WASHINGTON - In 2015, table saws accounted for more than 4,000 amputations – 11 a day – and 33,400 emergency room visits. A newly proposed standard from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) would eliminate virtually all table saw injuries.
The National Consumers League (NCL) joined 22-year-old table saw injury victim, Josh Ward, who severed four fingers on a table saw at age 17 in shop class, and other witnesses at a CPSC hearing Wednesday, August 9.
“Table saws have a demonstrated pattern of injury affecting thousands of victims and costing society billions of dollars every year,” said NCL in comments filed with the CPSC.
Comment deadline near for table saw rules
Time is running out for comments on a proposed rule by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require SawStop-style safety systems on all table saws sold in the U.S.
“We can end table saw injuries forever using affordable, available technology so why wouldn’t we do that?” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of NCL, who offered testimony before the Commission. “Why should Josh Ward – at the age of 17 – have had to suffer life-altering injuries, lifelong pain and risk of infection, and have his dreams of becoming a firefighter destroyed when we could have completely prevented his injury?”
Greenberg noted that today’s technology, which protects users through a sensor that can distinguish between wood and a finger, prevents the blade from inflicting serious injury. Makers of the SawStop saw, which includes flesh-sensing safety technology, have recorded over 5,000 "finger-saving" incidents.
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.”
The hearing took place before the five members of the CPSC on August 9. The Commission is considering this mandatory safety standard for table saws. SawStop’s inventor, Dr. Steven Gass, also testified. Industry witnesses all opposed the CPSC’s proposal, citing cost and other issues.