Legislators introduce bill to postpone saw safety rule

Legislation that aims to block a Consumer Product Safety Commission ruling requiring active injury mitigation (AIM) technology for table saws was introduced May 1.

Photo By SawStop


WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill has been introduced in Congress that would prevent a proposed Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) rule on saw safety claiming the rule would lead to a monopoly on table saws with finger-detection technology.

In November 2023, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced it was working on a proposed rule to require active injury mitigation (AIM) technology for table saws. The CPSC's proposed rule would require the finger-detection technology in home table saws within three years. The original story has been updated to clarify that the agency does not have jurisdiction over industrial table saws. 

Tualatin, Oregon-based SawStop released the technology in 2004. It holds the patents on the technology that senses when a hand touches a blade and stops it from spinning. The AIM system works by sending a small electrical charge through the blade, which changes when skin touches it because the human body is conductive.

SawStop holds, or held as many of its patents have expired and the company has pledged to release to the public one current patent, more than 100 patents related to the AIM technology. 

The proposed rule has drawn criticism from groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers that said it would double the cost of table saws and "harm manufacturing in the U.S."

These thoughts are echoed in bipartisan legislation brought by representatives Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Wash., and Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., who introduced a bill on May 1 called the Preserving Woodworking Traditions and Blocking Government-Mandated Monopolies Act.

The legislation, the Congress people said, would help maintain access to lower-cost table saws and prevent a monopoly on table saws with finger-detection technology.

The company patented the technology, and it can only be found in SawStop table saws, which are several hundred dollars more expensive and have higher replacement costs than a regular table saw, so they can be cost-prohibitive to hobbyist woodworkers and small construction crews and businesses.

The Representatives said that while the company has pledged to unlock the patent on the effective date of the rule if it is finalized, they have sued competitors who have developed similar technologies. Prior to that date, other manufacturers could face lawsuits if they began research and development on table saws with finger detection.

In fact, other companies that developed competing technologies have been sued by SawStop. In 2015, SawStop filed complaints at the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court in Oregon against Robert Bosch GmbH of Germany and its U.S. subsidiary Robert Bosch Tool Corporation to stop what it sees as infringement of SawStop’s patented inventions. The courts ruled in favor of SawStop in that instance, and in 2017 the ITC ordered the ban on importing Bosch's technology.

"As a result, SawStop," the bill's authors said, "would be the only saw on the market on the effective date, and it could take years for competitors to develop table saws that implement finger-detection technology. This would effectively result in a government-mandated monopoly – and it could result in the use of lower-cost circular saws and plywood as makeshift table saws, which can be more hazardous than utilizing a dedicated tool."

The legislation would prohibit the CPSC from implementing a rule related to the proposed table saw rule until at least 5 years after the relevant patents have been dedicated to the public or expired.

“When our federal government considers safety regulations, it’s critical it does so in a way that doesn’t raise costs, limit choice, or lead folks to seek out alternative solutions that are potentially more hazardous,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s proposed mandate on finger-detection technology could create a monopoly and price out small woodworkers and tradespeople in rural communities like mine. I’m introducing this bipartisan legislation to ensure other saw manufacturers have time to catch up and bring lower-priced finger-detection technology to market before any restriction could take effect.”

“While I believe finger-detection technology is a great safety implementation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) cannot force the market to adopt a technology that is under patent,” said Rep. Duncan. “While the patent is in place, no company can begin implementing the safety technology without being sued by the patent holder. I’m proud to join Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez in delivering a solution that strikes a balance between safety and stopping the development of a monopoly by a patent holder – ensuring that Americans can choose from reasonably priced products.”

Full text of the bill is available here.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify that per the Consumer Product Safety Act, the CPSC does not have jurisdiction over industrial table saws. This issue is raised in the Federal Register notice for the rule. According to the notice, "The CPSA does not give the commission authority to regulate the use of table saws in industrial settings, to license patents, or to control the cost of products."  


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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).