Editor's note: Because of the tremendous reader interest in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's controversial plans to develop a table saw safety rule, Woodworking Network invited representatives of SawStop and the Portable Power Institute (PTI) to each submit a guest blog clarifying their positions. Following is the opinion submitted by Susan Young, executive manager of PTI. A spokesman for SawStop declined our invitation, which remains open in the event the company officials reconsider.
Editor's note update: Stephen Gass, inventor and preisdent of SawStop, ultimately submitted a guest blog, in response to the one posted below.
If you have been frustrated by SawStop’s attempts to convince the U.S. government to impose a mandatory performance standard for all table saws, now is the time to make your voices heard!
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is soliciting comments from the public on a proposed mandatory performance standard for table saws, and the Power Tool Institute (PTI) is calling on woodworkers, craftsmen and all consumers to submit comments to CPSC by February 10, 2012.
We’ve made it easy for you to submit a comment by creating a website – www.powertoolinstitute.info – where you can find information about this important issue and submit your comments to CPSC.
SawStop is petitioning CPSC to impose a mandatory rule which would require a specific active flesh detection technology for all table saws. SawStop is owned by patent attorney Stephen Gass, who holds an extensive network of over 90 U.S. patents with at least 20 more patent applications filed and currently pending. Mr. Gass represented that his patent web would be infringed by any alternative flesh detection technology, including one developed by PTI. Therefore, CPSC’s adoption of the rule would give SawStop a monopoly.
If the patent web of SawStop cannot be avoided, CPSC would, in effect, be imposing a design standard rather than a performance standard as applicable federal law requires. The mandatory rule and the resulting monopolistic advantage in the marketplace, would generate millions of dollars for SawStop and Mr. Gass while raising costs for consumers. A CPSC ruling in favor of the SawStop petition would also undermine and remove any incentive to the development of future alternative table saw safety technology.
The voluntary UL standard for table saw safety, UL 987, includes significantly improved user-friendly guard designs and other safety features such as a riving knife. The results have been extremely positive. These new guarding systems are modular and offer excellent visibility and ease of removal and installation. In the four years since the introduction of the new guarding systems, there has been only one reported blade contact injury on a table saw with the new guard system.
SawStop saws are available to any consumer who chooses to purchase them. SawStop technology is currently available on saws such as cabinet or contractor saws, which constitute 30.6% of saws on the market. After years of promises, SawStop is only now getting ready to release its version of a portable bench top saw with a flesh sensing technology. However, based on pre-introduction publications in woodworking magazines, this $1,000 table saw is much more expensive than the compact, lightweight and direct drive units that consumers can purchase today from $99 for consumer units to $600 for professional premium models.
PTI is urging the CPSC not to advance the rule and, instead, work with the industry to offer a suite of solutions that makes sense for the entire range of products.
Here is your chance to have your voice heard. Go to www.powertoolinstitute.info and tell CPSC not to impose a government-mandated rule for table saws that could impose a specific patented technology on consumers and industry, creating a monopoly and raising prices for consumers.
Susan Young is executive manager of the Power Tool Institute (PTI), an organization dedicated to power tool educaton and safety. PTI members include many market-leading brands in the areas of portable and stationary power tools.
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