According to a recent story in the Boston Globe, a man in Boston was awarded $1.5 million after permanently disfiguring two fingers on a Ryobi table saw. The lawsuit is one of more than 50 similar cases pending throughout the United States. At the crux of the case was the fact that Ryobi did not adopt a “flesh detection technology” that would prevent most serious injuries, according to the court complaint.

SawStop technology.
Also in the news is a story in The Oregonian about SawStop, the Oregon company that was started after its founders developed the flesh detection technology. The article talks about how major tool manufacturers rejected the new technology, so SawStop the company began with a line of its own saws that featured the flesh detection technology. Some saw manufacturers have countered that SawStop's technology is "unproven" and "speculative."

The dilemma here is not only about safety. According to The Oregonian article, saws currently on the market cannot be retrofitted with SawStop’s device, which would call for manufacturers to redesign saws and ultimately increase the price by a minimum of $150, plus licensing fees. So financial concerns are definitely part of the equation.

On the same token, if a product is out there that will enhance the safety of woodworking machinery, why not embrace it? Even if cost is an issue, shouldn’t manufacturers worry about the safety of those using their products? And if the lawsuits continue, won’t that end up costing manufacturers more in the end than redesigning the saws?

How much more would you be willing to pay for a safer table saw?

The lawyer for the Boston man likened flesh detection technology to airbags in cars. Automakers faced lawsuits for not having airbags, and now all cars have them. The question is would consumers mind paying more for equipment that includes the extra safety feature? Once the technology became widely used, would price still be an issue? Is it only a financial issue, or are there other reasons machinery manufacturers have shied away from flesh detection technology? We would love to hear comments and opinions from readers, as well as the experts out there, to give a greater insight into this subject.

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