What Are Your Feelings On Mandatory Flesh Sensing Technology On Tablesaws?
In FWW #224 there’s an article titled, “Tablesaws Under Siege.” It’s an interesting and informative article.
The idea that government regulations might one day require flesh sensing technology on all tablesaws left me somewhat conflicted. On the safety end of things, I think it’s great something like that is now available and anyone wishing to buy a new tablesaw can purchase one with that technology. But when it comes to making it mandatory, I’m having a problem with that.
I got my start in woodworking over 30 years ago when I went to the hardware store and bought a Black & Decker 8″ portable table saw. It was probably something like $69 and pretty basic. But it was a start. Prior to that, if I wanted to cut wood I’d use my Craftsman 7″ circular saw and the cuts it made convinced me working on anything fancier than construction grade lumber would be a waste of good wood. With that little B&D I made a teak bowsprit for my dad’s boat. And it held up for 15 years. And I took great pride in it.
Today a tablesaw like that might cost around $150. In the article, they used the Ryobi BTS 15, priced at $179, and then said with Saw Stop technology the price would jump to over $500. Would I have bought that B&D for 3-4 times the price back then? I doubt it. And I probably would have never developed the interest in woodworking that today gives me so much joy.
That’s just one argument against mandatory regulations. There are plenty more. Like the fact the injury reporting for tablesaw accidents does not factor in the newer technology now in use, such as riving knives. No one knows how much that has impacted safety. But we do know that there are more tablesaws in use today than ever, but the number of injuries has stayed about the same. So it is getting safer.
In the article I learned the inventor is a lawyer. And he has certainly used his primary profession to ensure he will profit nicely from his invention. And he should. But by how much? Should the average consumer have to pay an extra $350 or so for the purchase of the saw and another $100-$200 for new parts and blades each time the stop activates? How many consumers have that kind of money? How many consumers would be priced out of the market?
Mr. Gass, the inventor, seems to have his patents locked up so tight no one can come even close to making a safe stop on a tablesaw without the possibility of a lawsuit. So all manufacturers would have to use his technology. That takes out the element of competition. All improvements made will have to be made by him or authorized by him. Delta, DeWalt, Skil, Ryobi, and all the other manufacturers will be unable to use their own R&D to improve the technology. Imagine what the element of competition would do to creating an even better way to stop injuries. And I’m sure they would keep the price to a minimum.
According to the article, he is asking for royalties that increase as the usage of the technology increases. Kind of like double dipping. And he has pushed for legislation to pass laws requiring every tablesaw to have his technology. The manufacturers will pass that along to the distributors and they will pass it along to the consumers, us. All with their added markup too. So Mr. Gass will earn his millions on our backs.
The idea that any new invention, that has no competition and no way any will ever be created, will be made mandatory by a government agency offends me. Competition is our friend. It creates better products, better technology, better safety and at better prices. Until competition enters into the equation, any talk of “mandatory” should not be considered.