Editor's note: Woodworking Network posted a Guest Blog on Jan. 16, in which Susan Young, executive manager of the Power Tool Insitute, discussed PTI's concerns with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's plans to develop a table saw safety rule. Following is a rebuttal authored by Stephen Gass, president of SawStop LLC.
Table saws are the most dangerous product in the shop. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), table saws are responsible for over 67,000 medically treated injuries every year at a cost to society of over $2.3 billion. To put that number in perspective, the total retail market for table saws in the U.S. is probably less that $300 million. In other words table saws impose a cost on society of almost 10 times their purchase price.
The Power Tool Institute (PTI), in their opposition to making table saws safer, argues that they only know of one accident on a saw with their new-style blade guard. Unfortunately, this statement is misleading at best. The PTI has also asserted that they only know of 70 accidents happening per year on their saws. In reality the PTI’s number is about 1,000(!) times less than what the CPSC actually measures using its nationwide injury surveillance system.
The PTI also argues that the CPSC is considering a mandate that every saw include SawStop. This is simply not true. The CPSC would never mandate a particular system – they would simply say that saws must be made safer. SawStop represents one, but not the only way to achieve that result. The industry is free to develop their own system to address the problem of table saw injuries. Only if they can’t come up with their own ideas would they need to license SawStop’s inventions. I certainly have never said that any of SawStop’s patents would be infringed by any alternative design. It isn’t possible to say what would and wouldn’t infringe without actually seeing a design and I certainly wouldn’t comment on the issue without having examined a product.
Lastly, the PTI argues that we should just let people buy whatever saw they want. Putting aside any considerations of compassion or morality, if people worked in isolation and when they were injured there was no help from societyto provide medical treatment and keep them from starving, then the PTI’s “free choice” argument might have some merit. However, as it is, we all pay when someone is injured on a table saw. The Medicare system alone, which we all pay for with tax dollars, likely spends more treating victims of table saw accidents than the combined cost of all table saws. That’s the rest of us subsidizing the cost of the PTI’s dangerous products.
Rest assured, if the PTI members were paying the true costs of accidents on table saws, rather than rest of us, they would have adopted a voluntary standard for safer table saws long ago. Unfortunately, there is an economic disconnect where the table saw manufacturers, who decide whether to make their products safer or not, do not pay the costs of the accidents so they don’t want to spend money to eliminate those costs. In the absence of intervention by the CPSC, the PTI members will simply keep making and selling the same dangerous tools they have always made without a care for the consequences on the rest of us.
I encourage you to review the more detailed documentation we have provided on the PTI’s various arguments against making safer table saws. The facts speak for themselves and demonstrate that a requirement for safer table saws is long overdue.
Stephen F. Gass, Ph.D., is the inventor and president of SawStop LLC of Tualatin, OR.
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