Time is running out for comments on a proprosed rule by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require SawStop-style safety systems on all table saws sold in the U.S. The deadline for comments is July 26.

SawStop company officials originally petitioned the CPSC in 2003 to seek requirement of their safety technology on all table saws sold in the country. SawStop offers a patented system that senses flesh contact with the blade, drops the blade below the table and rams a block of aluminum into the blade to stop its motion instantly.

The CPSC proposed rule documentation mentions SawStop specifically, but the rule itself is a more generic specification: “The Commission is now issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) to address an unreasonable risk of blade-contact injuries associated with table saws that would limit the depth of cut to 3.5 mm or less when a test probe, acting as surrogate for a human body/finger, contacts the spinning blade at a radial approach rate of 1 meter per second (m/s).”

A consortium of power tool manufacturers against the ruling, the Power Tool Institute, has issued a statement in opposition to the proposed rules. “The proposed rule requiring ‘active injury mitigation’ technology on all table saws could more than double the costs of the average table saw. Because the requirement would drive the costs too high for many consumers, small manufacturers may go out of business while larger manufacturers may exit the table saw market, reducing consumer choice and causing job losses throughout the country.”

PTI set up a website to make it easier for consumers to comment on the proposed rules. The website is located at www.powertoolinstitute.net. You can also comment directly at the CPSC site at www.regulations.gov, citing the Docket No. CPSC-2011-0074.

According to CPSC, in 2015, there were an estimated 33,400 table saw, emergency department-treated injuries. Of those, CPSC staff estimated that 92 percent involved blade contact.

However, opponents have characterized the proposed rule as an attempt to create a monopoly in table saw sales and manufacturing, resulting in higher prices and limited product choice for consumers and businesses.

“The company behind the campaign to force consumers to pay more for table saws is SawStop, previously owned by patent attorney Stephen Gass, and recently acquired by TTS Tooltechnic Systems,” said a statement from PTI. “Mr. Gass holds an extensive network of over 100 U.S. patents (with more than 140 patent applications filed). Mr. Gass has represented that SawStop's patent web would be infringed by any alternative flesh detection technology, including technologies developed by PTI member companies. Since Mr. Gass introduced his SawStop technology in 2000, no manufacturer has been successful in licensing it. Therefore, should CPSC adopt a mandatory rule, the agency could be creating a monopolistic advantage in the marketplace, generating millions of dollars for Mr. Gass, while leaving consumers out to dry.”

SawStop, a company founded by patent attorneys, has vigorously defended its patents, most recently successfully blocking the importation of Bosch’s Reaxx saw through filings before the U.S. International Trade Commission. The Reaxx saw uses flesh-sensing technology to drop the blade below the table using a gas cartridge system that does not destroy the blade.

Griggio, an Italian maker of table saws, showed a professional-grade sliding table saw with injury mitigation technology at the Ligna trade show in Germany in May. Griggio officials said the saw uses licensed SawStop technology and expressed optimism that the saw would be available in the United States later this year, but they were still waiting for final approval from SawStop.

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