Table Saw Injuries Prompt CPSC to Consider New Rules

The risks for amputation and mutilation with a table saw are frightening. About 10 people will suffer these types of injuries with a table saw every day. The Associated Press (AP) says the federal government wants to make the saws safer.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission just voted unanimously to start reviewing how to minimize table saw injuries, which CPSC chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, described as “particularly gruesome,” wrote the AP. Carpenters, construction workers, and other woodworkers and hobbyists use the devices, which are generally constructed with flimsy plastic guards that many tend to remove to make their work easier.

According to the CPSC, about 67,300 medically treated blade-contact injuries took place each year in 2007 and 2008 at a cost of over $2 billion for each year for medical costs, lost work time, and pain and suffering, said the AP. Table saw manufacturers argue that the figures don’t reflect the newer guard systems makers began putting on table saws in 2007. The systems are meant to protect users and the Power Tool Institute says no reported blade-contact injuries on a table saw have been reported with these new guards, according to the AP.

Despite the large number of mutilations, the problem has been sitting with the CPSC for about 10 years, noted the AP. As a matter-of-fact, in 2006, the CPSC was preparing to review table saw safety following a petition filed by Stephen Gass, inventor and patent attorney. Gass, developer of the SawStop technology, filed the petition a few years prior. Changes in agency leadership led to a delay, said the AP.

SawStop, developed in the late 1990s, is constructed with sensor technology that stops the blade when a finger moves too close to the blade, explained the AP. Because SawStop raises the price of table saws by several hundred dollars, many manufacturers have not adopted it. Fearing inventor monopoly, the Power Tool Institute is hoping the CPSC does not mandate Gass’ patented technology, explained the AP.

Meanwhile, some manufacturers allege they have developed their own, so-called “flesh-sensing” technology to stop the treacherous spinning saw blades; however, because of dozens of Gass’ patents, they are unable to proceed with patents on their versions of similar technologies, said the AP. The agency will accept public comments for 60 days and then begin determining how to write a table saw safety rule, the AP added.

Earlier this year, consumer advocacy group, the National Consumers League (NCL), and a group of table saw victims urged the CPSC and the power-tool industry to implement new safeguards to prevent saw-related accidents, said The Huffington Post. According to the Post, saw accidents are up by 10,000 in the last decade.

NCL executive director, Sally Greenberg faulted the suspension of the 2003 safety standard proposal and asked industry to stop its opposition to potential regulations, suggesting that increased costs be passed on to customers, if necessary, said The Post.

“The vast majority of table-saw manufacturers haven’t changed their technology in 50 years,” Greenberg said, wrote The Post. “This is a major public health and safety issue that cries out for a public policy response,” Greenberg added.

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