than a shill for it's advertisers...not that this should be surprising. There was a time when 'buy American' was highly touted. Now that all the players have had a chance to catch their breath and get back on the gravy train by moving overseas, well, nary a word from FWW. If PTI controls 85% of the power tool market I can only imagine what percentage of FWW's ad revenues come from them.
Posted: 8:47 am on December 3rd

Finefurnituremaster Finefurnituremaster writes: A couple of comments:
First, the Osorio lawsuit is just the precipitant here. Stupid employer, who should have been held accountable, untrained person operating the saw - although remember, he had worked for them for a while. He was not a first month on the job newbie. Ryobi also had first crack at the Sawstop technology, so they are in a uniquely vulnerable.

Second, the CPSC. Their call is that the cost to society is too much to have tablesaws without Sawstop-type technology now that it is available. The benefits to society at large far outweigh the costs, like seatbelts. If everyone is required to have one on their saws, then new designs will be developed over time, some probably better than sawstop, but certainly this is a good place to start.

It does not stop employers from not training their employees, and it does not stop injuries, but the benefit to society is enormous. And don't feel sorry for the manufacturers - they will still get their profit percentage on a more expensive machine. And there will still be some low-cost manufacturer who puts out a low cost machine.
Posted: 6:29 am on December 3rd

THW THW writes: Like some others, I am a bit disappointed in the logic of FWW's coverage of this issue. For instance,Tom McKenna writes in the article above that "There’s no license required for using a tablesaw, but with a bit of know-how and attentiveness, and some kind of splitter behind the blade, the tool can be used safely." The issue is not, of course, whether a tool CAN be used safely, but whether the design makes it easy and likely that it WILL be used safely and that the damage done by unsafe use will not be out of proportion to the ease of using it that way.

McKenna's statement is simply a more judicious-sounding version of the argument we see in a lot of these discussions, which implies that only stupid or ignorant users are injured. I have used a table saw without injury for more than forty years, but I've bought a SawStop saw. I know several people who have injured themselves on table saws: none of them was stupid or inexperienced. All of them use a table saw much more than I do. Each of them was a bit tired, or a bit hurried, or a bit frustrated and feels in retrospect that he or she "should have known better."

But if you work for a living, there will be times when you are working a bit tired or a bit hurried or a bit frustrated, and you can't always afford just to stop. What matters then is not whether the saw CAN be used safely, but whether the penalty for a moment of carelessness is a mangled hand or an amputation and thousands or tens of thousands of medical bills and possible loss of the ability to work, either for a while or forever. These are euphemistically called "blade contact" injuries, but blade contact injuries are what you would get with a SawStop (or equivalent technology): a little nick you can treat with a Band-Aid. Injuries from most table saws are far worse than "contact": hands and fingers are cut into or cut off.
Posted: 4:57 am on December 3rd

timbit2006 timbit2006 writes: The Osorio lawsuit is complete bullshit. The guy didn't bother to learn how to properly use the tool. It's his fault his left hand got mangled. It is also the employers fault as he has to provide proper training.
Had this lawsuit been in Canada, the employer would've had to pay.

On the topic of flesh-sensing technology being mandatory, I think it will completely ruin the tool industry. The technology is unnecesary, pay attention and you wont get hurt. Also make sure the saw is set up properly. I'm assuming at least half the people with a table saw are not using it correctly.
Posted: 4:57 am on December 3rd

beem beem writes: "So why didn't companies add SawStop in 2001/2002? The individual manufacturers I contacted were tight-lipped about it all, citing pending litigation. However, the PTI has a lot to say about the topic. Their first argument has to do with the injury statistics presented by the CPSC."

That is the key question and the answer continues to allude us; I suspect it will for quite some time. But what exactly is the "topic" that the PTI is so eager to talk about, and where is the (first) argument? Questioning the scope of the NEISS injury statistics certainly has nothing to do with why the power tool industry failed to adopt this technology a decade ago.

"Do the numbers tell the whole story?"

Or, are we getting the best account of the numbers? As reported in the CPSC's ANPR (p.8):

"According to PTI, estimated annual shipments of table saws have fluctuated widely in recent years. In 2006 and 2007, estimated shipments were 800,000 to 850,000 units. However, estimated shipments declined to 650,000 in 2008, 589,000 in 2009, and 429,000 in 2010."

"CPSC staff also obtained information from PTI regarding the expected useful life estimates for different categories of table saws, ranging from 6 years for an inexpensive bench saw, to 17 years for a contractor saw, to 24 years for an expensive cabinet saw. Based on these expected product lives and sales data for the different types of saws, PTI estimated the number of table saws in use at 8.0 million in 2001/2002, and 9.5 million in 2007/2008. CPSC staff believes that this estimate is generally consistent with independent estimates of table saws in use, based upon product population estimates using the CPSC’s Product Population Model (“PPM”). The PPM is used by CPSC staff to estimate the number of products in use, given sales estimates and information on expected product life. Assuming an average retail price of $500 per table saw, and average annual shipments of about 700,000 units, CPSC staff believes that annual retail sales may be in the range of $300 to $400 million."

"CPSC staff also reviewed tariff and trade data from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission, which showed that China and Taiwan together account for more than $150 million dollars in annual imports. Allowing for markups of table saws at the manufacturer/private labeler level and the retail level, CPSC staff found that imports may account for a majority of the estimated $300 million to $400 million in shipments estimated. According to CPSC staff, exports from the United States appear to be minimal, less than $1 million annually."

The above is just a thumbnail sketch of the detail contained in the 222 page ANPR document. The CPSC has devoted years of work on this issue and produced a very thorough, balanced, and methodology sound study. Unfortunately, most people have neither the inclination nor patience to read through it to find out for themselves what the report contains.
Posted: 4:15 pm on December 2nd

DrBob4390 DrBob4390 writes: It still amazes me that our courts upheld a ruling against the manufacturer of a piece of equipment on which the owner (the flooring company) and immediate supervisor of the injured individual allowed the machine to be used on which the included safety devices had been purposefully removed, didn't rule against the flooring company or its employees and only held the injured individual 35% responsible.

It is unfortunate that we have become a society that litigates to reward individual stupidity and total disregard for manufacturer supplied safety procedures and equipment.

By the Bye, is the blade guard removable on the SawStop saws? Does the zero clearance insert have a built in riving knife on a SawStop? What about the anti-kickback pauls...are they not part of the blade guard assembly? Will Stephen Gass be held responsible because some idiot removed the blade guard and got hit because he improperly pinched a board between the moving blade and the rip fence?

It has all escallated as a result of McDonalds being held responsible for serving HOT Coffee! As it has always been "Stupid is as Stupid does"!!!
Posted: 9:37 pm on December 1st

RalphBarker RalphBarker writes: If flesh-sensing technology is mandated to be added to table saws, what about bagel slicers and kitchen knives, where injuries are far more common. Then, there is the pocket knife, the chisel, etc. The mind boggles when one considers the Law of Unintended Consequences.

In the final analysis, the mouths of politicians are far more dangerous than table saws. Table saws don't start wars or impose taxes.
Posted: 12:43 pm on December 1st

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