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Saw stop: Reps. introduce bill to derail rule that aims to prevent amputations

May 17

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A pair of lawmakers have introduced legislation to stop a potential regulation that would mandate safety technology in table saws. The bipartisan representatives say the rule would force woodworkers to pay more for the tool while creating a monopoly in the space. 

Table saws are the most dangerous tool in a woodshop. Nearly 30,000 people accidentally make contact with the saw blade each year and 4,000 of those accidents result in amputations.

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However, there is technology on the market that limits these accidents for the most part. SawStop, the manufacturer of premium-priced table saws, products have a brake that stops the blade the second it comes in contact with human skin. This is often illustrated with the use of a hot dog. 

Via SawStop

The table saw continually sends a small electrical current through the blade, and since the human body is conductive, the moment skin makes contact with the blade, the current changes and the safety feature initiates the brake. When this happens, it generally destroys the blade and requires a new brake cartridge to be installed. 

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been looking into whether it should mandate every saw on the market be required to have this type of detection technology.

Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Wash., and Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., think that would lead to a monopoly because SawStop holds a patent on the feature and has been litigious in the past as competitors attempted to make a comparable product. 

For its part, SawStop issued a press release in February promising to dedicate its key patents to the public if this rule were to go into effect. But still, it would take years for other manufacturers to implement the technology into their product lines. 

In a video posted to X, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez pointed to the fact that SawStop’s products demand a higher price than most other products on the market. For instance, the least expensive SawStop table saw that includes the technology costs around $900, while a comparable product from DeWalt retails for $650.

At this time it remains unclear if or when the CPSC will take any action on the regulation or if the legislation will gain any momentum in Congress. 

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Brent Jabbour:

Imagine that hot dog is your finger.

If you worked in a shop, would you pay extra to preserve your digits?

Table Saws are easily the most dangerous tool for woodworkers. Each year around 30,000 people accidently make contact with the blade, 4,000 of those resulting in amputations.

And, If the Consumer Product Safety Commission has its way, every saw on the market would be required to have the same safety feature that prevented the saw from taking a bite out of that hot dog.

SawStop, a manufacturer of premium priced table saws, has technology that will stop the blade the second it comes into contact with skin.

Remember, te hotdog is a finger.

But a pair of lawmakers think this type of mandate would be bad for woodworkers and the nation as a whole.

“If this rule was enacted, it would raise the cost of table saws by $200-$400 per unit.”

SawStop’s least expensive model retails for $900 while a comparable model from Dewalt will run a woodworker $650.

The machine continually sends a small electrical signal through the blade and since the human body is conductive, the moment skin makes contact with the blade, that current changes and the brake activates.

Rep. Gluesenkamp-Perez says SawStop has a monopoly on the technology, due to their patent and litigious actions in the past to stop competitors from making a competing product.

For its part, SawStop issued a release in February saying it would dedicate the patent to the public if the rule were to go into effect.

Although, it could take years to implement that technology into a company’s line of saws.

But still, CPSC commissioners point to stories like Josh Ward’s.

“Because he lost multiple fingers to a table saw in woodshop. And had 7 surgeries and multiple infections.”

Ward’s accident happened in 2012. When his family was suing the school district where the accident happened, his mother told the Nugget the ER doctor said it was the worst hand injury he’d ever seen.

“This to me, was an example of rulemaking that was done by people in suits, not people in Carhartts. “

At this time it’s unclear if or when the regulator will take action on the matter, while the legislation is still in its early stages.