Table saw safety is not only on the radar of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, it is on the minds of Woodworking Network readers.
The article I posted on September 26, “CPSC revisits table saw safety proposal,” has drawn 20 comments and counting from across the nation and Canada. In a nutshell, the article noted that CPSC commissioners are enamored by the SawStop technology’s ability to stop a whirring saw blade within an instant of coming into contact with human flesh. The CPSC reasons that requiring such technology on all table saws and bench top saws could greatly help decrease the potential of saw operators losing a finger or worse. CPSC estimates that about 3,500 amputation injuries occur on bench top and table saws each year.
The Power Tool Institute has voiced strong opposition about the possibility of the CPSC mandating electronic braking systems. Its arguments include:
* SawStop, by virtue of its patents, has a monopoly on the technology;
* Such a technology would greatly increase the cost of saws, especially bench top models;
* The table saw industry has developed a more effective blade guarding system that has greatly reduced injuries; and
* SawStop does not guard against kick back injuries.
Several of the readers say they own SawStop table saws and several others suggested that they plan to purchase a SawStop the next time they buy a table saw. But even few of these advocates, though encouraging others to consider the safety of their employees and themselves, seem to favor the CPSC mandating that such a technology be required.
Following is a smattering of the dialogue taking place on Woodworking Network. You can view the article, full text of each commenter and the comments of others by clicking here. You also can enter the discussion by positing your own opinion.
Shawn of Michigan: “While I am not one for having the government intervene in private business matters (having experienced the "thrill" of OSHA take a tour of my shop) it concerns me that saw manufacturers aren't jumping all over this technology, seeming more interested in keeping saw prices low than in keeping their clients safe… As a professional woodworker (and one who needs to replace my table saw) I would *gladly* purchase a saw that incorporated this technology, especially if it only added $300 to the price of my saw.”
Mike of Vermont: “It is my intent to replace my several saws with SawStop, but that cost isn't merely $300 when you are already equipped. I have good equipment, bought to last a generation or more… If this whole thing prevented most table saw injuries I would jump quicker too. However, with 40 man-years of experience on table saws in our company, no consequential blade contact wounds but several ripping kickbacks of varying degrees of hurt. We mandate guards and ultimately have to build custom ones for each operation. Amputations are scary but the cost of preventing one isn't $300. It is $300 (or much more) divided by the rate of incidence, since the occurrence remains rare. This is all about tradeoffs which is part of every decision in life…”
Scott of Texas: As a professional woodworker with a custom cabinet shop I have changed all my saws to SawStops. The cost of a single employee making a trip to the ER makes it a no brainer. As it stands now I will not buy any other saw other than a SawStop. That is not to say that their saws fit all my applications, I would love to buy another brand whose saw fit my operations better. I.e. a true sliding table saw… I am not keen on government sticking its nose even further into matters that it does not NEED to be in. If you buy a saw without SawStop protection and you subsequently lose a finger or four, sorry, tough luck. You made a choice in your purchase. I do think that the other manufacturers should offer equipment with this as an option. (But I am sure their lawyers have a LOT to say about it.)”
Brad of Tennessee: “The government cannot legislate out stupidity. If you operate a saw, or anything for that matter, without the safety devises installed properly, you get exactly what you deserve.”
Dan H. of Pennsylvania: “I think everybody's initial reaction is reasonable. Nobody likes the thought of losing a finger, or worse having an employee loose a finger or worse when the technology is there to prevent it. Asking the Government to step in though and mandate a single manufacturer’s technology isn't right either.”
Ed of Colorado: “The article seems to be very good at addressing the ‘painful’ facts of using this safety device for manufacturers, the additional cost of bringing the safety feature to the market place and the that it will raise the price of table saws for the consumer. What I don’t see referenced is the equally “painful” facts and cost associated with the injuries such as medical, workers compensation insurance, disability insurance, product liability insurance and the legal suits/cost of manufacturers, employers and victims. Surely there is a balance in there somewhere that will benefit everyone without government intervention screwing this up as well.”
Dan Levin of Burbank, CA: “THIS IS NUTS! I have been using a table saw for more than 30 years, and aside from a few kickbacks, I've been very lucky to avoid any serious injuries. I still have all of my fingers, thanks to self-imposed rules that I adhere to religiously. I NEVER work when I am tired or angry or with any other condition that obstructs my attention to what I'm doing… I currently do not own a table saw, but when I purchase my next one, you can bet that it will have the SawStop technology included!”
Bob Fain of Flagstaff, AZ: “It's not the tool that does the damage; it's the fool using the tool. Those accidents I have been exposed to in the past 35 years could easily have been avoided with even some minor training. Maybe, as a prerequisite, a buyer of a table saw must show competence in using the tool in the first place before it's sold to them.”
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