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CPSC moves to toughen safety standards for table saws

Consumer Reports News: October 06, 2011 12:58 PM

After nearly a decade of discussion, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is taking steps to regulate table saws in an effort to prevent the tens of thousands of injuries, including finger amputations, that occur each year. “The injuries resulting from the use of table saws are, in many cases, particularly gruesome,” said Chairman Inez Tenenbaum in a Washington Post report.

On Wednesday, the commission voted 5-0 to begin looking at ways to reduce injuries from saws, which they say cost an average of $35,000 per injury—more than $2 billion each year—including medical expenses and lost time from work. In their quest, they will look at new safety devices including the SawStop flesh-sensing technology developed by an amateur woodworker.

“Since 2003, the federal government has known that SawStop’s flesh-sensing technology
seems to virtually eliminate the amputations and severe lacerations that result from contact with a blade saw,” said Commissioner Robert Adler in a statement. “Over the years, no one has stepped forward to challenge the efficacy of this technology.”

Adler added that he hopes the industry looks at SawStop as well as competing technologies, noting that the “CPSC writes product safety standards, we do not mandate a particular technology. We write performance standards and leave it to manufacturers to decide how to meet them.”

In the past the Power Tool Institute, an industry organization that represents manufacturers, has argued that the SawStop technology is too expensive—especially for lower-priced saws used by millions of home woodworkers and do-it-yourselfers. The industry has also argued that the technology is not foolproof and is difficult to include in table saws because of extensive patents.

Still, Tenenbaum is intent on preventing the 10 finger amputations that occur each day. The CPSC will take comments from industry and consumers over the next 60 days and then begin to develop and propose safety regulations. “Comments from the public inform and enlighten us as to whether moving forward with this mandatory rulemaking is necessary and, if so, exactly what direction it should take,” said Adler.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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