California Drops Table Saw Safety Rule Back in CPSC's Court

By Rich Christianson | Posted: 09/21/2012 9:22AM

 

What happened to the much-ballyhooed California Table Saw Safety Act?

How could it cruise through the state’s Assembly by a crushing 64-4 vote, pass committee muster to move to the Senate, only to be ignored to its death by California senators?

Why is it that none of the three Democrats on the committee that sent the bill to the Senate not even bring it up for discussion on the floor? 

The Los Angeles Times reported back in July that Oregonian Stephen Gass, inventor of the SawStop , which is at the center of this and CPSC table saw safety rule controversy, doled out $46,500 to 21 Democrats and six Republican California Assemblymen, plus hired a lobbyist to promote the bill's passage. The bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), reportedly netted a $2,500 contribution from Gass.

William's bill, AB 2218, The Table Saw Safety Act, would have required "all new table saws manufactured for sale in California after January 1, 2015, to be equipped with a safety device that substantially mitigates injury when human skin comes close to, or in contact with the blade."

After Williams helped push AB 2218, the Table Saw Safety Act, through the assembly in May, the measure passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 3-2 partisan vote and headed to the Senate for a much anticipated vote in August.

But things didn't work out that way. The bill never came up for a vote and died when the Senate adjourned its session at the end of August. Not only that, it never came up for up for debate.

Why is that? Could it be that the strong rallying opposition mounted by big box retailers Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears. plus the Power Tool Institute, California Chamber of Commerce and others after the Assembly vote gave California senators reason to pause? Hmm...

Wiliams said he could and might revisit his bill next year.

For his part, Gass told the LA Times that he remained more concerned about preventing painful and costly table saw-related accidents than in profiting from a table saw safety mandate. "I think there's still obviously a significant need for a change in the status quo. Table saws are maiming people every day," he said.

While Williams or some other California legislator could resurrect the Table Saw Safety Act, for now, all attention moves back to Washington where  the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's table saw safety proposal is slowly winding through the regulatory promulgation process.

The CPSC has not given a time table for when the new rule will be completed, let alone an implementation date. It also hasn’t said that the SawStop will be the only device in town to meet the new standard, but that a “flesh detection device” would likely be a key provision.

Woodworking Network and its readers have followed the table saw safety saga closely since the concept began taking lakes at the CPSC four years ago. Along the way we have had more than a dozen updates, plus staff blogs and guest blogs from the Power Tool Institute and Gass himself. We have also received dozens of comments from readers to these blogs and news postings.

We've been following this issue closely for nearly three years and are ready to continue doing so even if the saga takes another three years or more to conclude.

Your comments, as always, are welcome.

More Woodworking Network Table Saw Safety Blogs

Table Saw Operators: What Not to Wear 7-20-12

Table Saw Controversy Coming to a Head 7-13-12

Got an Opinion on Table Saw Safety? Tell the CPSC 2-24-12

SawStop Inventor Weighs in on Table Saw Safety Rule 1-25-12

Table Saw Operators: Time to Make Your Voices Heard 1-16-12

Table Saw Safety: How Safe Is Safe Enough? 9-30-12

Air Bafs on Skateboards? 5-18-10

What Price Table Saw Safety? 3-16-10

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About the Author

Rich Christianson

Rich Christianson is Associate Publisher and Editor at Large of Woodworking Network. During his 25+ years covering the wood products industry, Rich has toured hundreds of manufacturing plants throughout North America, Europe and Asia. His reporting has covered everything from the state of the industry and impact of wood imports to technology and environmental issues. In his current capacity he is responsible for editing the daily Woodworking Network Update newsletter and coordinating events including the annual Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and Canada’s biennial Woodworking Machinery & Supply Expo. He can be contacted at rchristianson@woodworkingnetwork.com or follow him on Google+.

Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.


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