Flesh Detecting Technology for Use with Table Saws has Existed for Over 14 Years, However, Table Saw Manufacturers Continuously and Intentionally Resist Implementing This Available Technology to Prevent Injuries.
More than 4,000 Americans suffer amputations, getting their hands mangled using what is by far the most dangerous woodworking tool: the table saw. That amounts to more than 10 amputations per day. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has indicated that more than 66,900 people received emergency room treatment related to table saw and bench-top related injuries at a cost of approximately $2.3 billion dollars.
Stephen Gass and his company SawSafe have designed and manufactured a saw that could tell the difference between wood and human flesh. The technology is based on the fact that wood doesn’t conduct electricity, but humans, made up of mostly salt and water, are great conductors of electricity.
The SawStop senses an electrical current in the hot dog.
A hot dog with a slight nick after contact with the SawStop blade.
In 2003, Gass first petitioned the CPSC to require the rest of the industry to make their saws safer, too. That call for greater safety went unanswered by the CPSC.
In 2012, California attempted to enact a law which would require table saw manufacturers doing business in California to install flesh-detecting technology in table saw blades under 12 inches. The Table Saw Safety Act, AB 2218 would have required all new table saws manufactured for sale in California after January 1, 2015 to be equipped with a safety device that substantially reduces injury when human skin comes in contact with the saw blade. The bill passed the State Assembly by a 64-4 margin. Thereafter, the California State Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 to allow the Table Saw Safety Act to go before a vote in the California Senate. Heavy opposition to the bill was brought by the table saw manufacturers, retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Sears, and retail business organizations such as The California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, the California Business Properties Association, and California Retailers Association. The bill which passed so easily in the Assembly died in the Senate and was never enacted.
In 2017, Stephen Gass went back before the CPSC, which is supposed to be a consumer protection commission, to ask why nothing has happened in the last 14 years. CPSC has now recommended creating a mandatory standard requiring other table saw manufacturers to implement sensing technology that will stop its blades to prevent injuries. Others in the industry complain that adding the safety technology will add costs to the saws. However, as CPCS Commissioners in favor of the rule point out, the $200 price difference is dwarfed by the financial cost, and pain and harm caused by 30,000 ER visits and more than 4,000 amputations every year. CPSC’s analysis estimates the annual cost of table saw injuries at around $4 billion. Susan Young with the Industry Power Tool institute contends that the CPSC’s research is flawed and contends that the proposed rule needs even more study.
While the government bureaucrats drag their feet, and lobbyists for the industry special interest groups apply pressure to politicians, at least one other table saw manufacturer, BOSCH, has now introduced its version of a flesh sensing blade in its REAXX Potable Jobsite Table Saw.
In addition, several juries across the country have held table saw manufacturers liable for their failure to use this injury preventing technology. In 2009 a jury awarded a man who suffered severe, permanent finger injuries after using a table saw, was awarded $1.5 million in damages. More recently, in 2014, as a result of a lawsuit filed in Philadelphia a man received a $2 million settlement for injuries he suffered while using a table saw.
Maybe, if the manufacturers and retailers are forced to pay enough money as a result of lawsuits filed by injured workers and do it yourselfers, they will stop fighting to prevent this injury avoiding technology, and make it a standard part of every table saw, just like seat belts and airbags have now become standard safety features in every vehicle manufactured and sold in America, regardless of the price of the vehicle.
Images courtesy of SawStop.