Table Saw Safety Regulations In Limbo For Foreseeable Future

Despite increasing evidence that readily available technology may make table saws safer, and prevent the vast majority of all finger amputations suffered each year, new regulatory standards are not likely to come any time soon.

A recent report by Bloomberg News highlights how table saw safety regulations have largely been stalled since 2006, resulting in consumers buying more dangerous products, often without realizing the risk they may be exposing themselves to.

Safety advances like flesh-sensing technology, which has been proven to immediately halt a circular saw the moment it touches a finger or limb, has been available for nearly 20 years. However, many table saw manufacturers fail to include the safety feature, and provide no warnings that safer alternative designs are available.

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Safety Features Missing From Many Table Saws May Have Prevented Serious Injuries and Amputations.

In 2006, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) first indicated that it would be beneficial to make the technology mandatory to prevent numerous fingertip amputations and other serious injuries from table saws every year.

The commission voted 2-1 in July 2006 to move forward with new table saw safety standards. However, legal wrangling, lobbying and a shifting political landscape have left those new standards in limbo.

With federal agencies directed to look at deregulation and avoid new regulations unless absolutely necessary, those standards are unlikely to be coming soon.

Flesh-sensing technology, known as “SawStop”, has been available for table saws to detect contact between a person and the blade, essentially eliminating the risk of amputations or severe lacerations. The safety feature works similar to touch-based light controls, stopping the blade immediately, such that consumers suffer no more than a small nick.

The CPSC has estimated that there are about 67,300 medically treated table saw blade contact injuries each year, with about half resulting in hospital emergency room treatments. This equates to over 180 incidents each day resulting in the need for medical care.

Approximately 65.9% of the injuries involve lacerations, 12.4% involve fractures, 12% involve amputations and 8.5% involve avulsions, where a body part is forcibly torn away by trauma. The manufacturers of SawStop allege that most of those injuries can be avoided with the addition of their safety feature. Yet, manufacturers have refused to make their products safer.

According to a SawStop lawsuit filed against power tool manufacturers in 2014, companies determined that they did not want the safety technology on the market, so they convinced other manufacturers who were considering deals with SawStop to back out of them, and convinced everyone else not to deal with the company. Instead, SawStop began manufacturing its own table saws.

As a result of the failure to install the readily available technology that makes table saws safer, and the failure to adequately warn consumers, a growing number of table saw injury lawsuits are also being pursued by individuals who have been left with severe and often debilitating problems following contact with the blade of a table saw without flesh-sensing technology.

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